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:
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.”
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.”
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!”
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?
Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A
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.
Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang
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.
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‘).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 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.”
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 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…
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.
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.
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!
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!
Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links…
Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!
Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links our weekly round-up of booze news stories to something like aliens being late for a dentist appointment or whatever, we figured we’d just remind you yet again that Father’s Day is this weekend. You haven’t forgotten to get that father figure of yours a present like some of us, have you? (Don’t ask how we did that while continuing to shout about Father’s Day, we have no idea). If you’re in the UK, check our weekend delivery options for your address in the checkout if you have forgotten and send some superb spirits to your dad! Anyway, you ever meet an alien who’s late for a dentist appointment? Me neither. Aliens don’t have teeth. You know what they do have, though? An appreciation for the latest stories from the world of drinks!
Buffalo Trace ‘marches ahead’ with huge distillery expansion
Did you know Buffalo Trace Distillery was investing an enormous US$1.2 billion in its distillery? Yep, to counter stock issues, the producer has been on it. The whopping project started back in 2016 and has already seen the construction of four new barrel warehouses and a $50 million bottling hall that’s almost finished. Next up? Three more warehouses (insulated and heated during winter months for prime maturation conditions); a new cooling tower to manage the temperature of the mash; four new 92,000 fermenters, and new handling equipment in the dry house. The visitor centre is also primed for expansion after a record 231,523 passed through the distillery gates in 2018. Phew. “We’ve been increasing production for many years now. We’ll fill more barrels this year than ever before in our 246-year history,” said senior marketing director, Kris Comstock. “Many of our bourbons are aged for eight years or more, so although we have far more than a decade ago, demand continues to outpace our supply of mature bourbon. There will be more available every year, but it will be a while before bottles are readily available on liquor store shelves. While we’re flattered these brands have become so popular, we do understand the frustration our fans are experiencing when they see empty store shelves. We promise we are doing everything we can, but we can’t speed up the ageing process, so we just ask for continued patience.” We reckon it’ll be worth waiting for.
Fords Gin joins impressive range of spirits at Brown-Foreman
Brown-Forman to acquire Fords Gin
The Brown-Forman Corporation announced this week that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase The 86 Company which will add Fords Gin to a growing portfolio that includes brands like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve and GlenDronach. The 86 Company’s Simon Ford and 8th generation master distiller Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers created Fords Gin together using a blend of nine botanicals including juniper, coriander seeds, lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, cassia, angelica, jasmine and orris root. Pleasingly, Ford and The 86 Company team will remain in key roles building and crafting of Fords Gin. “Brown-Forman is a great partner to bring Fords Gin to more bartenders and consumers in the U.S. and around the world while keeping our commitment to producing a unique, high quality, mixable gin,” said Simon Ford, “We’re extremely thankful to all our supporters who have been championing the brand since the beginning and look forward to seeing what the future holds with our new collaborators.” Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman, added: “Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits. We look forward to building Fords Gin into another iconic brand in our portfolio.” The purchase is subject to ‘customary closing conditions’ (if they don’t ask for a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin from DuckTales it’s a wasted opportunity) and is expected to be completed within 30 days.
Edrington-Beam Suntory’s Bowmore Distillery is one of many who will enjoy this news
Raise a dram! Whisky is set to grow by 6% by 2022
The Edrington-Beam Suntory UK soothsayers have been hard at work: the company has just published its Whisky Yearbook, and the numbers make compelling reading. According to those running the sums, the UK whisky category will be worth a whopping £2.44 billion by 2022, up by more than 6% on 2018 levels. More specifically, an increase in “accessibly priced” expressions will propel Scotch single malt growth by more than 11%, while American whiskey is expected to climb by almost 8%. But it’s “emergent” sub-categories that are primed to soar. The value of Irish whiskey as a whole is projected to advance by almost 21% to 2022, with single grain predicted to explode by a whopping 96%. Japanese whisky can expect a 44% boom, while Canadian whisky, from the smallest base of the four, is set to see a 36% increase. “Irish and single grain whiskies have been real success stories over the past twelve months – sharing rapid growth on an already strong base of both volume and value in the market,” said Mark Riley, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK MD. “We expect both to play a greater role in shaping the wider market in the coming years. The supply challenges that have arguably held back growth in Japanese and Canadian whiskies have eased. While there remains a challenge securing enough liquid from leading brands from both nations to satisfy UK demand, there is far greater supply forecast and we predict we will see growth as a result.” More whisky to go around? Tip top news indeed! Let’s hope the number of consumers continues to grow too.
