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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Laphroaig

New Arrival of the Week: Laphroaig 15 Year Old 2004 (COIWC)

Today we’re welcoming a series of exciting bottlings at MoM from that mecca for whisky lovers, the Jewel of the Hebrides itself, Islay, including releases from Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Octomore…

Today we’re welcoming a series of exciting bottlings at MoM from that mecca for whisky lovers, the Jewel of the Hebrides itself, Islay, including releases from Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Octomore and, rarest of all, Port Ellen. The collection is called The Stories of Wind and Wave and it’s brought to you from the aptly-named Character of Islay Whisky Company.

It can be quite an adventure getting to Islay. Many times Master of Malt team members have tried to reach the island only to be thwarted by adverse weather conditions. And should you be lucky enough to have your flight from Glasgow cleared for take off, the wind-blown descent into the island’s airport on the tiny propeller plane can be terrifying for the uninitiated. Or there’s the joy of a two hour crossing on a CalMac ferry through rough seas. The fun doesn’t stop when you arrive down either, on a visit last year to visit Islay’s newest distillery, Ardnahoe, the air was thick with the scent of burnt heather. A combination of high winds, dry weather, and, probably, a stray cigarette end had set much of the south of the island on fire. The air smelt just like Islay whisky. 

For whisky lovers, this very inaccessibility is part of the magic of the island. You have to really want to visit. And the lure is, of course, the extraordinary concentration of distilleries all with their own unique character and the way the whiskies taste of their location, salt, peat smoke and seaweed. There are other peated whiskies from Scotland, but it’s the ones from Islay that get all the attention. 

Laphroaig John Campbell

Laphroaig on a rare sunny day

Those names, Ardbeg, Bowmore, and Laproaig, are music to whisky enthusiasts. And aiming to bottle some of that music, if such a thing were even possible, is a batch of rare malts that has just landed at MoM towers. It’s from our friends at the Character of Islay Whisky Company which previously released whiskies from anonymous distilleries on the island, but for this batch has revealed where they came from. Which is nice of them. The series is called the Stories of Wind and the Wave and includes bottlings from Bowmore, Laproaig and Ardbeg (see below). Plus still to come some Octomore and something tres fancy from Port Ellen.

The one we’re highlighting today is from Laphroaig, the most medicinal of all the Islay whiskies. It gets its distinctive character from only using Islay peat. The distillery has a traditional floor maltings and makes about 25% of its requirements using local Machrie moss peat which cold smokes the barley. The rest of the malt comes from the nearby Port Ellen maltings. Islay peat is largely made from seaweed which is where that love-it-or-hate-it salty iodine flavour comes from. The reason it tastes of the sea is because it comes from the sea, albeit a long time ago. This smokiness is accentuated by taking a late cut, so you get more of that peat smoke. 

The classic expression for lovers of medicinal malts is the 10 year old. But the longer you keep Laphroaig, the less smoky it becomes and the more tropical fruits start to appear. Release No.11693 was distilled in 2004 and aged for 15 years in a refill bourbon cask so you’re not getting that much wood influence. It’s bottled at 50.2% ABV. All that smoky character is still there but it’s been joined by stone fruit and quince (see below for full tastings notes). It’s a great dram to launch a series of rare and unusual whiskies that Islay fans will not want to miss. They’re the next best thing to a visit to the island itself.

Here is the full range of Stories of Wind and Wave whiskies currently available from Master of Malt:

Laphroaig 15 Year Old 2004 (Release No.11694)

Laphroaig 15 Year Old 2004 (Release No.11693)

Bowmore 18 Year Old 2001 (Release No.11715)

Bowmore 18 Year Old 2001 (Release No.11714) 

Bowmore 16 Year Old 2003 (Release No.11698) 

Bowmore 16 Year Old 2003 (Release No.11699)

Bowmore 16 Year Old 2003 (Release No.11697)

Ardbeg 15 Year Old 2004 (Release No.11673)

Tasting note for the Laphroaig 15 Year Old 2004 (Release No.11693) from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Waxy peels, peppermint leaf and smoky black tea with a touch of baked earth to it.

Palate: Sweet smoke with savoury hints of salted butter and cedar underneath, plus stone fruit developing later on.

Finish: Polished oak, a touch of ash and continuing fruity elements.

 

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The Nightcap: 24 July

Well, another week bites the dust. It’s time to put your feet up, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in some fresh booze news. This week, Ardbeg brings you the…

Well, another week bites the dust. It’s time to put your feet up, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in some fresh booze news. This week, Ardbeg brings you the thrill of the grill, Glen Moray unveils some single cask expressions, and Jose Cuervo debuts an automatic Tequila button.

Greetings, weary traveller. You have stumbled upon an everlasting tome of knowledge, one that is reborn anew once a week, refreshed, revitalised, brimming with new information. This rejuvenating opus tells tales of people who use the elements to create deliciousness where the once was none. These descriptions sound like myths and legends, but they are in fact true reports. What could this regularly regenerating work be?! Well, weary traveller, it’s The Nightcap!

We kicked off the week with an irresistible competition to win some sustainable booze from our neighbours at Greensand Ridge Distillery. Henry highlighted a rare single grain bottling from the now-demolished Port Dundas in Glasgow, before shaking up some sherry and cassis with Alex Williams from the Great Scotland Yard Hotel for our Cocktail of the Week. On Tuesday, we welcomed a new writer to our blog, Lucy Britner, who looked at pre-mixed cocktails. Welcome Lucy! Annie had a busy week, she spoke to a company looking at distillation from a molecular point of view, and interviewed Ron Welsh master blender and strategic inventory manager for distilleries including Bowmore, Laphroaig and Auchentoshan. Finally, Adam got all excited about cocktail bundles, and who can blame him? That was the week, now on with the news!

