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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: New Arrival of the Week

New Arrival of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company World Whisky Blend

Our new arrival this week is from somewhere that we’re all familiar with. We’ve all spent a lot of time here, and it’s rather great because it’s the only place…

Our new arrival this week is from somewhere that we’re all familiar with. We’ve all spent a lot of time here, and it’s rather great because it’s the only place (that we know of) with cats and whisky. That’s right, our new arrival is from… planet Earth! 

Awesome indie bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company really thought outside the box with this one. Behold, World Whisky Blend, which marries together lip-smacking whiskies from all over the globe! We really mean all over, and you’ll find whiskies from Scotland, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, USA, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Taiwan, India, Italy, Germany (Bavaria), Japan, France and Finland all in one bottle. The idea from the folks at TBWC was to celebrate how the world drinks whisky, while also elevating the idea of the humble blend. 

World Whisky Blend

Tasty whisky, awesome label, TBWC knows its stuff!

“World Whisky Blend is inspired by the whisky boom of 19th century Scotland,” said Dr Sam Simmons, head of whisky (what a title) at TBWC. Back in the 1880s, Scotch whisky saw this boom thanks to grain whisky produced at low cost and high volume in the Lowlands. At the time, batch-distilled malt whisky was perceived as rougher and more inconsistent than grain whisky. Imagine that! Then, grain and malt whiskies were blended together, making the malts more accessible.

“The whole world is making whisk(e)y today and the global craft whisky movement has exploded. Unfortunately, these great craft spirits remain “rough” and “inconsistent” in the eyes of the average drinkers,” Dr Simmons continued. “World Whisky Blend endeavours to bring people into the rich world of craft whiskies in the 21st century as the great Scottish blenders did in facilitating first steps into single malt for so many in the 19th century. On the base of one of the world’s richest and most abundant yet least appreciated whisky nations we marry characterful craft malts from all corners of the world.”  

World Whisky Blend

It’s World Whisky Blend and all of its awesome serves!

One of the best things about this whisky (apart from its delectable flavour profile) is that the folks at TBWC are encouraging drinkers to mix it. Or, not even that, but to drink it however they darn please, and we’re all for it. It was Dr Simmons who travelled the world looking for seven signature serves to represent the ways in which the world drinks whisky. He returned victorious, with the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. There are no pyramids and temples to be seen here, but seven Highball World Whisky Blend serves using TBWC’s Global Method, with either ginger ale, cola, coconut water, green tea, soda water or tonic water. Don’t worry, we know that’s only six. The seventh serve is the simplest: neat!

Global Method:

50ml World Whisky Blend

Fill your glass with ice, and top with any mixer your heart desires, wherever you may be. Oh, and don’t skip the garnish.

Master of Malt tasting notes:

Nose: Notes of freshly baked bread, lots of honey and a smidge of orange marmalade, supported by slightly tart stewed apple with a sprinkle of brown sugar. 

Palate: Warming and spicy, with more of that floral honey and baked crumble topping, alongside crunchy, underripe apple and pear.

Finish: A prickle of spice, toffee and vanilla pod linger alongside a slightly mineral note.

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New Arrival of the Week: Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur

This week we’re very excited about a gin liqueur created by an Edwardian vicar, and now resurrected by his great grandson and some wine chap off the telly. You might…

This week we’re very excited about a gin liqueur created by an Edwardian vicar, and now resurrected by his great grandson and some wine chap off the telly.

You might recognise Joe Wadsack from such TV programmes as BBC 2’s Food & Drink, Richard and Judy, and now, This Morning on ITV. He’s a one man wine whirlwind, as enthusiastic in person as he is on television. But he’s not just an enthusiast, Wadsack is generally thought to have the best palate in the wine business. At wine shows around the country, he regularly does a turn where people bring him mystery wines to try. Nine times out of ten, he’s able to identify whatever his brought to him with a quick sniff, swill and a flex of that mighty bean. In his career he’s worked blending wines for supermarkets and producers, and now he’s turned that famous palate (best in the business, apparently) to a gin liqueur. As you might expect, it’s rather good. 

Joe Wadsack

It’s only Joe Wadsack!

It’s a collaboration with Thomas Lester, a kindred spirit, who discovered his great grandfather’s recipe. The Reverend Hubert Bell Lester (who lived from 1868 to 1916) created his gin liqueur in 1904 and used to dole it out during the festive season. We can imagine that his church was packed around Christmas. Lester had the brilliant idea of recreating the recipe but needed someone to help perfect it. Enter the best palate in the business!

