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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: New Arrival of the Week

New Arrival of the Week: Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 release

Here’s a much anticipated new whisky: it’s the 2021 release of Kilchoman Loch Gorm, a heavily-sherried single malt from the cult Islay distillery. It’s not going to hang around. Kilchoman…

Here’s a much anticipated new whisky: it’s the 2021 release of Kilchoman Loch Gorm, a heavily-sherried single malt from the cult Islay distillery. It’s not going to hang around.

Kilchoman is such a fixture on Islay’s whisky scene that it’s easy to forget how new it is. It was the island’s first new distillery for 120 years when it opened in 2005 with its first release back in 2009. It’s since been joined by Hunter Laing’s Ardnahoe in 2019 and Sukhinder Singh (for it is he) from Speciality Drinks submitted plans for a 10th distillery last year.

The Nightcap

The new shiny Kilchoman stills

Grain-to-glass distillery

From the beginning, Kilchoman’s owners, the Wills family, wanted to do things a bit differently using barley grown on the island and malted in their own floor maltings. Just how things used to be done. None of this would matter were the bottlings not up to scratch, but right from the first releases, whisky lovers have praised Kilchoman’s elegant, light-peated style. 

Kilchoman has proved so popular, that the distillery began plans for expansion in 2018. It involved building an entirely new still house with identical equipment to the current one, doubling capacity to 480,000 litres of pure alcohol annually. This opened in 2020 along with a new visitor centre. We were meant to visit for the grand opening but as often happens on Islay, the weather intervened and flights and ferries were cancelled. Still, we have been reliably informed that it’s all working splendidly, and will once again be open to the public on 17 May.

Sherry cask release

There are now a range of expressions from the popular Machir Bay, made from bought-in barley to the 100% Islay, made using only island-grown barley malted in-house. The distillery generally uses ex-bourbon casks but one of the most-anticipated releases is the limited edition sherry casks release called Loch Gorm, named after the freshwater loch by the distillery. And now the 2021 version is here!

It’s a vatting of 24 Oloroso sherry casks filled in 2011 and 2012. These aren’t just any casks, but 500 litre European oak butts from Bodega Miguel Martin in Jerez. They were seasoned with Oloroso sherry before being filled with 50ppm peated Kilchoman new make. After a minimum nine years ageing, they were vatted together and bottled at 46% ABV.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm

Kilchoman Loch Gorm on Loch Gorm

Anthony Wills comments

Founder and master distiller Anthony Wills explained why it’s a little bit different: “Although we have always filled the bulk of our spirit into ex-bourbon barrels, the Loch Gorm releases have shown how well our peated Islay spirit can combine with sherry casks, something that’s not always an easy task.” He went on to describe the taste: “Rich bold flavours with a breadth, depth and balance of character that sets it apart, the 2021 edition is packed with juicy fruit, macerated lemon and sweet chargrilled BBQ smoke.”

Sounds pretty tasty, doesn’t it? Only 17,000 bottles and we’ve managed to get hold of a few. It’s strictly limited edition, so once they’re gone, they’re gone and we will be Loch Gormless.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 release is available from Master of Malt. While stocks last.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Smoky clove and a hint of cumin, balanced by sultana and prune, plus a touch of roasted almond.

Palate: Enjoyably chocolatey at first, though soon enough the dry, earthy smoke builds and comes to the fore.

Finish: Cherry, roast chestnuts, a smidge of medicinal peat.

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New Arrival of the Week: FEW Immortal Rye

Just landed at MoM Towers, a new expression from Illinois’s finest, FEW Spirits. Called FEW Immortal Rye, it combines whiskey with tea. To learn more, we talk to founder and…

Just landed at MoM Towers, a new expression from Illinois’s finest, FEW Spirits. Called FEW Immortal Rye, it combines whiskey with tea. To learn more, we talk to founder and distiller Paul Hletko.

Whiskey lovers are getting increasingly adventurous in their tastes. A few years ago, the idea of whiskey blended with tea might have raised a few eyebrows but nowadays drinkers are receptive to innovative combinations. As long, of course, that they taste good. 

We few, we happy few

We’re pretty confident that the team at FEW Spirits know what they’re doing. The distillery was founded in 2011 by Paul Hletko. His family were originally from the country now known as Czechia and owned a brewery before the second world war so the drinks business runs in his veins.

According to the website, FEW was inspired by “the golden age of pre-prohibition whiskey.” The name is a little in-joke as it’s the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, one of the architects of prohibition. Proudly based in Evanston not far from Chicago, the labels bear images of the city’s 1893 World Fair. 