Ardbeg and DJ BBQ team up for online grill sessions

This summer you can experience the thrill of the grill online as Ardbeg teams up with diffident TV cook DJ BBQ for the Ardbeg Smoke Sessions. DJ BBQ (aka Christian Stevenson) will be hosting a series of online classes showing whisky lovers how to up their grill game as well as making delicious smoky drinks using Ardbeg 10, An Oa and Wee Beastie. Joining him will be everyone’s favourite head of maturing whisky stocks, Brendan McCarron, aka DJ PPM. Mr BBQ commented: “My smoky barbeque recipes share so many characteristics with the flavours of Ardbeg whisky, and they complement each other perfectly. The laws of wood, heat and smoke are so important to barbecue and single malt alike, and once mastered, you’ll become a barbeque boss! The taste of braided beef fillet alongside an Ardbeg 10 Old Fashioned is just awesome, and a sip of hot Wee Beastie punch with a slow smoked pork shoulder is unrivalled!” The series launched on 21 July on Ardbeg’s social channels (you can watch the first episode here), and there will be a special Instagram Live event on Friday 24 July (tonight!) at 8pm BST. Furthermore, things will be happening in the real world too, as you can order DJ BBQ’s Maple and Bacon Old Fashioned via Mothership on the Drinks At Home platform. Looks smoking!

Lovely wine cask whiskies are just a phone call away

Glen Moray releases three wine cask whiskies

She’s been at it again. Dr Kirstie McCallum has clearly been having a whale of a time in the warehouses of Glen Moray since she joined the distillery as head of whisky creation in 2019. Earlier this year, it was a 2006 Madeira cask, and now there are three new single casks Distillery Editions available: a 2004 Chenin Blanc, a 2003 Chardonnay, and a 2004 Burgundy. All have been fully matured in wine casks and bottled at cask strength. The team at Master of Malt was given a wee taste, and not only did we love these distinctive whiskies, we were impressed with the very reasonable pricing, £85 a bottle. They would normally be available only from the distillery which reopened last week. But if you can’t make it, you might still be able to get your hands on a bottle. Just give them a ring. Visitor centre manager Iain Allan commented: “Buying a bottle of Glen Moray from our annual Distillery Edition is as much about the experience of a visit to the distillery as it is about buying a wonderful new whisky. For the many people who would normally make the trip and take away one of these special bottles, we wanted to find a way to make the range available but avoid making it just a basic transaction over email or the internet. Everyone working at the distillery enjoys nothing more than talking about whisky with fellow enthusiasts, answering questions and sharing behind the scenes stories of how Glen Moray is made.” So dial Glen Moray for a nice blether about whisky. 

Totally fabulous, darling

Harrods opens luxurious basement Baccarat Bar 

News just in: swanky basement bar has just opened in Harrods. Though wouldn’t it be more newsworthy if a dingy pub opened in the Knightsbridge department store instead, offering £2 a pint Wednesdays and wall-to-wall football? Anyway, Harrods went for the more obvious swanky option: the new venue has been created in partnership with Baccarat, the crystal glass maker. It’s called… The Baccarat Bar! With social distancing in place, there’s room for 23 guests only, so it’s pretty exclusive. The totally fabulous interior, a symphony in glass and marble, was created by Fabled Studio and is inspired by Baccarat’s creations. The menu, put together by bar manager Cameron Attfield, is no slouch either, with 16 signature drinks made using state of the art techniques. He commented: “We have approached the drinks in a unique manner, with the design of the bar and its playful yet exquisite elegance and form setting the tone of our menu, but then applying multiple flavour extraction techniques, including fermentation, vacuum distillation, ultrasonic homogenisation and carbonation to make it a reality.” Each drink comes in its own special glass. You can probably guess the manufacturer.

Al fresco drinking will be all the rage this summer

It’s going to be the summer of the garden party, says Bacardi

Top drinks company Bacardi commissioned a survey of Britain’s plans for summer drinking, and you won’t be surprised to learn that it involves being outside… a lot. Out of a survey group of 1,000, 39% said that they will be socialising outdoors more than last year. You’d think, though, that it would be more like 100%. Much of this al fresco frolicking will be taking place at home, with 71% planning on attending or hosting a garden party, and 44% preferring their own gardens to outdoor spaces at venues. So some way to go before Britain’s pub-going returns to normal. But 59% did say that an outdoor space would entice them back to a pub or restaurant with socially-distanced tables (57%), hand sanitiser at the bar (53%), and contactless payments (52%) all cited as important. And what will we be drinking this summer according to the survey? Happily for rum giant Bacardi, the answer seemed to be rum-based cocktails with the most popular being the Mojito and Piña Colada (both picked by 24%). Let’s hope the weather holds up.

Safe and snazzy: Boë Gin’s masks

Boë Gin gives away face masks as coverings become law in the UK

If you’re reading this in the UK you’ll know that as of today, it’s a legal requirement to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces, including shops, banks, and public transport hubs. There are a number of options, from the surgical to the homemade, if you’re one of the craftier among us. But if, like us, you’d rather someone else puts the leg work in, then look no further than Boë Gin! The Scottish producer is giving away snazzy reusable face coverings to bartenders and hospitality workers around the country. The purple masks feature a floral pattern inspired by the brand’s violet gin, and can be washed and reused. “We hope these face masks can help people look great and stay safe at the same time,” said Andrew Richardson, Boë director. “The stylish masks are designed to be worn regardless of the occasion – whether that’s a trip to the shops or working behind a bar making some of our delicious signature cocktails. As always, we encourage everyone to stay safe – even while they are enjoying themselves.” Taken by the masks? Head to the Boë site and to see how you can get your mitts on your own! 

Aberlour is one of four Chivas Brothers distilleries welcoming visitors back

The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Scapa and Strathisla get set to reopen

Wonderful news reaches us! And it will be especially welcome if you’re planning on a spot of Scotch whisky tourism this summer. Chivas Brothers has announced it will reopen four of its Scotch brand homes as lockdown eases in the UK! The Glenlivet, Aberlour and Scapa will throw open their (highly sanitised) doors on 29 July, with Strathisla allowing visitors back in from 7 August. Pre-booking online is essential, your temperature will be zapped on arrival, social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and you should bring your own face mask (although there will be supplies on-hand if you forget yours. But face coverings are the new normal, people. Get with the times.). “After four challenging months, we’re delighted to be able to reopen the doors to our brand homes to give visitors the chance to safely enjoy our whiskies and the beautiful surroundings in Speyside and Orkney,” said Gordon Buist, Chivas Brothers production director. We have had substantial best-in-class Safe System of Work processes in place across all of our operational sites over the last few months, and we have been working closely with our local Speyside and Orkney communities to enable us to take significant steps in implementing these strict social distancing and sanitation measures in our visitor centres as well, ensuring we’re able to welcome visitors safely, protect our colleagues and neighbours, and support Scottish tourism. Whether a discerning drinker or discovering drams for the first time, the team and I look forward to welcoming visitors safely back to our homes to uncover more about our rich Scotch heritage.” We can’t wait to get back inside a distillery – just no sharing drams, obvs.