According to Lester, Wadsack was a demanding taskmaster: “Joe is ecumenical, he made me taste 20 different lemons, 20 different oranges, and sultanas from different regions of Turkey. His level of perfectionism is outstanding. As a result, we have created a completely unique and delicious gin liqueur. I wanted to reincarnate my great grandfather’s recipe because it has become family legend and what an opportunity to spread a message of conviviality.” 

The liqueur is made at a distillery in the Cotswolds but Wadsack told us, “it tastes like it was made in a garden shed. The only tools used were two peelers and a kitchen knife –this is hand-transported, we hand-screwed the press and we hand-filtered every individual bottle. The flavours are of fresh Amalfi lemons and oranges, with the pithiness of the rings offsetting the sweetness of the sultanas – it is sweet but refreshing and not cloying with warm ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon on the finish.” It’s bottled at 27% ABV.

Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur

We think the good Reverend would approve

So what should one do with this delightful concoction? We think it would have a delightful Hot Toddy in place of whisky or you could try it in a Negroni instead of ordinary gin. Wadsack had some ideas of his own: “it’s perfect apres ski, in a hip flask, and also amazing mixed with prosecco or ruby Port.” Port and gin liqueur? We think the good Reverend would approve.

Reverend Hubert Winter Gin Liqueur is now available from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Merser & Co. Double Barrel rum

This week we delve into the history of rum blending in London and try a very special rum part-matured in the capital by the Hayman family.  Gin or porter are…

This week we delve into the history of rum blending in London and try a very special rum part-matured in the capital by the Hayman family. 

Gin or porter are what probably comes to mind when you say the words ‘booze’ and ‘London’, but according to James Hayman, “for over one hundred years, the streets of London were home to a bustling network of merchant rum blending houses. The merchant’s skill lay not in distilling but rather in the sourcing, blending and secondary maturation of the rum. Our family was involved in the trade for some time – sourcing stock from West India Docks to create our own proprietary blends.” Apparently, if you landed at the Tower of London you had to give the Warden of the Tower a barrel of rum.

Now those heady days are back! The Hayman family, famous for their gin, have converted a four story townhouse off the Strand into a rum experience called Charles Merser & Co which is open to the public. Here you can learn about this lesser-known part of London’s history and even blend your own rum. On my visit, I tried the component parts of the first release from Merser & Co called Double Barrel, named not after the top Jamaican tune but from the way the spirit is matured. 

The rums are aged and blended in the Caribbean into three component parts (see below) before being married for 15 months in fourth-fill hogsheads which provide a very neutral container. The marrying takes place at Hayman’s distillery in Balham because health and safety wouldn’t let them store lots of flammable spirit in an old house in central London. Boring!

Merser & Co

The make-up of Double Barrel

And what a fascinating blend it is, mixing unaged high ester rums from Jamaica with older Spanish-style and Barbados rums. Brand director Jonathan Gibson explained it to me: “Young Jamaican rum gives vibrant freshness like a drop of Caol Ila in a blended Scotch. I love them but these might be too much for a general audience. We want that voluptuous quality as well.” He went on to say that the lack of an age statement gave them more freedom in the blend, “age statements can be limiting.”

Part A (19% of the blend) majors on the high ester pineapple with earthy, funky and balsamic notes.

Part B (47%) all mature Latin American and brings tobacco, dried apricot and orange peel like an old Cognac.

Part C (34%) adds chocolate, vanilla, toasty oak and more pineapple. 

Tasted together, it’s a fascinating experience with Jamaica dominating on the nose but on the palate it’s more about something elegant from Latin America, Flor de Caña perhaps. There’s no sugar or colour added. Full tasting notes below. It’s designed as a sophisticated cocktail rum and indeed tasted excellent in a Palmetto, half and half with Martini rosso and some orange bitters. “If you don’t have funky element then rum can disappear in cocktail”, Gibson told me.

Merser & Co.

Just off the Strand look for the Sign of the Post & Hound

The Hayman family have clearly put a lot of thought into this first release. The packaging is stunning. At the moment, Merser & Co is going to focus on the Double Barrel, but there are plans for other blended rums, perhaps inspired partly by Gibson’s old employer, Compass Box. So, let’s raise a glass to the return of rum to the capital. 

Tasting notes:

Nose: You can’t mistake that high ester Jamaican component, pineapples just jump out of the glass, followed by grassy vegetal flavours, orange peel and dark chocolate.

Palate: Creamy and elegant, with stone fruit to the fore and the Jamaican funk present but very much in the background.