FEW Spirits produces gin as well as different types of whiskey including rye and bourbon. It’s a grain-to-glass operation meaning that Hletko produces his own neutral grain alcohol to rectify into gin. This is something that very few gin distilleries do. The equipment consists of a German hybrid pot/ column still which is used to make high ABV spirit for gin production and lower ABV for whiskey plus a separate still for distilling the botanicals into gin. 

Completing the picture is the famous distillery dog called, confusingly, chicken.

Stills at FEW Spirits in Illinois

The still set-up at FEW Spirts in Illinois

More tea, vicar?

The base of this week’s New Arrival is FEW’s punchy rye made with 70% rye with 20% corn and 10% malted barley. Hletko takes the cask strength spirit and then reduces it to 46.5% ABV by adding tea.

We asked him where this idea came from: “The idea started with playing with coffee (rather than tea) and we tried coffee a couple different ways, and liked them,” he said “but we LOVED the results when we just cut barrel strength bourbon to bottle strength with cold brew coffee.  That is now our Cold Cut Bourbon and that ended up winning the Best Flavoured Whiskey in the World award from the World Whiskies Awards. We continued thinking and playing with other liquids in the same way, and played with several different teas, and extraction techniques.”

You’ll be pleased to hear that getting the tea flavour into whiskey doesn’t involve any tea bags. Instead they use a fancy variety of Chinese oolong tea called 8 Immortals. He explained how the process worked: “We cold-extract the 8 Immortals tea. It allows us to use a much slower steep than a hot extraction, and we get to focus the resulting flavors on the sweet and fruity flavors of the tea itself. We still do get some tannic notes as well, which is nice, but the cold extraction keeps some of those tannins balanced with the tannic effect of the wood on the whiskey.”

The end result is a spicy rye whiskey charged with flavours of dried orange peel, poached pear, cardamom, cloves, and aromatic cedar with a nutty finish. It’s delicious sipped neat over ice or in an Old Fashioned. He also recommends drinking it in a Highball with a dash of cherry juice. 

Few Immortal Rye

Few Immortal Rye is great in a Highball

10 years of delicious spirits

Last year was all about weathering the Covid storm, and it sounds like FEW has been lucky in this regard. “None of our team members have been sick, none of their family members, seriously sick. I think we’re pretty lucky,” he said, “Business wise, we are doing great and are continuing to grow. But I’m especially excited that we are all healthy.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the distillery and they have big plans. We’re excited about a couple of bottles that we expect to release over the next year or two, including a 10 year anniversary release,”he said, “as well as a rock band collaboration that is super fun.”

Sounds super fun, indeed. We can’t wait to hear more.

FEW Immortal Rye is available from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Some tasty Tennessee Whiskey has landed at our door today so we thought you’d like to learn more about this intriguing newcomer. Here’s the lowdown on Daddy Rack. Most of…

Some tasty Tennessee Whiskey has landed at our door today so we thought you’d like to learn more about this intriguing newcomer. Here’s the lowdown on Daddy Rack.

Most of you will know two things about Tennessee Whiskey. One, it’s made in Tennessee with almost the same legal regulations as bourbon (at least 51% corn mash bill, must be aged in new, charred oak etc.) apart from the use of a method of additional filtration through maple charcoal known as the Lincoln County Process. And two, Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Whiskey.

There are, of course, numerous other producers that make whiskey the Tennessee way.  George Dickel is the other giant alongside Jack, while Uncle Nearest is growing so fast we’ll be calling it Great Uncle Nearest soon. The latest brand to join the esteemed ranks is Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey. Founder J.Arthur Rackham was drawn to the category because he “loves the soul of the state” and “wanted to bottle a bit of that magic”. 

It’s the realisation of a lifelong ambition. Booze has always been a part of Rackham’s life. He was born above his father’s liquor store in Portobello Road, west London. In 1968 he got an apprenticeship with the Camus family in Cognac, which began a more than 50-year career in the international spirit merchant business. Rackham says that all this time in the industry underlines that there is nothing more important than understanding the DNA and the tradition of the spirit you’re working with. 

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack is the latest brand to emerge from Tennessee

Making whiskey the Daddy Rack way

So we’re expecting to see that Daddy Rack was made without taking any shortcuts with ingredients, fermentation, distillation and barrel selection and ageing. First, we begin with a mash bill of corn (80%), rye (10%) and malted barley (10%). The grade one corn comes from local farmers within 50 miles of the distillery. We’re off to a good start. Rackham explains that Tennessee whiskey “conveys a sense of place” and that he wanted to amplify that by supporting the communities local to the distillery, “whose produce is amazing quality”.

