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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Littlemill

The Nightcap: 6 September

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap! When September rolls around, there’s something in the back…

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap!

When September rolls around, there’s something in the back of our heads that says we should be stockpiling things. Maybe it’s a leftover from when humans used to be squirrels (pretty sure that’s how evolution works), but the urge to stockpile summery gubbins is in the air – otherwise we won’t get to enjoy them until June next year! You should see the stack of flip-flops, salad that inexplicably contains more grapes than leaves, and those tiny paper cocktail umbrellas we have amassed at MoM Towers. What we’re not stockpiling is booze news – we share all the stories from the world of drink with you in The Nightcap each week! Let’s get to it!

On the blog this week we launched a new competition with Mackmyra that gives you chance to win your own maturing cask of soon-to-be-whisky! We then gave you an exclusive video tour around Glenfiddich Distillery, including the Robbie Dhu Spring water source, the still house, the bottling process, as well as the maltings and the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery. Elsewhere, Kristy regaled us with tales from Kyrö Distillery, Ian Buxton put on his sceptic’s hat and pondered the future of Chinese single malt and Annie returned to give us five essential tips to make the most of our distillery tours. Henry, meanwhile, chose the intriguing Hayman’s Small Gin to be our New Arrival of the Week before doing his best Fancy Dan impression by making The Made in Chelsea Coupe our Cocktail of the Week. For Dram Club members, we also revealed what to expect from September 2019.

But there’s still more boozy news to cover, and there’s no time to lose! It’s The Nightcap…

The Nightcap

Dr Peter Morris and Dr Ross Alexander working on the potential miracle barley

Gene for drought-resistant cereal discovered in Scotland

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have uncovered a gene that helps drought resistance in crops which could be of huge benefit to the Scotch whisky industry. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which funded the research, 90% of the barley used in Scotch whisky comes from Scotland. The results which were published in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry showed that a particular gene, HvMYB1, controls stress tolerance in barley. Dr Peter Morris from Heriot-Watt University said: “This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future. Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality. As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential that we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key industries like Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s leading export items.” It was the result of over five years work, because, Morris went on to say, “barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double the number for humans, so characterising one particular gene which promotes drought resistance has been a considerable challenge.” Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, commented: “The SWA works closely with specialists at Heriot-Watt University, and others in the sector, to ensure that the industry is equipped to adapt to any changes that may arise from a changing climate. We, therefore, welcome this research which helps to provide resilience against the effects of climate change and to sustain the diversity of barley varieties used for Scotch whisky.” So as the planet warms up, at least there will still be Scotch whisky, which is a comfort.

The Nightcap

Glenfiddich Grand Cru will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon!

Glenfiddich’s new premium malt has a sparkling heritage

Some companies launch a new whisky. Not Glenfiddich, its latest release “redefines celebrations.” How does it do that, you might ask? Well, it’s got pedigree, that’s for sure. Called Grand Cru, it is 23 years old, matured in European and American oak, and then finished in “rare French cuvée oak casks”. These casks “contained the liquid that goes on to become some of the world’s most extraordinary sparkling wines.” We think they mean Champagne. Only very few houses, including Bollinger, Roederer and Krug, still use oak so these casks are likely to have held some exceptional liquid. Why is Glenfidicch being so coy then? Well, the wine in the barrels was still and therefore not legally allowed to be called Champagne. Glenfiddich malt master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “Breaking category conventions once more, this unusual collaboration presented an exciting opportunity to create a spirit that further elevated our unique Glenfiddich style. We experimented with the maturation time and hand-selected the right balance of 23-year-old Glenfiddich casks out of our unique collection of old age malts. The further influence from the oak of the French cuvée casks added an extra layer of complexity thanks to the liquid they once held”. So this is a premium malt meets Grand Cru Champagne which, if not exactly “redefining celebrations”, certainly sounds swanky. RRP is £220; stock should be landing at your favourite online retailer 20 September.