Finish: Vanilla, coconut and chocolate.

Overall: Elegant, harmonious and distinctive. 

Double Barrel is available now

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Batch Gin Rummy

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone…

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone enjoys rum with their breakfast, or is that just us?

Batch began as a brewery in Hampshire but founder Phil Whitwell got the gin bug inspired by visits to Spain where his mother lives. The only problem was that he didn’t have the space. So he ended up moving to Burnley in Lancashire, and building a distillery in a basement belonging to his nephew Ollie Sanderson who became head distiller. The Burnley basement was officially opened as a distillery, by the High Sheriff of Lancashire, no less. Their first release, called Batch Gin, won a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Not bad for beginners. 

What began as a hobby with both Whitwell and Sanderson having full time jobs quickly got serious when northern supermarket chain, Booth’s, took them on, Suddenly that basement seemed awfully cramped so in 2016 they moved to a converted mill also in Burnley with a custom-built 165 litre still called Adrian. The success has continued: last year their 55% ABV Industrial Strength gin won a double gold in San Francisco. Then, earlier this year, the Batch boys were inducted into the Gin Guild so they get to wear little silver juniper branches to show how much they love gin. 

Head distiller Ollie Sanderson in action

Alongside a core range, the company produces ‘Batch Innovations’ which are a bit more far out. These include one that has just arrived with us called USA Breakfast Rum. No, it’s not designed to be drunk at breakfast, though you could, we won’t judge you. Instead, it’s inspired by the great American breakfast and flavoured with maple syrup, pecan nuts and blueberries.

But what the Batch team really love to do is age stuff in barrel. So much so that Whitwell somehow acquired a 3200 litre Cognac cask during a family holiday to France. Well, it makes a change from a beret and a tin of confit de canard. Operations manager Jodhi Didsdale told us that they got a surprise when a cask the size of six sherry butts turned up one day on the back of a lorry. This gigantic barrel is used to age a gin made with whinberries (aka bilberries). 

Barrel-aged gins are nothing new. In fact, in the olden days when most  liquids were transported in barrels, most gin would have been ‘cask-aged’ to some extent.  So-called yellow gins were produced in small quantities throughout the 20th century but nowadays are firmly back in vogue with many distilleries including Beefeater offering aged versions. 

What do you get if you cross gin with rum? Gin rummy!

Batch has combined its love of gin, rum, cask-ageing and bad puns in a product called Gin Rummy. First the team blended together the Signature and the Industrial Strength gin. The danger with aged gins is that the wood will overpower the ginniness of the gin so this only spent about a month in a PX sherry cask that had been used to age rum. Then it spent some time in a whisky cask before being bottled at 42% ABV. Operations manager Didsdale described it as “quite a playful one”. She recommends drinking it with cola which sounds a bit odd but according to her “the cola brings out the rum elements in the gin.” We think that barrel-aged note would work really well with barrel-aged vermouth so try it in a Martini, heavy on the Noilly Prat for the full cask effect.

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New Arrival of the Week: Teeling Single Pot Still

Our New Arrival of the Week, Teeling Single Pot Still, is one for the history books – the first Dublin-distilled whiskey to come out of the city in nearly 50…

Our New Arrival of the Week, Teeling Single Pot Still, is one for the history books – the first Dublin-distilled whiskey to come out of the city in nearly 50 years (and be on sale in the UK).

Whiskey lovers and dram fans, we invite you to cast your mind back to October 2018. All being said, it was a pretty memorable month. Banksy shredded his £1 million artwork at auction in front of hundreds of onlookers, astronomers discovered the first moon outside of our solar system, and the world’s oldest intact shipwreck was found at the bottom of the Black sea. 

But far more memorable for us (sorry, ancient shipwreck) were the moves made within the drinks sphere. In Ireland, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery released its very first commercial whiskey, Teeling Single Pot Still. Being the first Dublin-distilled dram to hit shelves for almost 50 years, it marked the beginning of a bright new chapter for the city, which was, at one time, at the forefront of the golden era for Irish whiskey.

Now one of Dublin’s top visitor attractions, the magnificent Teeling Distillery!

The very first bottle from Batch One made history the month prior, when it sold for a whopping £10,000 at auction, breaking a world record for the most expensive bottle of whiskey sold from a new distillery, with the proceeds donated to local charities. Last year, the arrival of Teeling Single Pot Still – released in three batches – was a landmark occasion for Ireland’s whiskey industry. Now it’s a landmark occasion for the UK, as the final resulting liquid reaches our shores for the very first time. 