Eight Lands organic Speyside Gin and Vodka launches
The newly-built Glenrinnes Distillery has announced the launch of its first products: Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka, both made from 100% organic ingredients and Speyside spring water. Eight Lands, set at the foot of the Ben Rinnes mountain in Speyside and named after the eight different counties that are visible from its top on a clear day, is a family-owned and run business developed by the father and stepson team of Alasdair Locke and Alex Christou. The purpose-built 5,400 sq/ft distillery contains a bespoke 1,000-litre pot still and a two ten-plate rectifying columns built by local specialists, but there are currently no plans to make whisky as the team wants to focus on making quality white spirits. Speaking of which, Eight Lands’ first gin will be a London Dry with a juniper-forward profile which is complemented by locally-foraged botanicals, while its vodka was made using organic barley and wheat, a combination of pot and column stills and an unusual two-stage fermentation process. Both are available directly from the distillery and its website (www.eight-lands.com). “I genuinely believe that we have created something special with our organic vodka and gin, and I’m really proud of the team at the distillery for the hard work and passion that they have put into this,” Christou commented. “We have ambitious plans to build the Eight Lands brand globally in the months ahead and I know that my family and our production team are incredibly excited about sharing our spirits with both the UK and other markets.” Glenrinnes Distillery is open for tours and tastings with the distillery team, so go check it out for yourselves, folks! We’ll be doing the same thing very, very soon…
Only ten bottles of this stuff are available outside Mexico,
World’s most expensive Tequila (probably) goes on sale in London hotels
Only ten bottles of Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo Tequila are available outside Mexico, and Master of Malt got to try one. It might be the world’s swankiest Tequila, it is certainly extremely expensive. Just a measure will set you back around £200. The other nine bottles (sorry, we finished the tenth with help from assembled bartenders and journalists) will go to some of London’s choicest hotels: the Lanesborough, the Rosewood, the Mandarin Oriental and the Connaught where they will sit “the shelf just above the top shelf”, as brand ambassador Oliver Pergl put it. So why is it so expensive? Well, it is extremely rare but it’s not 50 years old. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967), from the family who own Jose Cuervo, who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks, though heavy hints were dropped that it contains some much older spirits from Beckman’s private cellar. It certainly tasted extremely mature and opulent, very creamy and smooth with dried fruit sherry cask notes. At times it was like a Cognac, sometimes like an old Latin American rum, but always with that vegetal agave note as the spine. The Maestro Dobel 50 demonstrates a mastery of wood that would impress a Scotch whisky blender. We were lucky enough to drink it alongside a feast especially designed to go with Tequila by Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in Bethnal Green. So, if you’ve just sold your screenplay to Steven Soderbergh, we’d recommend you give it a go. But if you haven’t, which is most of us, the Maestro Dobel Diamante is pretty delicious too.
There are few sites more beautiful than this
St-Rémy Brandy launches collaboration with cheesemonger Rodolphe Le Meunier
We all know the joys of a classic cheese and wine pairing (if you don’t, remedy this situation immediately), but how many of us realise how well cheese goes with brandy? Well, we certainly do here at MoM Towers, thanks to the French brandy experts St-Remy, who kindly invited us to enjoy them both at Le Pont de la Tour in London last night in the company of Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, St-Rémy’s master blender Cécile Roudaut and international cheesemonger (amazing job title) Rodolphe Le Meunier. He’s a big cheese in the world of, err… cheese, having received awards such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) and Meilleur Fromager International (Best International Cheese Maker) in 2005 and 2007 for his milk-curdling work and recently setting a Guinness World Record for the largest ever cheeseboard (imagine the party that night). The gastronomic collaboration was brought to life by Roudaut and Le Meunier, who worked closely to distinguish the perfect pairings, developing delights such as St-Rémy XO paired with Old Mimolette (superb), St-Rémy XO with wood-smoked goat cheese (inspired) and St-Rémy VSOP with Swiss Gruyere (I would happily murder a human person for more of it). “France is well-known for its diversity of cheeses, but up until now, nobody has thought to associate them with brandy. It’s truly an entirely new tasting experience,” Roudaut said. “Working with a ‘World’s Best Cheesemonger’ as well as ‘One of the Best Craftsmen of France’ has been a fantastic experience. Rodolphe isn’t any ordinary cheesemonger. I’ve discovered in him someone extremely creative, and so full of ideas. It was really exciting to work on associating cheese with St-Rémy brandies.”