He elaborates, “This all goes into creating a liquid that conveys quality and provenance in every sip. We sit in the middle of a corn belt, with high-grade corn grown locally, so it was an amazing chance to source locally.” The mash after fermentation is also sent to local cattle farmers for feed, meaning Daddy Rack is lowering its carbon footprint and supporting the local farm industry in one fell swoop.

Once the milling of the grains has taken place a 72-hour sour mash follows. Then a first distillation is in a copper column still, followed by a second pot ‘doubler’ still distillation. The spirit comes off the stills around 67.5% ABV, but before it’s placed into barrels there’s one more step. The Lincoln County Process. Daddy Rack does things a little differently by employing a light second round of maple charcoal filtration to “increase the smoothness”. 

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Say hello to Daddy Rack himself!

Passion, provenance and philanthropy

We can’t reveal the distillery’s name. But there are some clues in the article. And very few options for what it could be… Rackham does say that he’s been fortunate enough to always be surrounded by real stalwarts in the industry and along the way met some incredible people. Luck has played a part. “I met the owners of the distillery and they were keen to work with me on a project to show what they could do with their impressive facility in Columbia with their team,” he said. “It has been a joy to work with them and find a like-minded production partner.” 

Rackham says he selects about 20 barrels to mature a batch of Daddy Rack. He only uses casks with a light char level (no. 3), to avoid stripping too much character from the spirit. Which makes sense. No point spending all that money on great corn only to kill it with fire. It means barrel selection from the rackhouse is very important. “We use an algorithm of picking barrels. Some from the top tier with higher evaporation and some from the mid and lower tier with low evaporation to balance the blend and preserve our inherent core flavours. It’s all about managing the harsher congeners from the sour mash fermentation to make a mellow, balanced and smooth Tennessee whiskey with genuine flavour”. Rackham explains. “Sure, it’s a bit more work, but it’s definitely worth it.”

To that end, Daddy Rack is bottled at 40% ABV with no colouring, caramel or additional flavours added. It’s clear there’s a tremendous amount of care and passion gone into this project. After all, Rackham gave the whiskey his name. Daddy Rack is what eldest daughter Grace calls him. He feels like it truly represents him, explaining that “it’s like we’d bottled a bit of my heart and soul”. His ambition is to be the number two Tennessee whiskey in the global market after Jack Daniel’s. And to help a new generation of whiskey imbibers appreciate Tennessee Whiskey. Rackham’s also working on a cask strength expression with a little more age, which we look forward to tasting.

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack, looking swell in the sunshine.

The taste test

Before we get to the review, we would be remiss not to point out the brand’s fantastic support of CORE. The charity. with roots in Tennessee, receives 50 cents of every bottle of Daddy Rack sold to help support its mission of providing financial relief when a food and beverage employee with children faces a health crisis, injury, death or natural disaster. “With the year we’ve had it was more important than ever that we supported people in the hospitality industry who have faced so much uncertainty and struggle,” Rackham says. “It also has roots in Tennessee. So we felt a real synergy with it as a charity, and have nothing but admiration and respect for what it does. I am a Trustee of The Drinks Trust. CORE mirrors these values”.

As for how the whiskey tastes, overall I enjoyed Daddy Rack. It’s a touch thin on the palate at times and doesn’t quite carry all of its early promise into the finish. It could maybe do with being bottled at a slightly higher strength. But the nose has a lovely array of flavour and all of them are balanced well throughout. The sweetness never becomes saccharine, the spice is aromatic and there are some interesting depth and variety in places. Daddy Rack is a moreish, fun and versatile expression with a host of pleasant notes for a reasonable price point in this category. It’s a whiskey you can sip neat, but there’s also a number of cocktail recipes it works with.

My favourite is the Rackhouse Lemonade, which also happens to be Rackham’s. He made it with his friend Simon Difford and it should be no great surprise to anyone to learn that it’s absolutely smashing. I’ll be having one or two of those at the first BBQ I can go to this year. For now, we can still bring some of this liquid sunshine into our own homes. The full tasting note and cocktail recipe are below and you can purchase Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey now!

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey Tasting Note:

Nose: Vanilla pod earthiness, maple syrup and banana milkshake lead with red apples, fresh-cut grass, Kinder Bueno and toasted oak in support. In the backdrop, there’s melted salted butter, winter spice, cereal sweetness and peanut brittle.