In homage to Dublin’s historic distillers, Teeling Single Pot Still is made from a traditional mash bill of 50% unmalted barley and 50% malted barley. The heritage, however, ends there. “We dialled up the innovation by making a fruit-forward distillate – the wash going into the stills is quite fruity because we use our own bespoke yeast,” explains Stephen Teeling, co-founder of Teeling Whiskey Distillery. The new-make has then been matured “50% in ex first-fill bourbon casks, 25% in virgin American oak, and the last 25% in sherry casks.”

The next step, he continues, is to make a case for single pot still as a modern Irish whiskey category. “Our Single Pot Still isn’t trying to be a Redbreast imitation,” Teeling says. “It’s a Dublin Pot Still whiskey for our generation – something we feel reflects the DNA of Teeling Whiskey. “Because [Redbreast] has been the only real Single Pot Still out there, because nobody’s been challenging it, everyone just expects a Redbreast 2.0. We wanted to do something different.”

Teeling Single Pot Still whiskey is here

So, what can you expect flavour-wise from Pot Still liquid? Robust, spicy flavours akin to a rye whiskey, Teeling says – away from the mellow, sweet, easy-drinking flavours Irish whiskey is synonymous with. “That’s what Pot Still is all about, it’s a big spice ball,” he explains, “when you taste it side-by-side with [Teeling Single Grain] or [Teeling Small Batch], it is very different, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

You’d forgive the team for resting on their laurels in the wake of such a momentous launch, but it isn’t the Teeling way. “Someone said to me the other day, ‘Oh my god, you’re going to be five years making whiskey in January’, and I thought, ‘Wow’ – just looking back on it, so much has happened, it’s all a bit fast and furious,” he says. “We’ve got a good bit of momentum behind our premium and super-premium products – our 24 Year Old won World’s Best Single Malt in March, which was a great accolade. This year we had a pretty ambitious target to sell a million bottles globally, and we look on track to do that.”

Over the last five years Teeling Whiskey has welcomed half a million people through its distillery doors, a number that will surely rise year-on-year after the Irish government awarded the site a €200,000 grant to further develop its existing facilities. “We’re always looking at ways we can bring things to life in the distillery,” explains Teeling, who will use the funds to introduce a warehousing experience to the Liberties-based site this coming winter – giving visitors the opportunity to get to grips with the ageing process through cask sampling and live maturation.

When it comes to liquid plans, a few single malt projects – including a certain peated number – are in the pipeline. A follow-up to The Revival series, aptly titled The Renaissance, will hit shelves, beginning with an 18-year-old single malt finished in a former Madeira cask. All being said, 2020 looks set to be a sterling year for both Teeling Whiskey and the wider Irish whiskey category. “We’re at the stage where we have our own whiskey, we have a pipeline of innovations, and we’ve very, very good partners,” Teeling says, “we’re excited to keep pushing the bar up and driving things forward.”

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New Arrival of  the Week: The English – Triple Distilled

This week we’re talking a closer look at the latest release from the pioneers of English whisky, St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk, which, as you might guess from the name,…

This week we’re talking a closer look at the latest release from the pioneers of English whisky, St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk, which, as you might guess from the name, is triple-distilled.

It now seems difficult to believe but when the St. George’s Distillery, home of the English Whisky Company, opened its door in 2006 (its first release was in 2009), a whisky from England of all places was a novelty. Its founder, farmer James Nelstrop now looks like something of a visionary as English whisky has become a respected and rapidly-expanding category. Nelstrop senior died in 2014 but the business is still in family hands. I spoke with James’s son Andrew Nelstrop about the latest limited edition release.

It’s a bit unusual, a triple-distilled single malt. “When you open a distillery you write a list of whiskies you like, and those you don’t like, and then off you go”, Nelstrop told me. And on the like list was a traditional Irish triple-distilled malt, like Bushmills. So for the past 12 years the distillery has been doing runs of triple-distilled spirit. “We liked the results, put it in cask and wait a few years. It’s a delicate and light whisky, unusual for us, for people who like their Irish whiskey”, Nelstrop said. With such a delicate spirit, they had to be careful with the oak treatment: “it’s a mixture of first and second-fill bourbon casks, a good fit for triple-distilled, though lots of people said, ‘put it in sherry!’” The casks were filled in 2011 and the whisky bottled at 46% ABV earlier this year.

The full English!