It would have been rude not to have a sample, or two…
We had a little nose around London’s Bimber Distillery this week in the name of brand new whisky, with a tour from brand ambassador Lukasz. The distillery was founded in 2015 by Dariusz Plazewski, a third-generation Polish moonshiner; Bimber is actually the Polish word for moonshine. We arrived just in time to catch spirit coming straight off the two direct-fired copper pot stills, Doris and Astraea. We started off by trying both peated and non-peated new make spirit, both of which weighed in at around 60% ABV! Hardcore. Although it was surprisingly easy to drink, little surprise that Jim Murray scored it 96.5 in his bible. Then, very excitingly, we previewed three of the single malt whiskies which are expected to be released in September this year. There was the sweet, vanilla and toffee heavy Re-Charred Cask, super Christmassy Sherry Cask and tropical fruit-filled Bourbon Cask. Each expression was somebody’s favourite, and they were all delicious. We even got a sneaky taste of Fortunella liqueur and Da Hong Pao Tea Gin, just for good measure, and life is all about balance, right? This truly is a craft distillery with everything done by hand, including the labelling and bottling. Not an automated machine in sight. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this relatively small distillery, having recently launched its Founder’s Club and just months away from its first London single malt. Watch this space!
Movies & Malts: a perfect combination
Laphroaig launches partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas
Picture this: Laphroaig has launched a collaboration with cinema network Picturehouse Cinemas. The partnership plans to push the Islay distillery’s profile to a host of new consumers as part of the brand’s ‘Opinions Welcome’ campaign, which invites people to discuss and share their opinions of the distinctive whisky. A very brave thing to do in this time of internet comment sections (everyone who writes on ours is lovely, of course). Previous opinions include “the perfect gift for someone you love or hate… or haven’t made your mind up about” and “smells like medicine. Tastes like soil. My whisky of choice”. The collaboration will entail #OpinionsWelcome content and advertisements shown on-screen. But the really cool part? Laphroaig will be available to be sampled by cinema-goers who visit the 25 Picturehouse venues across the UK and bar staff will receive training in all things Laphroaig so they can create cocktails like the Popcorn Old Fashioned or a Laphroaig & Ginger. A peaty dram/cocktail while watching a film? The people’s voice (or maybe just mine) has finally been heard. “Partnering with Picturehouse Cinemas is a fantastic opportunity for Laphroaig as it gives us the chance to put our much-loved but divisive whisky into the glasses of new consumers, encouraging them to share their unique thoughts,” Nick Ganich, head of Beam Suntory Brands at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK said. “Cinema always stokes healthy debate, so it felt the ideal match to include Laphroaig, which instils similarly strong but divided opinion. Luckily, we welcome them all and we can’t wait to hear what people think.” The partnership between Laphroaig and Picturehouse Cinemas will start in June 2019 and continue throughout the year.
The flagship bottling is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead
Douglas Laing unveils Super-Premium XOP ‘The Black Series’
Douglas Laing has been busy, as this week it revealed a brand spanking new extension to the Xtra Old Particular range. Behold, XOP The Black Series. The flagship cask in the series is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead and bottled at cask strength, 47.7% ABV over 24 years later. According to Douglas Laing, the bottles house “dark fruited, subtly smoked, leathery and chocolatey spirit within”. It sports quite the decadent packaging too, with a monochrome scheme alongside gold foil detail. Each bottle is hand-filled with an embossed metallised label, glass stopper and even the signatures of Fred and Cara Laing, and, naturally, comes in a luxurious black moleskin case with a certificate of authenticity. Regarding the new series, Cara Laing, director of whisky, noted: “The maiden release in this new Single Cask Series certainly sets an exceptionally high benchmark for future bottlings, and we are poised to rise to that challenge!” Considering that, we eagerly await future bottlings. The 1994 Springbank is expected to retail for £800 throughout Europe and Asia, so definitely keep a lookout on your favourite online retailer. Mind you, there are only 148 bottles, so you’d better be snappy.
You’ll have to get down there yourselves to see the brand ambassadors dressed in ‘cucumber collectors’ outfits
And finally… Hendrick’s goes bananas for World Cucumber Day
Whereas most gin brands get behind World Gin Day (8 June) or National Martini Day (19 June), for Hendrick’s it’s all about World Cucumber Day on 14 June, that’s today! At airports around the world including Changi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Schiphol, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Dubai, Dublin, Istanbul, Vienna, Brussels, São Paulo, JFK, Bogota, Rio and IGL Canada, Hendricks will be putting on eccentric displays to celebrate its signature botanical and garnish. There will be cucumbers specimens displayed in special jars, as well as gifts when you buy a bottle of Hendricks and interactive experiences. Oooh modern! The thing that really caught our eye, however, was the promise of Hendrick’s brand ambassadors dressed up in special ‘cucumber collectors’ safari outfits complete with ‘cucumber collector catchers’ ie. nets. Sounds completely bananas, sorry, cucumbers.