Avallen Calvados

Avallen’s on a £250k crowd-funding drive

Calvados brand Avallen kicks off Seedrs crowdfunding drive

Every so often, the chance to own a little bit of a booze brand comes along. If you’ve fancied yourself as the next Cameron Diaz or Post Malone but without the singing, we have news for you. As of this week, Calvados brand Avallen is looking for investors! The sustainability-focused brand launched in spring 2019 and it’s notched up more than 1,000 case sales since launch. The brand’s philosophy is all about creating planet-positive drinks that taste delicious – and now we can be part of it, too. Avallen’s founders are looking to raise £250,000 through crowdfunding platform Seedrs, with the funds put towards hiring sales and marketing directors, and securing carbon-neutral certification. Fancy splashing out? Head over to Seedrs and check it out!

Certainly presses our buttons

And finally… press a button for Jose Cuervo Tequila

The best thing about being rich is being able to press a button and get exactly what you want. Who hasn’t dreamed of being Mr Burns from The Simpsons who, at the touch of a button, can summon a team of top lawyers, a flight of winged monkeys, or drop his enemies down into a bottomless pit? No? Just us? Well, top Tequila brand Jose Cuervo is about to make someone’s button-based dreams come true, though sadly it doesn’t involve bottomless pits or winged monkeys. Just in time for National Tequila Day on Friday 24 July (as in, today!), the company is launching a competition to win a ‘Push for Tequila’ button. One lucky person will win a button and a year’s supply of Tequila (one bottle per month). Simply press the button, and a bottle of Tequila will be sent to you to enjoy with your friends (responsibly, natch). You can enter via Jose Cuervo’s UK Instagram @josecuervouk and Facebook pages. Good luck!

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Five minutes with… Ron Welsh from Beam Suntory

As master blender and strategic inventory manager for Beam Suntory – which owns Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan and others – Ron Welsh has a better idea than most about what you’ll…

As master blender and strategic inventory manager for Beam Suntory – which owns Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan and others – Ron Welsh has a better idea than most about what you’ll be drinking in five, 10, and even 20 years time. Here, we discover how he and his team bring the company’s Scotch whisky forecasts to fruition…

You mightn’t have thought about it before, but the whiskies you’ll enjoy over the coming years are more than likely maturing in cask somewhere already. And the whiskies you’ll sip over the next few decades? They’re being distilled right about now. The work that goes into assembling our favourite drams is an intricate operation that relies on complex whisky forecasting, a decade or more in advance. 

As master blender and strategic inventory manager, Welsh is responsible for more than 800,000 individual casks of all ages destined for Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, Ardmore, McClelland’s and Teacher’s bottlings. Some casks will go into each brand’s flagship whiskies, while others will make up new expressions that are yet to be conceived. Here, Welsh shares insight into his unique role, lifting the lid on an aspect of whisky production we don’t often think about, but that is a fascinating and crucial one nevertheless. 

Ron Welsh in the tasting room

Master of Malt: Thanks for chatting with us, Ron! First things first, how did you start out in the whisky industry?

Ron Welsh: I’ve been in the industry for 27 and a half years, not long before I get to my 30th which looks set to fly by. It wasn’t an intentional start in the whisky industry, I’d previously had a role in steel making. I moved away from that voluntarily and was looking for a job in production and one of the jobs I applied for happened to be at Strathclyde grain distillery. I got the job and that was my start in whisky. I hadn’t really thought much about the final product – it was a couple of years before I realised what I was producing at the distillery was going to be in a bottle in a few years’ time! 

MoM: Could you share some insight into your role as master blender and strategic inventory manager?

RW: My main priorities are spirit quality, from new make to bottling, and inventory management: Do we have the right amount of stock in the right place to fulfil the forecasts that are coming in? [This means] planning all whisky movement. Moving new make from distilleries to filling stores, new make in cask from the filling stores to the warehouses. My team picks out all the casks for all our expressions that are going into a bottle when [the liquid] becomes mature, set to a recipe that I have laid down. They ensure that we get the casks out of the warehouses and through to the draining facility, so that we’ve got the whisky in vats and ready for bottling when they’re asked for. There’s a lot of stock moving around. We’ve got casks that are over 50 years old, so we’re looking back across 50 years of what we’ve laid down and matured. When we get a forecast, we look at what we’re going to use in the next 20 years, which is part of the inventory that’s already there. It also means looking at what we’re going to produce as new make spirit from each of the distilleries over the next five to 10 years, to give the business an idea of where we might need to expand, where we might need to invest in terms of warehousing. It’s also my role to put together what we require in terms of empty casks for filling, and what we need to purchase each year, and making sure we’ve got suppliers that meet our quality standards. 

MoM: Balancing inventory and planning production requirements for so many global Scotch brands simultaneously is a huge undertaking – how do you plan for the future?

RW: The sales forecast is put together by the commercial and marketing teams – they will dictate which markets we should be trying to invest in and how they see each individual expression growing over the next 10 to 20 years. They’ll send me a sales forecast for 20 years for all our expressions, so all the Laphroaigs – 10 Year Old, PX Cask, Triple Wood, etc. – all the Bowmores, all the Auchentoshans, all the Ardmores, all the Glen Garioch, the McClelland’s, and the Teacher’s, and from that I can then work out how many litres of alcohol we should’ve put in a cask at any given time. So, do we have enough 10 year old for this year’s Laphroaig 10 Year Old? And do we have enough 9 year old for next year’s 10 Year Old? And enough 8 year old for the 10 Year Old in two years’ time? And so on.

Wooden washbacks at Auchentoshan

MoM: What about expressions that haven’t been invented yet, how do you factor for those?