This is the first time the family have released a triple-distilled whisky. It’s part of the distillery’s small batch range only, 1462 bottles have been filled. For these special whiskies, according Nelstrop, they “pick three or four casks. We try to pick them from all the same year though if we have to mix a year or two up we will. The joy of small batch is it’s different every time.”  The next small batch in the pipeline sounds very interesting, a peated malt aged in virgin oak casks called Virgin Smokey. The distillery also offer two or three single cask bottlings but these often sell out without a public launch such is the demand.

Overall St. George’s distills around 60,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. “We could if were were feeling terribly enthusiastic put out 250,000 litres,” Nelstrop said. “When you start you go flat out. Now at 14 years old, we’re matching sales to production otherwise you’re building a warehouse every year.”

He seems delighted at how English whisky has a category has taken off in the last ten years: “I don’t know if we expected it, father loved whiskey and always wanted to open a distillery. It was only when Adnams joined the fray five years later and then you hear that someone else has a go, and realise that there is going to be a category. Creating the category is terribly important. We are beginning to justify our own space in a shop or on a website. The rest of the world has become more aware of non-traditional whisky nations. You can ask for a Swedish, English, or Australian whisky in a bar. That’s been a massive sea change in ten years.”

As well as small batches and single casks, the distillery has a core range of single malts, pot-distilled single grains and a spicy Norfolk Malt ‘n’ Rye (with a cat on the label – why don’t more distilleries put cats on the label?). The Nelstrop are farmers but at the moment all the cereals in their commercial whiskies are bought-in, mainly from Crisp Malting. But, Winthrop told me, “we have barley from our own farm, all done on in-house floor malting. It’s expensive and hard work. We have our own whisky maturing, we’ve never sold any yet. When we release an age statement whisky then it’ll be estate whisky, as I call it.” That sounds worth waiting for.  

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Orange marmalade, chocolate sponge cake with vanilla custard, notes of anise and condensed milk.

Palate: Another helping of vanilla custard, with butterscotch, lemon drizzle cake, bitter dark chocolate and honeyed pastry.

Finish: Buttery toffee and liquorice on the finish.

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New Arrival(s) of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company X Balcones Distilling

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That…

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. You’ll want to taste them to believe them, but until then, we’ve captured their essence in four words: upside-down cask maturation…

Hello, curious whisky drinker. We thought the words ‘upside-down cask maturation’ might just lure you in. Those clever folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company are back at it again – and by ‘it’, we mean bottling the contents of compelling, rare, and/or downright bizarre casks from across the globe, this time from the Lone Star state: Texas. 

Now, the team behind Balcones Distilling aren’t shy about “testing the waters of what’s possible”, as head distiller Jared Himstedt so eloquently puts it. They’re the creators of the first Texan whisky since Prohibition, the pioneers of blue corn whisky, and the only distillers bold enough to create a smoky whisky by smoking the distillate, rather than the grain. If they can’t find a space for these barrels in their existing range, the contents must be – and we mean this as the highest possible compliment – extraordinarily weird.

Of the four Boutique-y releases, three are single malts made from Golden Promise malted barley from Scotland – aged for various timescales in Tequila, oloroso sherry, and Balcones’ own Brimstone casks – while the final spirit is made from blue corn and finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Each one spent more time in the finishing cask than it did in the original – hence ‘upside-down cask maturation’.

“We haven’t really released anything like these on our own,” says Winston Edwards, brand ambassador at Balcones Distilling. “We haven’t done a Tequila cask single malt at the distillery, we haven’t done a Brimstone cask at the distillery – we have done a sherry release, but not with our blue corn spirit. They’re unique to Boutique-y.”

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

Balcones 3 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Well, well, well, what have we here? A Tequila cask-aged Texan single malt whisky; bold and vegetal, with a glorious dried fruit sweetness. “I don’t know what distillery this Tequila cask came from,” says Himstedt. “[Cask] Brokers can be weird – sometimes they don’t want you to know because then you can just start calling the distilleries and bodegas on your own. 

The team has always used Tequila casks, right from the beginning, in the mix for Baby Blue Corn Whisky, he continues. “We’d buy all the Tequila casks that were about to break down and they would make them into smaller barrels for us – they’d get shaved and re-charred and all that. I wanted to see what big Tequila casks would do for Baby, and when we got our first truckload in, we probably had 14 or 15 different isolated spirits recipes, so we threw everything in one – just to see.”

After 12 months ageing in a virgin French oak barrel, the single malt was scooted across to the ex-Tequila barrel, where it remained for 37 months. “I don’t know what you call it when you reverse the process,” says Himstedt. “We didn’t ‘finish’ it – we started it in one barrel and then it really matured in another.”