Palate: Notes of candy floss, toffee popcorn, bruised apples and loose-leaf tobacco appear initially, with sultanas, manuka honey and vanilla cola in support. Barrel char, green tea, oily espresso beans and sour cherry brings some nice bittersweet depth. With brown sugar, custard and chocolate-covered raisins joining them underneath. There’s a measured prickle of spice throughout from cinnamon and black pepper.

Finish: Spearmint, orange peel and some lingering nutmeg, milk chocolate and caramel elements.

Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey

How to make a Rackhouse Lemonade

45ml Daddy Rack Tennessee Straight Whiskey
10ml Giffard Creme de Peche de Vigne 
15ml lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
90ml lemon-lime soda

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled Collins glass. Stir and garnish with a slice or twist of lemon. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Black Bottle Island Smoke

One of Scotland’s oldest whisky brands, Black Bottle, has just released two new expressions as part of its Alchemy Series. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Island Smoke…

One of Scotland’s oldest whisky brands, Black Bottle, has just released two new expressions as part of its Alchemy Series. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Island Smoke edition. Which we think might please Black Bottle fans of old. 

When I worked in a wine shop in London, Black Bottle was always the blend that whisky aficionados would tip along with much-missed Bailie Nicol Jarvie. There was probably an element of hipsterism here, preferring the little known to the mainstream. But they were both whiskies that really over delivered for the money.

Born in Aberdeen

One regular Black Bottle customer was a man known as Colonel Jackson. He used to patrol the streets of Knightsbridge, with his flat cap and walking stick, keeping the streets free of ne’er do wells. Or so he used to claim. He wasn’t to be confused with another customer simply known as The Colonel, whose catchphrase was “not a half colonel, a full colonel.” Other colourful customers included Lady Lean and the Duke of Valderano. But I digress…

The Black Bottle story begins with three brothers Charles, David and Gordon Graham moving from Torphins in rural Aberdeenshire to the metropolis. They set up as tea merchants in Aberdeen, rather as John Walker did in Kilmarnock and in 1879, and used their blending experience to create their own whisky brand. It was originally known as Gordon’s Graham’s Special Liqueur Whisky but changed its name to Black Bottle after its distinctive packaging. The black bottles were sourced from Germany but the family were forced to switch to a more conventional green bottle during World War One.

A changing blend

Originally, Black Bottle would have been made largely from local Speyside whiskies and would have been lightly peated. At some point, however, the blend changed to something Islay heavy with a strong smokey taste. According to this blog from 2007, in the ‘90s Black Bottle contained whisky from all seven Islay distilleries (as there were at the time) combined with Glenrothes and three grain whiskies.

Then in 2013, with the brand in the hands of Burns Stewart Distillers (owners of Deanston, Tobermory and Bunnaibhain and now in the Distell family), it was reformulated to dial down the smoke in line with the original Graham brothers’ blend. In a press release from the time master distiller Ian MacMillan commented: 

“The challenge was to develop a liquid that was more in line with the original character of Black Bottle while maintaining all of the quality for which the brand is renowned, I wanted to reintroduce a richness to balance the smokiness of the blend and in turn allow each component to contribute to the overall flavour.”

A return to tradition, it might have been but there was grumbling from whisky fans on the internet who preferred the peaty iteration. Blog posts were written and bad reviews left on websites of well-known online retailers.

Black Bottle Island Smoke

Island Smoke will appeal to fans of the old Black Bottle

Enter, Island Smoke!

Well, here’s something that might please fans of the old Black Bottle. It’s called Island Smoke. It’s part of the brand’s Alchemy Series. There’s also a Double Cask expression that brings together malt whiskies finished in Spanish sherry casks with grain whisky aged in red wine casks. 

As you might guess from the name Island Smoke, the whisky contains a much higher percentage of smoky whiskies. It’s made up of over 20 components but at its heart is a blended malt from 1984. According to the press bumf, “it’s the perfect balance between peated malt and unpeated grain.” It’s also bottled at a useful 46.3% ABV. Perfect for those who like a bit of power in their blends. 

I think Colonel Jackson would approve. If he’s still with us.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toasted cedar, earthy peat, subtle toffee and cinnamon hints.

Palate: Oatcakes, seaweed, salted caramel, cardamom, red chilli flake.

Finish: Lingering salty sea breeze.

Black Bottle Alchemy Series Island Smoke is available from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Havana Club Cuban Spiced

Havana Club’s first spiced variant has just arrived at MoM Towers. So we decided to take a look and see what to expect from the new expression. The fact that Havana…

Havana Club’s first spiced variant has just arrived at MoM Towers. So we decided to take a look and see what to expect from the new expression.