The Nightcap

This geographical protection is huge for Irish whiskey and brands like Tullamore D.E.W.

Irish whiskey secures geographical protection for the Indian market.

Good news for Irish whiskey as it has secured geographical protection for the Indian market. This is the world’s largest whisky market with over 2.3 billion bottles sold last year (though much of what is called whisky would be labelled rum in Britain as it’s distilled from molasses). Thanks to this agreement, now only whiskeys from Ireland can bear the legend “Irish Whiskey” on the label. This is great news for the Indian whiskey drinker and, of course, for the rapidly-expanding Irish whiskey industry. Carleen Madigan, legal advisor to the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Securing the geographical indication for Irish Whiskey in India is another landmark for the Irish Whiskey category. Like similar registrations achieved earlier in the year in Australia and South Africa, this is another major success in our efforts to protect the integrity of Irish Whiskey on a worldwide basis. We will now be able to take much tougher enforcement action against fake Irish whiskey products on sale in India. This protection will also enable us to maximise opportunities to increase sales in this crucial whiskey market as it is an important selling point for the Indian consumer knowing they can enjoy Irish Whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product”. India is still a relatively untapped market for Irish whiskey, only 34,000 cases were sold in India, double the previous year but a long way behind Scotland at nearly 10 million cases sold. This geographical protection should see sales take off.

The Nightcap

Larissa Marrichi, Finbarr Curran and the two new experimental whiskeys

This year’s Method and Madness whiskeys from Irish Distillers are the maddest yet

The Method and Madness series of releases from Irish Distillers is a chance for the team at Midleton to let their hair down and go a bit mad in the on-site microdistillery. This year’s two releases are particularly envelope-pushing, game-changing and mind-blowing as they are part-aged in wood that isn’t oak. Utter madness! Both are single pot still whiskeys, one finished in cherry wood and one in acacia. Cherry wood, sourced from France, is particularly porous resulting in some big bold flavours. Kevin O’Gorman, master of maturation at Midleton Distillery, commented: “The rare, porous wood is different to anything that we have handled before, so it has been a real achievement to create the perfect balance of flavour – the result is a world-first in Irish whiskey, with a nose of coconut fibre and ginger, a palate of fresh green herbs, black tea and unmistakable pot still spices and a long, fresh finish with prickly spice and hazelnut.” Acacia is quite the opposite, having a tight grain. Finbarr Curran, from the maturation research team explained: “The density of the acacia wood presented a challenge in contrast to the wild cherry wood as the maturation process was much slower and required a close eye and nose to achieve the perfect balance. But it was well worth the wait. This stunning single pot still Irish whiskey has a nose of sugared almonds and wood spice, a palate of coffee beans, dark chocolate and chilli and a finish with fading spice, charred wood and barley husk.”The releases will be on sale for RRP of €92. We’ll let you know when they come in.

The Nightcap

Trois Rivières and La Mauny are produced on the island paradise of Martinique

Campari purchases Trois Rivières and La Mauny

The Campari Group has signed an agreement with Chevrillon Group to buy French firm Rhumantilles for a cool $66 million USD. Rhumantilles owns 96.5% of Martinique-based Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs (BBS) Group, which produces the Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny brands, as well as Duquesne rum, which is made for the local market. The deal not only includes those brands, but also the landholdings, the distilleries, the visitor centres and the inventory of high-quality aged rum, adding to the Italian spirits giant’s already considerable rum portfolio which includes the fantastic Appleton Distillery in Jamaica. The company, who said the deal was expected to close during the fourth quarter of this year in a statement released this week, clearly believe in the future of rhum agricole, which already boasts a strong reputation among spirits fans, but still occupies a tiny share of global rum production. The injection of Campari’s financial and marketing could prove a huge boost for the category. Campari said the move would “add prestigious agricole rum brands to its offering and enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumizing category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture.”

The Nightcap

We sail, for rum and country more rum!