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Malt Company)

The more astute among you might’ve noticed something unusual. That Boutique-y Malt Company? Eh? “We’re not allowed to call it whisky in the UK if it’s under three years old,” Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company explains. “This is just two years old, so we’ve put a little flag over the whisky logo and renamed it ‘That Boutique-y Malt Company’.” 

After 14 and a half months ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel, this single malt was switched to a Balcones Brimstone cask for a further 16 and a half months’ ageing. The name Brimstone refers to a corn whisky of the same name, which is smoked using scrub oak. “It’s actually not a different species of oak, but in Texas where it’s really dry the tree grows twisted, almost like a Bonsai version of what an oak tree would be,” Edwards explains. “It’s so dense, we’re talking about something that has spent 60 to 80 years just to grow four feet tall, so lot of the compounds and aromas are really concentrated.” Think: smoky bacon and campfire deliciousness.

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Malt Company) 

The third single malt – again, bottled as a malt spirit rather than a whisky – spent 11 months in ex-bourbon casks before maturing for a further 14 months in an oloroso sherry cask, with all the rich plum fruit and mouthwatering spicy treacle you’d expect. Fun fact: This will be the joint-third Balcones release that has spent time in a sherry cask – the other two being the distillery’s 10th anniversary single malt and a dark rum finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask. *Italian chefs kiss* 

We say joint third, because soon (quite how soon is still under wraps) there will be another spirit joining this experimental line-up: a 100% blue corn spirit finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. If your whistle has been thoroughly wetted, you’ll need to get a move on – a very limited number of bottles are available, priced at £69.95 per 500ml bottle. Hey, we told you they were extraordinary. 

 

 

 

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New Arrival of the Week: The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1

Our New Arrival of the Week is the first in a series of releases, all of which are set to be heavily influenced by sherry casks. Meet The Lakes Whiskymaker’s…

Our New Arrival of the Week is the first in a series of releases, all of which are set to be heavily influenced by sherry casks. Meet The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1!

When we spoke with Dhavall Gandhi, whisky-maker-in-chief at The Lakes Distillery, back in May 2018, he explained that the distillery’s “main flagship is still a little way away but we are coming out with different styles, and these are much more intense in character and very, very sherry-orientated. So if you like sherry bombs you are going to like the initial releases of Lakes Distillery!”

Fast forward to September 2019, and the Cumbria-based distillery has launched the expression Gandhi teased us about: The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1. Unlike previous whiskies from the National Park’s first legal spirits producer, The ONE and Steel Bonnets, this is a single malt and it’s also the first whisky to form part of a range. The Whiskymaker’s Reserve is tipped to showcase the sherry-led house style defined by Gandhi, or the “artistic exploration of maturation, blending and flavour evolution”, as it was put in the press release.

Happily, the Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 does not fail to live up to the billing Gandhi gave it last year. It was matured in Pedro Ximénez sherry and red wine casks, comprising of American, Spanish and French oak, and to taste it has all the hallmarks of a sherry bomb (more on that later). Such distinctive styles of cask and the varying breeds of oak point to a distillery flexing its maturation muscles, as promised. The Lakes Distillery also made it known in the press materials that it has matured its spirits in PX, cream and fino sherry casks, from 500-litre butts to 205-litre hogsheads, and in our interview, Gandhi spoke of using orange wine casks from Andalusia, Spain and innovating with various types of bourbon casks too.

Lakes Whiskymaker's Reserve No.1

The distillery’s first single malt was made to showcase the sherry-led house style.

Gandhi’s decision to join The Lakes Distillery was partly for the opportunity to define the house style of a new distillery. The former Macallan-man (a role which presumably influenced his love for maturing whisky in sherry-casks) seems to be wasting no time in making his mark. A quote from Nigel Mills, co-founder of The Lakes Distillery, revealed the extent of his creative licence: “Unusually, Dhavall is actively involved at every stage of the process. From the choice of barley to the intricacy of bespoke cask production and selection, and knowing each cask intimately as it matures. It’s holistic whisky-making”.

The name ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve’ appears to be quite apt, then. What we’re tasting here is not only a presentation of the character of the Lakes Distillery’s or its already impressive cask selection but something of a personal statement from the whisky maker. The question is, what does The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 say about Gandhi?