RW: We’re running quite a lot of new products these days and quite a lot of them are limited time offers (LTOs). If you do that every year, you know you’re going to consume some stock, so I put in a provision for LTOs and I’ll work closely with marketing to decide what we’re going to do over the next five to 10 years. We have a very good idea of what expressions we’re going to bring out over the next five years, and I’ve got a good idea of maybe from 5 to 10 years after that as well. What you tend to find is when you bring in a permanent new expression for a brand then you may well lose an expression that you already have, so you just need to ensure you’ve got the right stock to allow you to change from one to the other. 

MoM: There must be whisky coming through now which you helped lay down years ago. How does it feel to see fans of say, Laphroaig or Bowmore, rave about a release that you’ve seen progress from start to finish? 

RW: It’s really nice to see expressions that I have put a lot of work into over the years appreciated. For me, the biggest one would have to be Laphroaig Lore, which Jim Murray recognised as the best non-aged single malt in 2019. That was an eight-year development, just accentuating the peat smoke from Laphroaig to bring it up to another level. Really good. I’ve been in the industry long enough to see my work coming through in terms of inventory management from 10, 15 years ago. Did I do a good job at the time? Have I got the right stock ready to perform a forecast? I haven’t come across anything too bad at the moment!

MoM: Stylistically the new make from each distillery is very different, is there one in particular that feels especially exciting to experiment with?

RW: Well, they’re all really interesting to work with. You look at Laphroaig and you think, ‘oh, it’s such a powerful Islay, what could you do with a Laphroaig that would be exciting?’ but it can take some changes in maturation. Bowmore is just as exciting – it’s got a unique character which I haven’t often seen in terms of the way it changes over the years. It starts off with ripe orchard fruits and then as it gets older and older, that transforms into syrupy tropical fruits. It’s amazing when you’ve got a flight of Bowmore in front of you. Auchentoshan is triple distilled, it can take flavours on really quickly without getting totally lost. Because it’s a city distillery and a bit more edgy – an urban malt as we like to call it – you can do a bit more experimenting with slightly different casks. We’ve just brought out a Sauvignon Blanc-finished Auchentoshan which is lovely. Ardmore’s a really nice whisky as well – we’ve been making some changes at the distillery in terms of new make, and that’s starting to come through. And Glen Garioch – I’ve got a wee soft spot for Glen Garioch. It’s a very small brand and quite boutique. Great things are going to happen for that distillery. 

Whisky maturing at Bowmore

MoM: Do you think we are creating better and more complex malts and blends today than when you first started out?

RW: The industry has more control over how it makes whisky. It’s got better knowledge of how to make good whisky, and I think that those changes over the past 10 to 15 years where you’re controlling your mash, your fermentation, your distillation, are resulting in a more consistent product which is at the best quality that the raw materials can provide. That’s one side of it. The other side is that the type of barley that’s being used has changed over the decades to give a more agronomic yield, so you get more tonnes out of an acre of field, and better distillery yield, so you get more litres of alcohol per tonne you bring in. And that process has, in my opinion, changed the flavour profile of whiskies, and it’s changed it for everybody. Unless you’re still using some of the old varieties, like Golden Promise. So there’s making more consistent whisky that [is at the] best quality for the raw materials, but there’s also a change in the raw materials, which are probably not providing as much flavour as they were before – so it’s up to the distiller in making sure they produce the best flavour out of that malted barley.

MoM: And how about casks – has anything changed in that regard?

RW: The biggest change is probably in the sherry industry. Sherry sales have declined rapidly over the past 30 years, which means that the number of casks coming from sherry bodegas has declined. They’ve been replaced by seasoning houses, which make new casks and season them with whatever style of sherry you want, and for however long you want. That process has resulted in more consistent cask quality.

Bowmore looking all moody and windswept

MoM: So for distillers, it’s almost changed things for the better?

RW: In some instances, yes. When sherry producers put their casks into storage when they weren’t using them, they would often put sulphur candles inside and light them to ensure they didn’t get any fungus growing inside the casks. But those would be the casks that would then come across to Scotland to be filled with new make spirit, and that sulphury note would come through in the final product. Seasoning houses don’t use sulphur candles, so you don’t get that problem. Some of the casks over the past few years have been absolutely exceptional. But then again, if you had a good cask from a sherry bodega that hadn’t been sulphured, it would produce a really good whisky as well. 

MoM: When was the last time you were bowled over by something in the whisky industry?

RW: There’s a couple of different cask types we’ve purchased recently, I can’t divulge what they are, but they knocked my socks off in terms of the quality of spirit that they’re producing. I’m hoping to use some of those casks in a couple of products over the next 12 months. In terms of outside Beam Suntory, Brian Kinsman is producing some really nice single malts at Glenfiddich, the guys at Ardbeg produced a nice Pinot Noir-finish which is interesting. It’s good to look at what other people in the industry are doing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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Master of Malt tastes… whiskies made with different peat varieties

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

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

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

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

David Miles in action resplendent in a burgundy jacket

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

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

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

Highland Park Twisted Tattoo 16 Year Old

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

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

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

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

Bowmore 15 Year Old

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

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

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

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

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

Laphroaig Lore

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

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

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

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

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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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Everything you wanted to know about peat

It’s been a smoky week on the blog with news of the expansion at Kilchoman and a new release from Ardbeg. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to take…

It’s been a smoky week on the blog with news of the expansion at Kilchoman and a new release from Ardbeg. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the ingredient that gives them their unmistakable flavour. So, here’s every question you’ve ever wanted to ask about peat, answered by whisky experts…

Ah, heavily-peated whisky. The great divider. The Marmite of the spirits world, if you will. For every die-hard Islay aficionado with a penchant for eye-wateringly medicinal, TCP-esque drams, there’s a bourbon connoisseur who wouldn’t clean their boots with the stuff. Such is life, and such is whisky.

Whatever your personal preference, you’re likely to have a few burning (ha) questions about the peat, specifically the mechanics involved in flavouring whisky with it. So, to quench your thirst for knowledge, we approached a selection of whisky experts to get the 4-1-1 on what is, essentially, thousands of years’ worth of decaying vegetation. Behold!

The floor malting at Benriach

Where does peat come from?