The fact that Havana Club is entering the spiced rum market is not particularly surprising, given that the category is enormous. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) revealed in 2019 that sales of flavoured and spiced rum in the UK shot up from less than six million bottles in 2014 to more than 10m in 2019. The only real surprise is why the Cuban rum giants took so long to get involved.

Rum can be confusing

Perhaps Havana Club was reluctant due to the stigma attached to the spiced rum category. Saccharine products laced with artificial flavourings and colouring have led to an association with them being inferior. In fact, its newest addition is technically a spirit drink, not a rum. According to EU law, rum may not be flavoured. Therefore ‘spiced rum’ is not technically rum, but a category in its own right. Confusing, isn’t it? As consumers become more knowledgeable and demanding, the lack of authenticity and transparency is becoming an issue.

Producers, however, are reacting to the thirst for more transparency. More and more rums are being released that prioritise quality, story and provenance over volume or cost, often with a price tag to match. A new generation of distillers and bottlers has been key to this dynamic shift. But innovative products can also come from big global brands too.

Havana Club Cuban Spiced

Havana Club Cuban Spiced has arrived at MoM Towers!

Distinctive flavours from Cuba’s tropical climate

This brings us to Havana Club Cuban SpicedAnne Martin, global marketing director at Havana Club International, explains that the concept behind Havana Club Cuban Spiced was to create a product that would appeal to the “growing audience of spiced fans,” while revealing that more than two-thirds of young adults that purchase rum opt for spiced offerings. 

The press release also wastes no time in telling us that the brand wants to create something different from other nautical-inspired spiced rums on the market. How? By showcasing the “innovation and craftsmanship in Cuban rum production” and celebrating “the provenance of Havana Club with distinctive flavours from Cuba’s tropical climate”.

A Cuban rum recap

So, let’s talk about how Havana Club makes rum. The process begins with sugar cane. It grows a-plenty in Cuba’s fertile soil (just ask cigar fans about the quality of crop the country grows). To create molasses your squish the harvested cane to extract the juice and then boil it.  Then you add water and yeast to the molasses in tanks to ferment for about one and a half days. It’s a short amount of time. In places like Jamaica, fermentation lasts for five days to a week.

Havana Club Cuban Spiced

Cuban rum has a long history and its production is full of tradition and pride

That’s because Cuba is one of the pioneers of what is often described as Spanish-style rum, which refers to light, fresh and crisp rum made in Spanish-speaking countries thanks to a request from the Spanish Crown, which preferred its spirits delicate in flavour. You’re not going to find those big funky Jamaican-style rums here. 

After fermentation, the liquid is distilled in a mix of pot and column stills before being placed into American white oak barrels for ageing. By law, it must age for at least two years.  Charcoal-filtration and then some more blending and ageing typically occurs after this, but it’s not a legal requirement. Maestros roneros (or master rum makers) watch over this entire process and it takes 15 years of work to become one.

There has been rum in Cuba since the introduction of the sugarcane crop to the Caribbean and access to it and the tropical climate the rum matures in has led to Cuba getting the nickname “the isle of rum” and ensured the spirit has become an essential part of the nation’s culture.

Havana Club Cuban Spiced

Be sure to have some fun with this one and so plenty of mixing!

A spirit drink not a rum

It’s this rum that forms the bedrock Havana Club’s new spiced spirit drink, which has been infused with “natural tropical flavours” like vanilla, aromatic spices, ripe guava, toasted coconut and fresh pineapple. Three Cuban fruits alongside the typical vanilla and spice mix demonstrate the brand is living up to its billing of utilising local flavours. There’s no information about sugar levels, however. The bottle’s label clearly states that it’s a spirit drink at least, which is refreshing, and the pricing is fair. As far as expressions in this category go, Havana Club Cuban Spiced certainly has promise.  

Which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The exceptional distilling pedigree outlined earlier and some strong branding has helped Havana Club become one of those rare producers that has an entire core range worthy of keeping in stock. Which most bars and supermarkets around the world make a habit of doing. Excluding the US, of course, thanks to its embargo on Cuban products. 

The producer’s tasting notes suggests there will be rich, fresh tropical fruit, light honey, vanilla and warm spices to enjoy. But it will be interesting to see if the additional flavours overwhelm the light rum at the core of this expression or enhance it. Of course, most people will mix it anyway. Ginger beer, cola or coconut water and other tropical fruit juices will all work well as mixers, but don’t be afraid to experiment with cocktail classics. A Spiced Daiquiri or a Spiced Espresso Martini sounds pretty good to me. 