Firstly, his desire to experiment with various styles of casks suggests that he finds the fact that English whisky doesn’t have quite the historical precedent or legislative structure of Scotch to be liberating. “Creating a new whisky requires a framework of sorts, but there must be room within it to play, to follow gut feeling and instinct,” says Gandhi. “At The Lakes, we respect the conventions of Scotch whisky heritage but are open to a world of other influences, interpreting what we believe is right to make The Lakes Single Malt one of the finest whiskies in the world.”

Lakes Whiskymaker's Reserve No.1

The Lakes Distillery is one of the leading producers of English whisky.

The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 also demonstrates that Gandhi is a patient and methodical worker. This bottling wasn’t exactly rushed out of the door (we’ve been waiting over a year here Dhavall, mate). Furthermore, the combination of two distinctive cask types like this could have given Gandhi an expensive and complex self-inflicted problem. Nobody wants barrel upon barrel of unbalanced, unusable spirit. Bottling the expression without chill-filtration or any additional colouring at cask strength 60.6% ABV also gives him nowhere to hide.

For Gandhi, however, this very much seems to be the point. “We don’t believe in taking the easy option if there’s another way to add a new dimension of flavour – for the Lakes, that means not only creating flavour in the new make spirit but also opening up more flavour possibilities through the entire whisky-making process,” he says. This means we can expect more intriguing bottlings in the future, folks.

For now, we get to enjoy The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1. So, what do we make of it? Well, we like it and so will anyone else who loves a heavily-sherried whisky. It’s sweet, spicy, nutty and just a little bit funky. Both casks rush to centre stage on both the nose and palate, but both are impressively balanced and instead of competing with each other, the profile is actually quite complementary. Plus the distillery character manages to avoid being drowned in this cask-forward fun. The first batch is limited to 5,922 bottles, which is a shame, and the price tag might be a touch high for a no-age-statement bottling for some people’s taste, but overall it’s fair to we’re fans, and we’re very excited to see what’s next.

The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1:

Nose: Black wine gums, marmalade and resinous sherried funk initially, with winter spice and rich caramel. There’s nutty malted barley and sugared almonds underneath, as well as a hint of Crunchie chocolate bar.

Palate: A rich, yet refined palate leads with succulent blackcurrants, dried orange peel and vanilla fudge, with wine-stained oak, bitter herbs and a touch of flint in support.

Finish: Woody tannins sparkle into life among dried fruit, apples and dark chocolate.

Overall: Hugely satisfying, it’s a funky, fruity and undoubtedly sherry-tastic dram.

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New Arrival of the Week: Tomatin 12 Year Old 2006 Amontillado Sherry Cask Finish

Tomatin Distillery recently treated us to not one, but two new limited-edition expressions which both feature an intruiging cask finish. Only one can have the honour of being chosen to…

Tomatin Distillery recently treated us to not one, but two new limited-edition expressions which both feature an intruiging cask finish. Only one can have the honour of being chosen to be our New Arrival of the Week, however. Meet Tomatin 12 Year Old 2006 Amontillado Sherry Cask Finish!

Highland distillery Tomatin is not just a hot spot for Hollywood film stars and comedians, but it’s a Scotch whisky producer that has demonstrated an profiency for creating delightful creative cask-finished expressions. Previous limited editions include a Cabernet Sauvignon finish, a Port wood finish, a Moscatel finish and a Caribbean rum cask finish.

This trend has continued with two new editions, which includes another rum-finished Tomatin single malt. Tomatin 10 Year Old 2009 Caribbean Rum Cask Finish was initially matured in oak for nine years before it was treated to a finish in first-fill Caribbean rum barrels for its final year of ageing. It’s quite delightful, but it’s not grasped our attention the same way its sister release has.

Tomatin 12 Year Old 2006 Amontillado Sherry Cask Finish spent its first nine years maturing in ex-bourbon oak casks before it enjoyed a leisurely three-year finish in first-fill amontillado sherry butts. It was bottled at 46% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colour, which is perfectly lovely, with a limited run of just 5,400 bottles, which is less so.

Tomatin

This limited-edition whisky was finished in a Caribbean rum cask

What stands out for us here at MoM Towers, however, is the choice of sherry cask used. As fans of whisky will know all too well, the spirit is typically matured in oloroso or Pedro Ximénez casks, which are dark and full (and in the case of PX, extremely sweet) types of sherry that are widely available and familiar to most of the general public. The same can not be said for amontillado.