Peat is formed in cold wetlands from partly decomposed vegetation – shrubs, heather, bog myrtle, forests – over thousands of years, explains Dr. Rachel Barrie, master distiller at BenRiach Distillery. It tends to be found close to the coast, “having formed when seas flooded the landscape, trapping the vegetation,” she explains. “Cellulose, lignin and other plant components decompose slowly over a seriously long time, due to the lack of oxygen being trapped underwater.” Grass, wood and moss break down in the peat, making it a very good fuel, as well as a source of smoky aromatics. Peat is found all over the world, “but is especially prevalent in the Northern hemisphere in places like Canada, Siberia and in particular Ireland and Scotland,” adds Cameron Ewen, bar manager and senior whisky ambassador in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel.

Does peat exhibit terroir?

Peat exhibits the ‘terroir’ of the plant material trapped and compressed under swampy wetland, decomposing over thousands of years, says Dr Barrie. “As well as plant material, it’s influenced by the water that flooded the land,” she continues. As such, the peat found in the north east of Scotland differs to peat found on Islay, due to the higher proportion of forests and less wetlands. Not only do the Western Isles feel the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, says Ewen, but the peat on Islay also has a higher proportion of seaweed. By contrast, “northern peat tends to be more floral with decomposing heather and gorse playing important roles in this peat,” he explains. “This will usually give the whisky a drier smoky character more akin to a bonfire. The peat dug from mainland Scotland is composed mostly of leaves, grasses and woods. This usually lends a very soft smoke to the whisky often due to the amount of peat being used.”

Peat cut in the Scottish Highlands

How is peat harvested?

Traditionally, peat has been dug by hand, says Anthony Wills, founder and managing director of Islay’s Kilchoman Distillery, with machines introduced more recently as demand has increased. First, the top layer of turf would be peeled away, and then a trench anywhere from 0.5 metres to 2 metres deep would be dug, says Ewen. “Peat was then cut out of this trench and stacked in the fields to dry,” he says, usually for about six months until it became brittle. “This peat is then used in traditional kilns – oven-like structures capable of holding tonnes of damp barley – and the peat is burned to produce an aromatic smoke that dries the barley and gives the final whisky its distinct quality,” Ewen adds.

How and when are ‘phenols’ released?

The phenols are released when the peat fire is burning and the smoke impregnates the moist barley grains lying on a floor above the fire, Wills explains. The phenol level is measured in parts per millions of phenols (PPM). How long the fire is lit determines the level of PPM in the final malt. “In the old days peat was used to dry the malt down to 5% moisture, but the result was a very peaty, salty, phenolic whisky that wasn’t very refined,” says Wills. “Peating levels have now been refined by distillers, and peat is only used at the first stage and then switched to a warm air drying system.” As those who have tasted Bowmore and Laphroaig liquids side-by-side, each distillery usually has a preferred peating level they require for their malt. However, this measurement is not entirely accurate by the time the whisky is bottled, because the PPM reduces over the course of the whisky-making process, Ewan explains. “At every stage some of the phenols are lost – this is most noticeable in the distillation and maturation phase,’ he says. During maturation, “some of the phenols are absorbed or evaporate off”, while other notes mellow out over time.

Kilchoman Islay

Burning peat at Kilchoman

Where does the peat burning tradition originate?

Historically the practice of using peat in whisky started through necessity, says Ewan. “Many distilleries were in remote parts of the country and as such, it was often impractical and not financially economic for distillers to use coal or oil in whisky production,” he explains. Peat had been used for centuries to heat bothies and blackhouses – traditional farmhouses – and this led to the practice being adopted by Scottish distillers. Those based further inland tended to use a mixture of coal, anthracite and peat, adds Dr Barrie, though the exact composition would have varied according to location, geography and terroir. That all changed in the 1970s, when natural gas was discovered in the North Sea and a boom of commercial barley maltings were built in the north and east. “With the readily available supply of natural gas, the larger commercial maltings rapidly became the most efficient, cleanest and scaled-up way to malt the barley,” she explains. “Without natural gas on Islay, peat continued to be the dominant source of fuel.”

In what other ways are distilleries using peat to flavour their spirits?

You don’t necessarily need peated barley to give your spirit a smoky taste. In fact, if you’re Daniel Szor, founder and CEO of England’s Cotswolds Distillery, you need only obtain an empty cask. “Our production director Nick and I went to visit our friends at Penderyn and were fascinated by one of their whiskies, which had been aged in a ex-Laphroaig quarter cask,” he explains. “As soon as we returned to the distillery, we ordered one from Speyside Cooperage and filled it with our unpeated new-make Cotswolds spirit.” After a year, says Szor, they were smitten. “ The cask provided just the right amount of phenols without overwhelming our delicate spirit, and the slight smokiness married perfectly with our rich and fruity Cotswolds spirit,” he says. 

 

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The French Martini

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the…

Today we’re rolling up the sleeves of our suit jacket à la Hall & Oates to make a cocktail that’s not particularly French and not really a Martini. It’s the French Martini!

Often the word French is appended to things to make them seem more sophisticated or sexy than they really are. French fries are actually Belgian, French kisses were invented in Dunstable (fact!) and have you ever seen French toast (or eggy bread as we used to call it when I was growing up) in France? Which brings us on to this week’s cocktail, the French Martini. It is, like most cocktails, an American creation. It was invented or at least popularised in New York City by a man with possibly the least French name ever, Keith McNally.

McNally was a big noise in ‘80s and ‘90s New York (and still is). Such a big noise that The New York Times described him as: “The Restaurateur Who Invented Downtown.” Just as the French Martini isn’t very French, McNally isn’t American. He was born and raised in Bethnal Green. After a stint as a child actor in London, McNally came to New York in 1975 and opened a series of French-inspired restaurants such as Pastis, Cherche Midi and Augustine. His most famous venue, however, was Balthazar which became the hippest joint in town when it opened in 1997 and the French Martini was the trademark cocktail. It quickly crossed the Atlantic and found a home among the Cool Britannia crowd at the Met Bar in London. Balthazar itself arrived in 2013 with a branch in Covent Garden.