We go again! Laphroaig Open Day is known for its tasting experiences and mellow vibes – and 2019 was no different. The sun even came out for us! Team MoM…
We go again! Laphroaig Open Day is known for its tasting experiences and mellow vibes – and 2019 was no different. The sun even came out for us!
Team MoM had a quiet one last night, and we collectively woke up fresh as daisies for Fèis Ìle Day 4’s Laphroaig Open Day. Good job really – in order to nab some time with distillery manager John Campbell we needed to arrive before the gates even opened/the crack of dawn. He’s a popular man!
It’s John Campbell! We chat to Laphroaig’s distillery manager
Made it we did, and the day started as all should – with a dram down on the beach in good company. John was on excellent form as he chatted us through this year’s distillery release. So the first drop of the day was Càirdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength, the 2019 festival bottling! It’s a no-age statement 51.7% ABV release matured in ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks, and then European oak ex-Oloroso casks. An absolute bargain at £77. And there are 36,000 bottles available, from the distillery and through its members’ society, Friends of Laphroaig. The sheer number of bottles available really added to the relaxed setting – no queuing overnight here! Wondering what it tastes like? We’ve got it all in John’s own words:
John hung around with us a bit longer to answer the questions you all put to him via Twitter and Instagram – the Q&A will be released shortly after Fèis Ìle!
With the interviews in the bag, it was time to dish out some t-shirts and drams! We LOVE chatting to you all as we hand them out. We’d also really like to hear what you think about our All Islay Blended Malt, made with our pals at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. We’d be especially excited to see your t-shirt selfies, too. Just tag us in – we’re @masterofmalt on Instagram and Twitter, You’ll find us on Facebook as well!
What next? Drams, of course! We checked out the bar (tip-top selection), and frequented the warehouse where you could even win a measure or two. Spot of bung tossing, anyone?! Then, two things caught our beady eyes. Firstly, VisitScotland’s Coo Van (have you ever seen such a vehicle in all your days?!)…
Behold: Visit Scotland’s Coo Van!
…and a cheese tent! Yes, really! Campbeltown-based (and excellently-named) Scotcheese was there with its delicious wares, and we hoovered up all the samples going before nabbing some for later on. Already getting hungry thinking about it.
Cheese? Yes, please, Scotcheese!
After all that cheese sampling we needed a refresher. Luckily Islay Ales was on hand! For those not into the beer, Laphroaig was on it with the cocktails (much like the other Open Days. Are consistently good cocktails the big Fèis trend of 2019? I reckon so). There were two Laphroaig Select-based, part pre-batched options: a Fruit of the Fèis, made with raspberry, lemon, apple, mango and lemon juice; and the Fizzy Ginger, with ginger cordial, sugar syrup, and an orange and lemon juice. We plumped for ginger, and it made a tasty refresher out in the sunshine.
Cocktail hour at Laphroaig
The music was on point once more (shout out to The Coaltown Daisies who were especially excellent!), and sitting out in the sun you could have been almost anywhere in the world (once you take the pesky windchill factor out).
Cheers, The Coaltown Daisies!
And it was another ace distillery day when it came to dog-spotting opportunities! Here are two of our faves from the day:
Surely takes Sirius Stardust’s crown as the fluffiest poochie of the Isle?
Our Laura makes a new friend
With an excellent day over at Laphroaig in the bag, our Jake had another mission: head off to catch fancy boat The Flying Dutchman for a voyage/tasting around the Scottish island distilleries with That Boutique-y Whisky Company! He was last seen rowing over from the distillery. The legendary Boutique-y fellow Dave Worthington even dressed as a pirate for the occasion. And we snuck our All Islay Blended Malt into the line-up, which also included a 22 year old Springbank*, 18 year old Highland Park, and a 22 year old Arran. Fab whisky, ace company and the high seas. There’s no better way to round off a distillery day!
All aboard the Boutique-y boat!
*apparently a canal cuts them off so the locals consider themselves islanders
Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy! The…
Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy!
The Islay Festival of Music and Malt approaches. The highlight of the whisky calendar. Probably the reason we even still bother putting up with May as a month (that and all the bank holidays, come to think of it.)
A hive of whisky-based geekdom awaits. From official distillery days to delightful drams, celebrity dogs and all manner of ridiculously wonderful people, Fèis Ìle really has got everything, and 2019 promises more of the same. If you’re one of the lucky attendees this year, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as members of the MoM team will be on Islay for Fèis Ìle 2019!