Havana Club Cuban Spiced is now available from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Dom Perignon 2006 Rosé

Today’s we’re toasting the arrival of a new week, a new month, and possibly a new beginning, with a quite fabulous Champagne, Dom Perignon 2006 Rosé. Dom Perignon is the…

Today’s we’re toasting the arrival of a new week, a new month, and possibly a new beginning, with a quite fabulous Champagne, Dom Perignon 2006 Rosé.

Dom Perignon is the granddaddy of ‘prestigious cuvée’ Champagnes. It was launched by Moët et Chandon in 1935 with the 1921 vintage. The name comes from the Benedictine friar who was one of the first people to look at viticulture and wine making from a scientific perspective, though he almost certainly didn’t invent sparkling Champagne. His statue stands proudly outside Moet HQ in Epernay. The Dom was an exact contemporary of Louis XIV, both were born in 1638 and died in 1715. 

Dom Perignon

The statue of the Dom himself outside Moët HQ

An even more fancy Champagne brand was such a good idea that the other houses decided that they too needed their own. And lo, Louis Roederer created Cristal, Taittinger launched Comte de Champagne and Pol Roger honoured its most famous customer with Cuvée Winston Churchill. 

But what exactly is a prestige cuvée?

You might be forgiven for thinking that these wines are all about bling and separating the wealthy from their money. To some extent they are, the packaging is lavish, prices are high and loudly ordering a magnum of Cristal in a trendy restaurant sends out a statement to those around you.

They are also usually exceptional wines. Dom Perignon has the might of LVMH behind it which means it can buy up the finest grapes, from the best and most expensive vineyards in Champagne. It means that the chef de cave (cellar master) has an exceptional palate of wines to choose from when making up his blends

They are not, however, rare. Every year journalists ask Vincent Chaperon how many bottles he producers and he bats away the question diplomatically but with a degree of irritation. It’s always the same journalists who ask the same question and the answer is alway the same, he’s not saying. The answer is probably in the millions rather than the thousands.

What wines like DP offer is something quite unusual in the wine world: a fine wine that is reliable and needs no further ageing, though will last for decades. Compare this with Burgundy which can be a lottery or Bordeaux where you need to keep the finest stuff for 15 years minimum before opening. With DP, and indeed Cristal et al, you should never be disappointed. It’s a wine for when you want to celebrate with complete confidence.

Dom Perignon 2006 rose

Dom Perignon Rosé 2006 – superfancy

The 2006 vintage

Yes, DP is reliable but it should also reflect the vintage. Some years will be better than others and if the quality isn’t there, DP doesn’t release a wine. 

The first rosé vintage was 1959. It’s only made in the right years, this 2006 was the first time the house had released five rosé vintages in a row, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. In an interview with the Buyer, Chaperon described the vintage as “consistently warm throughout the vegetative period, the only exception to this was a cool and moist August. But the sun came back in September and we had four weeks of beautiful weather.” 

It’s made by blending a white wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with about 20% red wine which is made entirely from Pinot Noir.  Overall it contains 56% Pinot Noir and 44% Chardonnay. It’s sweetened with 6 grams of sugar per litre which is low for Champagne.

I’ve been fortunate enough to try this wine a couple of times and it’s a wine that reveals itself slowly. It repays tasting at a leisurely pace, not too chilled and ideally with food. The colour is a sort of orangey pink, very pale and fashionable. The palate is quite different, you can really taste the red wine. It’s tangy, meaty and full of red fruit along with orange peel and notes of biscuit and salted caramel. 

If you’re looking for something fancy to toast the reopening of the world, then look no further. 

Dom Perignon 2006 Rosé is available from Master of Malt

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New Arrival of the Week: Starward Left-Field

This week we turn our attention to Starward Left-Field, an Australian single malt with aspirations to woo us Europeans.  A new bottle of whisky has arrived from Starward Distillery and it’s…

This week we turn our attention to Starward Left-Field, an Australian single malt with aspirations to woo us Europeans. 

A new bottle of whisky has arrived from Starward Distillery and it’s got us scratching our heads. It’s called Left-Field, but like the distillery’s other bottlings there’s no age statement. Plus it demonstrates that the brand’s love affair with Australian wine barrels is still going strong. This time the ageing too place in 100% charred French oak red wine barrels (Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir) from the Barossa Valley and Yarra Valley regions, before Left-Field was bottled at 40% ABV. So, by Starward’s standards, not very ‘left field’.