You don’t get more 90s than the French Martini, or rather, could it be any more ‘90s? It’s not only made with vodka but pineapple juice too. It’s part of the wave of so-called Martinis that were all the range back then like the Pineapple Martini, the Appletini, the Espresso Martini etc. etc. The French part comes from the addition of Chambord, a French raspberry liqueur with packaging so elaborate that it looks like a medieval incense burner, or, for Monty Python fans, the holy hand grenade of Antioch.

It’s a smoky French Martini (sung to the tune of Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc)

A squeeze of lemon helps temper the sweetness but still it might be a bit sugary for some so this week we’re using a fiery peaty whisky instead of vodka, Laphroaig 10 Year Old. According to Simon Difford, this variation is actually known as a Le Frog. See what they did there? Vodka or whisky, however you make it, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. We’re thinking baggy grey Armani suit like Richard Gere in his prime, and don’t be afraid to roll the sleeves up a little. Nice. Right, that’s enough preamble. Let’s make a smoky French Martini:

25ml Laphroaig 10 Year Old
25ml Chambord
10ml pineapple juice
A squeeze of lemon juice

Pour all of the ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake hard for eight seconds. Strain into a chilled coupette, garnish with a blackberry or raspberry and serve.

 

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Check out our winter spirits sale!

From Boxing Day to Burns Night you’ll be able to save some serious dough on this sensational selection of spirits thanks to our winter sale… Everybody loves a good bargain…

From Boxing Day to Burns Night you’ll be able to save some serious dough on this sensational selection of spirits thanks to our winter sale…

Everybody loves a good bargain and January is filled with them. For those not doing Dry January (we salute you), you’re probably scouring the web looking for the best deals on delicious booze. Consider your search concluded. Just head on over to our winter spirit sale page and you’ll find rafts of delicious products available for stonking good prices. To get an idea of the kind of the delights that await you, we’ve highlighted some of the best deals in this neat little round-up.

Enjoy!

Boozy Advent Calendars

It’s no longer Advent or Christmas. Which is bad. But that means that Advent Calendars filled with delicious booze are available for low, low prices! Which is good. Due to their popularity, some have sold out. Which is bad. But there are still calendars available that contain whisky, from Japanese, Irish, American, That Boutique-y, Premium, as well as gin, rum, vodka and Tequila. Which is good. They don’t come with any frozen yoghurt. Which is bad. They do come with 24 individual 30ml drams for your pleasure. Which is good. You can move on now.

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask – Old World (Master of Malt)

A Master of Malt exclusive bottling, this 12 year old rye whiskey from WhistlePig was finished exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, and was released as part of the Old World series. It’s rich, spicy and extremely delicious and available with a serious discount. Tell me there’s a better way to kick off 2020 then with a whiskey this good.

What does it taste like?:

Bucketfuls of dried fruit, with sweet caramel, new leather, rich sherry, a pinch of tobacco and vanilla alongside prominent baking spice notes and orange oil.

Salt Marsh Gin Greensand Ridge (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

This is sure to be another year where we indulge in all kinds of tasty gins, so why not take the opportunity as 2020 starts to enjoy one of the more intriguing bottlings you’ll find at MoM Towers? Greensand Ridge created this beautiful gin featuring an array of unique botanicals for That Boutique-y Gin Company using the salt marshes of Whitstable as inspiration.

What does it taste like?:

There’s plenty of salt – and a little marsh. The juniper is floral, teeming with lavender, bay leaves, a mossy earthiness persists, warming cardamom, creamy angelica, orange blossom, black pepper, vibrant grapefruit peel and liquorice root.

Laphroaig Lore

Said to be the richest ever expression from the Islay distillery, Laphroaig Lore is one for fans of peated whisky to enjoy. Created by distillery manager John Campbell, Lore was matured in a combination of casks including first-fill sherry butts and quarter casks and is said to contain some of Laphroaig’s “most precious stock”. Which sounds beyond tempting, frankly.

What does it taste like?:

Rich and smoky with seaside minerals, vanilla, chestnuts, fudge, creamy clotted cream, malty sweetness, rich peat, spicy chilli, a hint of ash and bitter chocolate drops. 

Larios 12 Botanicals Premium Gin

Gin is massive in Spain. If you thought England was the only country in Europe that goes gaga for the good stuff, you’d be mistaken. So it’s no surprise that our friends in Spain make some seriously delicious bottlings, like Larios 12 Botanicals Premium Gin. As you might have guessed, it was created using 12 botanicals including wild juniper, nutmeg, angelica root, coriander, Mediterranean lemon, orange, tangerine, mandarin, clementine, grapefruit, lime and orange blossom, which were distilled five times.

What does it taste like?:

Tangy, aromatic and herbal, with huge citrus notes, fresh flowers, coriander, juniper, potpourri and cardamom.

Maker’s Mark 46

If the first new Maker’s Mark recipe for at least 50 years doesn’t get fans of American whiskey excited, then nothing will. Maker’s 46 is an alternative to the standard expression that was created for those that like spicier bourbon. The Kentucky distillers inserted seared French oak staves into the barrels (with the stave profile “number 46” – hence the name) to make the spice-forward profile.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee sweetness, sawdust from freshly cut wood, nutmeg, mulled wine spices, allspice, cinnamon, hot apple juice and a slight grassy note.

Novo Fogo 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Cachaça Company) 

Cachaça is such a fantastic and sadly often overlooked spirit but this aged expression produced by Brazil’s Novo Fogo Distillery and bottled by That Boutique-y Cachaça Company should please connoisseurs and newcomers alike. What makes this beauty stand out is that it was matured in a combination of Amburana and American oak, whereas most cachaças are aged in purely the latter cask type. 

What does it taste like?:

Butterscotch, caramel, liquorice allsorts, cardamom, pine needles, dark jammy blackcurrant, fresh mango sweetness, floral honey, spice and intense woody notes.

 

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The Nightcap: 4 October

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The…

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The Nightcap!

Greetings, friend. I hope you’re sitting uncomfortably, be it on your sofa, armchair, or beanbag if that’s how you choose to live your life. We’ve reached October, and everyone knows October is the scariest month of the year for a variety of reasons. The first Thursday of October is National Poetry Day, meaning all the terrible poems you wrote as a teenager will somehow find their way on to the internet without you knowing. Horrifying. The clocks go back one hour on the last Sunday of October, which means an extra hour for malevolent stripy-jumper-wearing spectres with pointy gloves to run amok in your nightmares. And of course, Halloween. But you know what’s not scary? Your weekly bundle of booze news – The Nightcap!