Captain Morgan brings the highs seas to Birmingham

Ahoy there rum lovers! We bring you news of a rather exciting nautical adventure. Over in Birmingham, Bompas & Parr has joined forces with Captain Morgan to curate the Lost Lagoon, an immersive and boozy treasure hunt inspired by none other than the buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan himself. Those who choose to explore this mysterious land (or sea) can expect cocktails while they sail through an indoor ocean past a series of islands. In true naval style, at each island they’ll be given rum rations and instructions on how to make a swashbuckling punch. The ultimate goal? To use your wits to eventually find Captain Morgan’s hidden bounty, which (spoiler) is a tiki bar full of delicious rum and nibbles. The aquatic adventure is based at Bullring & Grand Central, running from 26 September to 22 December. “Expect a mix between your best desert island fantasy with punch quests and neo-tiki party vibes,” says Bompas & Parr’s Harry Parr. We hope your nautical navigation skills are up to scratch.

The Nightcap

Littlemill 29 Year Old

Littlemill and Glencairn join forces for latest Private Cellar Collection bottling

Littlemill’s Private Cellar collection has produced some stellar expressions and this latest bottling should prove no exception. Littlemill 29 Year Old, the third release from the series, was crafted by master blender Michael Henry from liquid selected from some of the last remaining casks to be laid down at the Littlemill Distillery, which was recently recognised as the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery fell silent in 1994 and was destroyed by fire in 2004, making this liquid rare and highly collectable. Only 600 bottles will be released across the world. The bottling, which is said to possess the traditional Lowland floral profile, is also notable for its presentation, a limited edition bespoke Glencairn decanter. Glencairn worked closely with Littlemill on every detail, which includes an etched illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. Each decanter is one of a kind and is individually-numbered. The presentation box also includes a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the history of the Littlemill distillery with tasting notes from Henry, who commented on the release: “The latest expression in the Private Cellar collection helps to tell another piece of the Littlemill story. Littlemill has always represented the traditional Lowland ‘floral’ style, and over the years the distillation and maturation processes evolved to maintain this flavour profile”. He added: “Littlemill 29 year old, our 2019 release, focuses on the influence of wood. The original liquid was laid down in refill bourbon casks in 1990. Seven of these were selected and combined, then finished in first-fill oloroso sherry and Limousin oak casks. The oloroso sherry adds further floral notes, similar to the traditional sherry casks used at the Littlemill distillery, while the Limousin oak provides the European oak influence. The result is unmistakably Littlemill, with delicious caramel sweetness layered with spice.”

The Nightcap

The Coral Room is celebrating Sete de Setembro in style!

The Coral Room celebrates Brazilian Independence Day with Capucana Cachaça

Brazilian Independence Day has made its way over to London, more specifically, The Coral Room! The Brazilian national holiday, commonly referred to as Sete de Setembro (for those of you who aren’t so familiar with Portuguese, also known as Seventh of September) commemorates Brazil’s independence, won in 1815 after three years of war against Portugal. Hence why, on 7 September, the bar has teamed up with Capucana Cachaça to put on a lavish celebration of cocktails, DJs and sambaing (yes, it’s a word). The selection of drinks takes its inspiration from the vibrant colours of the Brazilian flag, so expect a thoroughly colourful and delicious evening. It’s not all just fun and games, as The Coral Room will also be donating £1 from every Brazilian Independence Day cocktail to Rainforest Alliance. Good times and good causes. Make sure you don’t miss out on the after party at The Bloomsbury Club either. Dia Da Independence is sure to be a night to remember!