There’s more confusion in the press materials where it says that Left-Field was designed with the ‘European palate’ in mind. Up till now, Starward has only been available in Australia, UK and the US. So this points to a push into continental Europe. But what exactly is a ‘European palate’? Are European tastes particularly different from American, Australian or British? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see an Australian whisky going global. Despite making outstanding spirit, other Australasian brands such as Lark, Cardrona, Sullivan’s Cove have been unable to do so with any real regularity due to stock constraints. 

It’s just that, in many ways, this expression is business as usual for Starward. Not a problem as the whisky is often delicious. The distillery makes good use of Australian barley and wine barrels, giving the spirit a point of difference and a determinable house style. David Vitale, Starward’s founder, is an open and interesting leader who has done a brilliant job communicating its process and ambition. The marketing and brand design is sleek and modern, the booze is very affordable, at least by Australian whisky standards, and in my mind, the distillery has done well to achieve its tricky aim of combining the best of the old world and marrying it with the new

Starward Left-Field

The Starward distillery is looking to make its mark in Europe

Starward Left-Field: a marvellously mixable malt

What Starward also does well is make versatile booze that can be mixed with ease. With regards to Left-Field, Vitale describes it as a “flavourful but easy drinking and approachable whisky” and says that it’s a whisky for people’s “sharing cabinet”, rather than their “special occasion” whisky cabinet. The sample I received also came with tonic water as that’s the recommended serve, which Vitale claims is “refreshing and bright and brings out the smooth, full flavour of our whisky”. To hammer home the playfulness of this one, there’s also a couple of cocktails recipes (below) for a Spritz made with vermouth and grapefruit soda as well as a classic Sour which includes Australian red wine.

While the richer, darker elements of Left-Field profile seems more suited to an Old Fashioned or Manhattan/Rob Roy (what are they called when they’re made with Australian whisky? A Cate Blanchett? A Phar Lap?) than a Sour, I still think this is the approach that has greater merit. Left-Field is versatile enough to suggest a fair number of bartenders will (hopefully) soon be having a lot of fun experimenting with it. But, again this isn’t very left-field, given Starward’s other expressions are all great mixers. 

Regardless of how it’s marketed, Starward Left-Field is an approachable, enjoyable dram. It’s got that Starward DNA I love. Think fresh malted barley still warm from the washback and toasty, slightly spicy oak providing the hammock in which a litany of orchard, tropical and red fruits sit merrily in the Aussie sun. There is also a youthful vibrancy I find charming though occasionally I get a little immaturity as well as some clumsy tannic and earthier elements on the palate. But tonic water is a good remedy for this, it rounds off the rougher edges and allows all that fruitiness to really shine. 

So that’s the new Starward: it’s not particularly left field but it’s a great mixer. And it certainly appeals to my European palate. 

Starward Left-Field

Starward Left-Field Tasting Note:

Nose: Fruity notes come from tannic red apple skin, strawberry laces, apricot jam, orange peel, fresh raspberries and mango slices in juice. Alongside them is a dusting of cacao powder, oaky vanilla, ginger beer, a little charred chilli pepper. Then demerara sugar, maple syrup, nougat and milky coffee. Around the edges, toasted almonds and marzipan make an appearance, with some fresh nutmeg grated on top for good measure.

Palate: Through a core of winey-woodiness, there’s PX-soaked sultanas, ginger cake, more of that beautiful maltiness and some tartness from cherries and cranberries. The tone is darker than the nose thanks to blackcurrants, dark chocolate and liquorice taking centre stage. Although there’s enough rye bread, stewed orchard fruit, aniseed and caramel to keep thing interesting. The palate is also earthier than the nose and a touch too tannic. 

Finish: Some of those tropical and darker fruit notes echo into the finish, which also has a tang of balsamic vinegar, a sprightly touch of peppermint and more of that red wine funk.

Starward Left-Field

Part of Starward’s signature style comes from ageing its spirit in Australian wine barrels

Starward Left-Field Cocktails:

Left-Field and Tonic

30ml Left-Field
100ml tonic water

Build all ingredients over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit (orange will do in a pinch).

Starward Spritz

30ml Left-Field
30ml rose vermouth
90ml grapefruit soda

Build all ingredients over ice in a wine glass and garnish with a mint sprig and grapefruit wedge.