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, it was announced that our beloved Scotch whisky would be hit by US tariffs, a subject that Ian Buxton tackled on his return, who had small distillers on his mind. Adam had some good news to celebrate at least, as he tasted the newly launched Midleton Very Rare 2019 and then previewed the wonderful London Cocktail Week, which starts today! Annie Hayes continued the good vibes by showcasing not one, but three brilliant Balcones bottlings for our New Arrival of the Week before she enjoyed an Aged Botanical Spirit from the fab folk at the lovely (but hard to pronounce) Nc’nean. Henry, meanwhile, was in high spirits as he explored the use the CBD-infused rum from Dead Man’s Fingers as the base for a cocktail, the Hemp Highball. Oh, and Dram Club returned!

Don’t forget there’s still time to enter our competition to win a VIP trip to Kingsbarns whisky distillery! Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Italian-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante was victorious!

New York’s Dante named World’s Best Bar at 50 Best

Last night was a glitzy affair for all in the drinks world – The World’s 50 Best Bars ceremony took place in London! And top of the crop for 2019? New York’s Italy-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante! The watering hole climbed a huge eight places since last year – enormous congrats to the team, led by Linden Pride, Nathalie Hudson and Naren Young. Second place was London’s sleek, chic Connaught Bar, while Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires’ celebration of all things Argentina, scooped the bronze medal. All in all, there were 17 new entries, with 15 debutants. The UK accounted for 10 of the World’s Best, with the USA fielding seven. In total, bars hailed from 26 cities spanning 21 countries – we highly recommend checking out the full list if you’re making any kind of travel plans. The 50 Best Bars list is decided by a cohort of drinks writers, bartenders and other cocktail aficionados from around the world, who must have visited each of the seven bars they vote for (including three outside their home country) at least once in the past 18 months. “Huge congratulations to all bars that have been included on this year’s list,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Bars. “This list is a reflection of the open and diverse nature of the international bar scene today.” Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Congratulations Kirsteen!

New master whisky maker at The Macallan

It’s just been announced that Kirtseen Campbell has landed one of the biggest jobs in Scotch – master whisky maker at The Macallan. She will lead the six-strong ‘whisky mastery team’, as it’s grandly known. Campbell, who is from Thurso, joined Edrington, Macallan’s parent company, in 2007 and has worked on such prestigious brands as Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and Glenrothes. She holds a diploma in distilling and has also worked at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Campbell commented: “I feel a real sense of honour and pride to be entrusted as the custodian of The Macallan. Having been a part of the wider Edrington whisky making team for over a decade, I’m really looking forward to working more closely with the team at The Macallan.” Igor Boyadjian, managing director, The Macallan, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Kirsteen Campbell to the position of master whisky maker at The Macallan. Kirsteen will join the whisky mastery team and together they will use their skills and craft to continue to create and enhance our exceptional portfolio of whiskies.” Congratulations, and we’re looking forward to trying those whiskies.

The Nightcap

Welcome back Ardbeg Supernova!

Prepare for a close encounter with Ardbeg Supernova

It’s been four whole years since we’ve seen a bottling of Ardbeg Supernova, a whisky which has elevated the phrase ‘out of this world’ to a whole new level. The Supernova Series is a collection of limited edition Committee bottlings first released in 2009 to celebrate the groundbreaking Ardbeg space experiment. What experiment, you ask? Oh, just that time when Ardbeg sent up a vial of whisky which orbited the earth for three years aboard the International Space Station, making Ardbeg become the first whisky brand in space. Yeah, that experiment. It’s also the peatiest expression to come from the Islay distillery. “The way the flavours build and build and then explode in a burst of pungent peat and smoke is truly astonishing,” says Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks says of the most recent bottling. Supernova 2019 was released to members of the Ardbeg Committee on 2 October, and Mickey Heads, Ardbeg Distillery Manager notes that “Supernova 2019 is the fifth edition in the series, and I’m sure it will be snatched up in no time at all.” All good things must come to an end, and Ardbeg has confirmed that this is the last Supernova expression to land on earth’s shores. Although, the previous Supernova bottling in 2015 was also described as the final expression… Just saying.

The Nightcap

The bottling is a tribute to Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig unveils The Ian Hunter series

Exciting news from Laphroaig! This week the Islay distillery announced a new series of whiskies honouring the legacy of Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery. Each limited edition annual release will be set into a book that will document a part of Hunter’s legacy. One of Hunter’s most notable successes was managing to sell Laphroaig to America during Prohibition, doing so under the guise of medicine. The inaugural release, Book One: ‘Unique Character’ (its full name) has been revealed, a 30-year-old whisky reflecting the characters of both Hunter and Laphroaig. It’s aged in first-fill American white oak bourbon barrels, a decision which is fairly obvious, as it was Hunter who introduced American oak casks to the Laphroaig maturation process. “If you visit the Laphroaig Distillery today its clear to see the impact of Ian Hunter through the practices and innovations that are still followed. For good reason, Ian is credited as the pioneer and innovator of this incredible whisky,” John Campbell, Laphroaig distillery manager, comments. “Without Ian, the Laphroaig we know today would not exist, so we have much to thank him for. It is this legacy that we celebrate throughout the series.” You can be sure that Book One will be landing on MoM shores very soon, though you’ll have to wait until 2020 for Book Two.

Sustainable surfs up at Old Pulteney

Following in the footsteps of the announcement last week that the Pulteney Distillery has teamed up with acclaimed wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, comes some even more exciting news from mainland Scotland’s second most northern distillery. For the second instalment of Old Pulteney’s ‘Rise with the Tide’ campaign, the distillery has collaborated with Sustainable Surf, a California-based non-profit founded in 2011 by Michael Steward and Kevin Whilden that encourages surfers to be more environmentally aware. You might be surprised from watching Point Break or listening to the Beach Boys, that modern surfboards are not good for the ocean. Steward filled us in: “We’re stoked to be collaborating with Old Pulteney to have this platform for sharing our story. When we first jump-started the movement for building dramatically more ocean-friendly surfboards about a decade ago in California, no one knew what an “Ecoboard” was – now you can buy a certified ‘ECOBOARD’ from over 250 participating brands all around the globe, and the world’s top professional surfers are using them in competition on the world stage and winning!” Malcolm Waring, Pulteney distillery manager, commented: “Kevin and Michael know all about the power and rewards of the sea, and that’s a value we hold dear here at Pulteney. They work tirelessly to harness the power of the global surfing community to protect the future of their ocean playground. They changed the game by recognising that their sport can be used as a platform to encourage a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of life.”