The Nightcap

Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee is the first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years

Introducing Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee

Jägermeister just can’t seem to keep itself away from caffeinated drinks! The latest release from the German brand is perhaps somewhat more refined than the iconic Jägerbomb, but also (hopefully) won’t be replacing your morning brew. Enter Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee. The first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years, the new liqueur sees the original secret Jägermeister recipe paired with cold-brewed Arabica coffee and a dash of cacao. In classic Jägermeister style, the recommended serve is straight from the freezer at a frosty -18°C. “Coffee has become such a huge part of everyday consumer culture,” says UK innovation controller (someone’s got to control the innovation, don’t want it getting out of hand), Tim Hawley. “Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee is perfect for moments of celebration in or out of the home, offering an intricate coffee flavour profile complemented by the classic Jägermeister taste – served perfectly as an ice-cold shot.” Did you know the translation of the Italian word ‘barista’ is ‘barman’? Seems pretty fitting!

The Nightcap

There is no caption that can do this picture justice. I retire.

And finally. . . . Brussels sprout-flavoured gin? Don’t all rush at once

We’ve seen some strange spirits here at MoM, like whiskey flavoured with beaver glands or vodka distilled from milk, but the latest release from Pickering’s Gin might be the strangest yet. Looking to cash in on the Christmas market the distillery has launched six festive gins including one flavoured with Brussels sprouts. Yes really, everyone’s least favourite part of Christmas (apart from the now traditional Brexit discussion) is one of the botanicals. Over 10,000 of the little blighters have been used to create this batch limited edition. Matt Gammell, head distiller and co-founder said: “It was an interesting challenge trying to balance the unmistakable flavour of Brussels sprouts to get the taste just right – and the distillery had a very distinct aroma while the gin was being distilled!” Apparently the resulting gin has a uniquely “sprouty” flavour. Gammel added: “We love the end result and it is the ideal tipple for friends and family to share together this Christmas”. Well perhaps, if you don’t want them to visit next year.

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Littlemill revealed as Scotland’s ‘oldest’ licensed distillery

We finally have an answer. Historical documentary evidence has provided us with proof. Or as much proof as we can get. Scotch whisky now has an oldest distillery! It’s a…

We finally have an answer. Historical documentary evidence has provided us with proof. Or as much proof as we can get. Scotch whisky now has an oldest distillery!

It’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself (or let’s face it, straight up Googled) before. Which distillery holds the claim to be Scotland’s oldest? There hasn’t previously been a conclusive answer, and the debate has gone on for so long it could be the oldest argument in Scotch whisky.

Now, thanks to fresh evidence unearthed from archives, we may finally have an answer: Littlemill Distillery.

Littlemill distillery

Littlemill Distillery from above, in the good ol’ days.

Rumours that Littlemill is Scotland’s oldest distillery, possibly even the oldest in the world, have long persisted. It was hard to say for certain if this was true, despite the distillery’s extensive and fascinating history.

The Littlemill Distillery was established in 1772 on the banks of the River Clyde near Glasgow, on the site of an old brewery that was founded during the 14th century. There are suggestions that illicit distilling took place there from 1750 when the site was bought by George Buchanan, a malt master. Renowned whisky historian and writer Misako Udo in her book The Scotch Whisky Distilleries even suggested that distilling may have happened there many centuries before.

But it was a date stone carved with ‘1772’ on the gable end of one of the distillery’s warehouses that offered the best clue as to the age of this Lowland distillery for over 220 years. That was until Loch Lomond Group, the current owner of the Littlemill brand, commissioned a study of Littlemill’s origins. Behold – new evidence has come to light!

Littlemill distillery

The Littlemill distillery, shortly before it was sadly closed

The research uncovered the local Justice of the Peace’s records for Dumbarton, dated 2 November 1773, which stated that ‘Robert Muir of Littlemiln’ was granted the first-ever license by the Government of King George III to “retail ale, beer and other excisable Liquors”.

That’s not all. In 1772 accommodation was built next door to the distillery to house the Excise officers who represented the King. This measure ensured any distillation was duly recorded and the relevant taxes calculated and paid. There would not have been an excise officer on site had the distillery not been licensed to operate.