However, if you’re not able to make the trip this year, then don’t panic. Not only will there be all kinds of content, video footage and social posts from the week to come from MoM, but you’ve still got an opportunity to get your hands on plenty of Islay whisky – like this lovely lot that we rounded up, for example. So go on then, get stuck in and enjoy!
All Islay – Islay Blended Malt (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
This brilliant blended malt was created by us! That’s right, this year we decided to team up with That Boutique-y Whisky Company to celebrate our trip to Fèis Ìle 2019, and what better way to that than with whisky sourced exclusively from Islay distilleries? The “All Islay” name is something of a giveaway as to which distilleries contributed to this blend, as are those yellow markers on the label that appear to mark with the locations of every distillery on Islay releasing whisky today, including one iconic closed one…
What does it taste like?:
Buttered crumpets, coal fires, cut grass, some waxy peels, peat smoke richness, cooked apple, apricot, floral heather, peppery heat, damp oak and just a hint of leather.
If deliciously rich, intriguing and complex whiskies are your kind of thing, then Lagavulin 16 Year Old may be the dram for you. The pungent, peated and beloved expression is often held up as a benchmark of an Islay dram, for good reason. Oh, and if you’re on Islay, then be sure to order a Smokey Cokey (winner of Best Fèis Ìle Cocktail from last year’s awards). It might sound crazy to some, but you’ll just have to trust us.
An Oa became the first addition to Ardbeg’s core range in over a decade when it was introduced in 2017 to provide a more mellow, sweet and approachable dram to the distinctive distillery’s selection. Fans need not worry, however. An Oa (pronounced ‘an oh’ and named after the Mull of Oa) has still got plenty of that characteristic Ardbeg style we’ve all come to know and love.
What does it taste like?:
Butterscotch, fennel seed, tobacco leaf, Honey Nut Clusters, Everton mint, flourless orange cake, cigars, golden syrup flapjacks, sweet black tea, chocolate limes, smoky treacle and a little peanut brittle.
A heavy-hitting, peaty powerhouse of a dram, Port Charlotte 10 Year Old has become a go-to for fans who desire a smoky Scotch. Introduced as the flagship Port Charlotte expression by Bruichladdich in 2018, this 10-year-old single malt was peated to 40ppm and drawn from a combination of casks including first-fill American whiskey, second-fill American whiskey and second-fill French wine casks.
Every spring we look forward to Kilchoman’s annual Loch Gorm single malt release, and it’s safe to say the 2019 edition is another belter from what was Islay’s youngest distillery. This year, Kilchomah has drawn spirit from 20 oloroso sherry butts, resulting in big helpings of sweet and dark notes that blend well with its peat smoke core.
What does it taste like?:
Spicy smoke, sherried peels, cinnamon cookies, dried fruit, salted butter, grilled citrus fruits, jammy damson and lingering dark chocolate bitterness.
Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a refined, balanced and delightful Islay single malt that doesn’t pack an overpowering peaty punch and makes for one of our favourite aperitifs. It was matured in a mixture of refill casks so the impact of the wood is tempered which allows all of that distillery and Island character to shine.
An interesting and superb value bottling from Laphroaig Distillery, this whisky was aged for around five years before being finished in a quarter cask for several months, hence the name. Since its release in 2004, Laphroaig Quarter Cask has built a considerable and loyal following for its remarkably complex and punchy profile.
What does it taste like?:
Toffee, nuttiness, hickory, bicarbonate of soda, rum and raisin ice cream, fiery chilli heat, TCP, sweet cereals, custard, cigar smoke and a touch of cola syrup.
The entry-level Bunnahabhain bottling is the perfect expression for those who want an outstanding, approachable Islay single malt without the trademark peat. In fact, it’s one of the least peated whiskeys produced on the island with just 3 ppm of peat (Ardbeg expressions tend to be peated to 55 ppm, by comparison). Instead Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is a gentle, sweet and exceptionally pleasing dram that’s received plenty of plaudits over the years and its fair share of fans.
What does it taste like?:
Seaweed, sherry, almonds, juicy sultanas, mochaccino, herbal and with a balanced salty tang.
If you want to know what the wonderful Bowmore Distillery is all about, then the sublime Bowmore 18 Year Old will prove well worth your time. An ever-popular dram, this well-structured whisky boasts an impressive harmony of sweet and savoury flavours from dark fruits to classic Islay smoke.
What does it taste like?:
Stewing fruit, plum jam, Seville marmalade, summer blossom, dark peat, hints of damp wood and very soft smoke.