A dry style of sherry that originated in the Montilla (amontillado literally means ‘in the style of Montilla) region in Spain in the 18th century, amontillado is perhaps best known for its role in a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, and for its unusual fusion of two different ageing processes. It starts life as a fino sherry, fortified to around 15% alcohol with a cap of flor yeast limiting its air exposure. However, in order for sherry to be classified as an amontillado, this layer of flor must be broken down in maturation, either by fortifying the wine to at least 16% ABV to kill it off or by letting it naturally disintegrate over a period of time.

Tomatin

Tomatin is a distillery that enjoys experimenting with different cask types

This slow and controlled oxidisation through the slightly porous oak gives it a darker colour and richer, nuttier flavour than fino sherry, but not to the same level as oloroso or Pedro Ximénez. A good way to think of it is it has the elegance of a fino but with the richness of an oloroso. This more delicate character meant that amontillado was only appreciated by aficionados and so was mostly consumed locally though the little that was exported was highly-prized (hence Poe’s story). To this day its produced at a relatively low volume. This means that casks that previously held the dry sherry can be difficult to source and prove  expensive. Consequently, very few distilleries use amontillado sherry casks, aside from Glenkinchie, which means we have a chance to try something outside the box here.

The result is a big, juicy and fruity dram that’s balanced by a herbal and delightfully dark and drying undertone. At 46% ABV, the 12 Year Old 2006 Amontillado Sherry Cask Finish is punchy but not overwhelming and there’s enough of the ex-bourbon cask and distillery character present throughout to prevent the finish from making the profile one-dimensional. It is Tomatin, just not as you know it. And it really works.

Tomatin

Tomatin 12 Year Old 2006 Amontillado Sherry Cask Finish:

Nose: Chocolate orange and sultana alongside lots of spicy oak and vanilla custard.

Palate: Dusty cocoa, fresh espresso, dried apple, fresh pear and chocolate-covered walnut, with a sweet honeycomb note.

Finish: Barley sugar, orange oil, toasty oak and a peppery finish.

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New Arrival of the Week: East London Liquor Company Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1

There are three things we love at Master of Malt more than anything else: high quality spirits, bad puns and Back to the Future, so when a product arrived called…

There are three things we love at Master of Malt more than anything else: high quality spirits, bad puns and Back to the Future, so when a product arrived called Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1, how could we resist?

Today’s puntastic New Arrival is a collaboration between the East London Liquor Company and Renegade Wines. The ELLC will need no introduction to regular readers of this blog but to irregular readers (you know who you are), here’s a bit of background: the distillery was founded in 2014 by Alex Wolpert at Bow Wharf, East London’s first distillery in over 100 years. Last year Wolpert financed his expansion plans with a successful crowd-funding initiative, raising £1.5m. The company makes a range of gins, vodkas and last year released a highly-regarded London rye that has got bartenders all hot under the collar. There are also some more experimental things including a chestnut wood-aged whisky and rum barrel-aged gin but this latest product, an English grappa-style spirit, is perhaps the most unusual thing to come out of this stable. 

East London Liquor Company founder, Alex Wolpert, with distillery team

Team ELLC with founder Alex Wolpert second from right

ELLC’s partner in crime is Renegade Wines, a urban winery based in nearby Bethnal Green founded in 2017 by Warwick Smith and New Zealand winemaker Josh Hammond. No, they don’t have a vineyard in an allotment off Roman Road, instead the pair buy in grapes from all over Europe, have them shipped to London and, using the magic of fermentation, turn them into wine. As well as exotic continental grapes, Renegade also uses honest-to-god Herefordshire-grown Bacchus (hence the name). This grape variety, originally developed in Germany, has found a home in the English countryside and makes some of the country’s best still wines.

After making their delicious wines, there’s lots of stuff leftover called pomace, mainly grape skins and bits of stalk. So what to do with it? Well, it can be used as fertiliser or to feed cattle, but it’s more fun to make it into more booze. Actually, Grape Scott Part 1 isn’t the first winery/ distillery mash-up in England. Hyke Gin, a recent New Arrival of the Week, uses grape leftovers as a botanical, and very nice it is too. Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1, however, is as far as we can tell the very first English pomace brandy, known in Italy as grappa and France as marc.

You’ve probably had grappa on holiday in Italy. Just the thing after a long meal, it can be rather fiery. Which is why it loves a bit of ageing to mellow it out a bit. ELLC ages its Bacchus brandy in old red wine casks which add richness and colour, but also softens it. Bottled at 47 .1% ABV, the result is punchy and distinctive, like an Italian grappa, but with the edges smoothed off. It makes a great digestif to finish off those long East London lunches, but we think it might do interesting things in a cocktail. Bacchus Boulevardier has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?

 

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