This suggests that something was already afoot onsite before 1772, and could well make Littlemill the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery is sadly no longer in operation after it fell into perpetual silence in 1994 and was subsequently destroyed by fire in 2004.

Littlemill distillery

The original Thomas stills at the Littlemill Distillery

“It has often been rumoured that Littlemill was the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland, which until now have been only rumours,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group.

“We have now uncovered conclusive documentary evidence to confirm these rumours and claims as reality, having commissioned detailed research to establish the facts. We are thrilled and excited to have discovered these clear and unambiguous documents dating back to 1773 that confirms that Littlemill was indeed the very first Scottish distillery to obtain a licence to sell ‘excisable liquors’.”

Charles MacLean, whisky historian and author, added: “The wrangle about ‘the oldest distillery’ has been running for ages, so this is a significant find. There have been several claims before, based on the fact that illicit distilling took place on the site prior to a license being granted. The Dumbarton Justice of the Peace records, referencing Littlemill, does not refer explicitly to distilling, since prior to 1781 private distilling was perfectly legal so long as the spirits were not offered for sale. So, this license to sell excisable liquors amounted to a license to distil as we understand it today. What a shame Littlemill itself burnt down in 2004, but thankfully some limited stocks remain!”

It’s good of MacLean to look on the bright side, and we’ll join him there ourselves. While it’s true another drop won’t be produced, the remaining stocks from Littlemill continue to be released by Loch Lomond Group.

In late 2018 the brand launched the Littlemill 40 Year Old Celestial Edition, the oldest expression ever to be released from the lost distillery and a celebration of the life’s work of former Littlemill owner Duncan Thomas. His innovative take on the distillery’s stills helped create three styles of single malts from full-bodied to light (seen in the above photo).

The latest addition to the Littlemill range will be released in September 2019. The third release from the Private Cellar Collection, Littlemill 29-year-old will be housed in a Glencairn crystal decanter etched with an illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. The whisky will be accompanied by a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the fascinating history of the Littlemill distillery along with tasting notes from Master Distiller Michael Henry. It sounds delightful, but there will only be 600 bottles released across the world, so you’ll need to be quick. You have been warned.

If you do manage to get your hands on a bottle, be sure to boast that it’s from Scotland’s oldest licensed distillery.

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More Boutique-y Whisky. New releases from Kilchoman, Glentauchers, Littlemill and Glen Garioch.

Well that was quite a Christmas. In fact it’s been so busy that 4 new releases have passed us by with nary a mention. Changing that, now I am here…

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Kilchoman, Littlemill, Glentauchers and Glen Garioch

Well that was quite a Christmas.

In fact it’s been so busy that 4 new releases have passed us by with nary a mention. Changing that, now I am here with the writing about things. Yes.

Without further ado, onto the explanations behind the crazy stuff that’s fallen out of my head and onto paper.

First up this time, we’ve got an absolute belter of an Islay Whisky, from Kilchoman.

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Maltstock 2011 – A review

It’s official – Maltstock is Awesome.   I mean, last year’s event was really, really good, but this year it kicked up a gear in every conceivable way. Having sung…

Maltstock

It’s official – Maltstock is Awesome.

 

I mean, last year’s event was really, really good, but this year it kicked up a gear in every conceivable way. Having sung the praises of the event to Neil from Caskstrength, we decided to go to the event together, and resolved to deliver a masterclass on some of our favourite whiskies from closed distilleries.

 

Having set off for the drive from Tunbridge Wells to Dover in ‘plenty of time’, we managed to miss the ferry like a complete pair of rejects (well, one reject, and an immaculately dressed man in Crepe Soled Shoes at any rate). Having secured passage on the next available ferry, we settled in at Dover for the wait. After what seemed like an eternity, our Ferry arrived, and we boarded. After ascertaining that there was nothing of interest in the Duty Free Shop, we repaired to shoot Zombies (we couldn’t find a ‘boy in care’ to help us out, and were consequently killed reasonably soon).

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