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Schofield’s Dry Vermouth!

Asterley Bros team up with Joe Schofield for new vermouth

This week we zipped up to London for the launch of a delish new vermouth – and it was well worth the trip. Joe Schofield, perhaps best known for his time at Singapore’s highly acclaimed Tippling Club bar, has teamed up with the actual brothers at Asterley Bros to create something mighty delicious indeed: Schofield’s Dry Vermouth! It’s a tasty concoction of all things quintessentially English, including a base wine made with English Bacchus, along with botanicals like rose, chamomile, jasmine, coriander and yarrow (and a whole load more, too). “I want to drive the dry vermouth market a little bit – put a bit of an interesting take on that,” Schofield told us as we sat down to enjoy a Four Leaf Clover serve during the event at Three Sheets (50ml of the vermouth, four mint leaves and 10ml elderflower liqueur, stirred in a highball and topped with soda, in case you were wondering). It’s 16% ABV, vegan, and the bottle even comes with a handy QR code so you can access more low(er) ABV serves if you like. We approve – keep an eye on the New Arrivals page and our social channels for more updates!

The Nightcap

The spectacular addition will mean more delicious Tequila, including aged expressions!

Patrón adds the Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room to Hacienda

Hacienda Patrón has a swanky new addition that it’s keen to show off: a state-of-the-art aged barrel room. Two times the size of the present barrel room, it will allow for an increase in production of current expressions and continued innovation of the brand’s aged Tequila portfolio. The 16,850 square foot expansion provides more space to run ageing trials and Hacienda Patrón will store over 20,000 barrels of Tequila between both barrel rooms combined. The new building also features an upstairs tasting room for educational sessions, and an underground private bar, La Cava, an exclusive speakeasy bar, available for select VIP guests featuring a custom cocktail menu developed by head mixologist Oskar Murillo. “At Patrón we don’t cut any corners and we completely understand that aged Tequilas require patience to achieve greatness,” said Antonio Rodriguez, director of production. “The new Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room gives us the capacity we need not only to increase the production of our current portfolio but to keep experimenting and create new innovations under different conditions. This expansion allows us to increase our Tequila production and provides another opportunity to continue to educate our guests at Hacienda Patrón through guided tastings in the new tasting room. Through a hands-on and interactive experience, guests will have the ability to fully understand the many nuances, variables and complexities of ageing Tequila.” Hacienda Patrón is located in the Highlands (Los Altos) of Jalisco and also features distillery buildings, a liquor facility, environmental areas, gardens, and a luxury 20-room guesthouse. Anyone else suddenly feel like they need a vacation? I hear Mexico is nice…

The Nightcap

Any excuse for a rum-based party…

Angostura brings Trinidad to London for one night only

Our job is booze but even we find it hard to keep up with all the various special days, weeks, months and even years of something or other. July was Rum Month, 16 August was National Rum Day and now, according to the House of Angostura, National Rum Week is coming up later this month. Still, any excuse for a party. And what a party the Trinidadian company has for you. It’s turning 640 East at the Arches in Bethnal Green, London into a West Indian Carnival on 17 October and you’re invited. Tickets cost £10 and include two cocktails made with Angostura bitters, rum and/or amaro by top drinks team Wet & Dry. And to get you in the mood there will be calypso, soca and live drumming from Just Vibez. Head over to the Angostura Global Facebook page for more information. Rainy autumn in London suddenly looks a whole lot hotter.

The Nightcap

What could be better than cheering on London Irish while enjoying Irish whiskey?

St. Patrick’s Distillery official whiskey of London Irish

There’s a Rugby World Cup on, in case you hadn’t heard, and what better time for St. Patrick’s Distillery to announce a partnership with everyone’s favourite London Irish rugby team, London Irish! The distillery (which we wrote about earlier in the year) is now the official whiskey supplier to the team and will sponsor the Man of the Match award at home games. Afsun Smith from Moonshine Inc Ltd, St. Patrick’s UK distributor, said: “We are proud to be partnering up with London Irish. Their core values mirrors ours: the pursuit of excellence, the love of a sporting life, a dedication to the community, and a superior offering. It’s a perfect match.” Sam Windridge from London Irish added: “We are delighted to be working with St. Patrick’s for this season and look forward to offering our adult supporters their fantastic range of products.” So now you can enjoy a drop of the Irish while you cheer on London Irish.

The Nightcap

Not wine. Not gin. Beer reigns supreme still in the UK

And finally… Beer remains the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink

If you’ve heard enough about the gin boom in the last few years to last you a lifetime, then this news may come as a surprise: beer is in fact Britain’s most popular alcoholic drink! Thanks to the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) latest handbook, we can pour you some boozy facts. As a nation, we enjoyed an eye-watering 8.5 billion pints in 2018, compared to only a measly 7.4 billion glasses of wine. However, the slightly disheartening news from the findings revealed that beer is majorly overtaxed in the UK. Apparently, unwitting Britons are paying 11 times more duty than beer lovers in Germany or Spain! All is not lost though, as the BBPA is backing a campaign calling on the Chancellor to cut beer tax. Surely that’s worth raising a pint!

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We put your Laphroaig questions to John Campbell!

Join us as we put your questions about Laphroaig to distillery manager John Campbell during Fèis Ìle 2019! Love Islay whisky? So do we! We took your questions with us…

Join us as we put your questions about Laphroaig to distillery manager John Campbell during Fèis Ìle 2019!

Love Islay whisky? So do we! We took your questions with us to Fèis Ìle and put them to the great and the good on the island. We’re sharing the resulting videos every day up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

Laphroaig John Campbell

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