New World Sour

50ml Left-Field
20ml lemon juice
15ml Australian red wine
20ml sugar syrup
20ml egg white

Dry shake all ingredients but the red wine in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake again. Serve on the rocks then gently pour the red wine into the glass

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New Arrival of the Week: Old Perth Cask Strength

This week we are delighted about the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, Old Perth, with a beautiful sherry-aged blended malt and a mighty cask…

This week we are delighted about the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, Old Perth, with a beautiful sherry-aged blended malt and a mighty cask strength version.

If you walk around Perth today, you’ll see evidence of its proud whisky heritage. It’s there in the grandeur of the town’s architecture which seems quite out of scale for a city of 50,000 people and you’ll see ghost signs advertising Old Perth whisky. Well, these are ghost signs no longer as the family firm Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers has brought whisky back to the town and resurrected this great brand. 

First, a bit of history

Known as the Gateway to the Highlands, the city of Perth was ideally placed for merchants to buy characterful malt whiskies from the north and blend them with the lighter spirits of the Lowlands to create a consistent product to sell in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and export around the world. 

Scotch whisky as we know it was to a large extent a Perth creation and with the coming of the railways, Perth’s first station was built in 1848, the city boomed. Giants warehouses were built providing employment for thousands whilst the whisky barons spent their leisure time in the city’s fashionable gentlemen’s clubs.

The city was home to some of the biggest names in Scotch whisky including Matthew Gloag, Arthur Bell and John Dewar. There’s a fourth name that’s not so well known but deserves to be put alongside them: Peter Thomson.

Peter Thomson whisky van

Peter Thomson whisky van (photo courtesy of Morrison Distillers)

Enter, Peter Thomson

The youngest of three brothers, Peter Thomson set up his business in 1908 at 202 High Street Perth but the family had been in the whisky trade for much longer.  Peter’s father Alexander Thomson ran a grocery and whisky shop. Going further back, in 1837 John Thomson acquired the Grandtully distillery which remained in family hands until it closed in 1914. And further back still, according to family legend the Thomsons were too busy distilling and drinking whisky to take part in the Highland Rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

He was a canny businessman and the firm weathered the economic storms following the first world war. In the 1920s it launched Beneagles blended whisky containing a sizable proportion of Macallan single malt as well as high-quality grain whisky from the North British distillery in Edinburgh which the Thomson family had shares in. They also launched a premium whisky called Old Perth.

Peter Thomson died in 1939 and his son David Kinnear Thomson took over but the following year he was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk and saw out the war in a POW camp. Fortunately, the firm was in the more than capable hands of his secretary, Miss Cameron, who managed the firm until the war ended. In fact, it’s said she carried on the day to day running of the firm even after the war whilst David networked, socialised and promoted the business around the world. We’d probably use the term ‘Brand Ambassador’ today. 

A pioneering firm

The firm became known for its innovative marketing including ceramic whisky miniatures in the shape of curling stones, the Loch Ness monster, a golden eagle and, most magnificent of all, a Thistle and the Rose chess set portraying Scotland’s great rivalry with England. The pieces are figures from British history including Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and Robert the Bruce filled with Beneagles whisky. The empty vessels come up quite often on Ebay.

Peter Thomson was innovative in other ways. In the 1960s, the family took the bold decision to sell Macallan on its own. It’s hard to imagine now when Macallan is a globally-renowned luxury goods brand but most malt distilleries had no reputation amongst consumers. Peter Thomson obtained exclusive rights to sell Macallan and by 1985 they were selling 10,000 cases a year. So successful were they that Macallan eventually decided to handle sales themselves. 

Old Perth Cask Strength is its natural habitat

Old Perth Cask Strength in its natural habitat

Decline and revival

By this time, however, the family no longer controlled the firm. It was sold to a Cypriot businessman and later became incorporated into Whyte & Mackay. One by one, the great names of Perth whisky left the town of their birth. 

But some of that life returned in 2005 with the creation of Morrison & Mackay by Kenny MacKay, a former employee of Peter Thomson, Rob Starling, and Brian and Jamie Morrison, formerly of Morrison Bowmore. They opened a single malt distillery, Aberargie, outside the city in 2017. Last year, the company rebranded as Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers.

They also acquired the Old Perth brand name from Whyte & Mackay and relaunched it as a blended malt whisky inspired by the original. Just landed at Master of Malt, we have two new expressions: a 46% ABV sherry cask, and a 58.6% ABV cask strength version. Both are truly superior blends that pay tribute to Perth’s rich whisky heritage. If you like a luxurious sherry cask malt packed with dried fruit and spices, you’ll love Old Perth. Here’s the tasting note for the cask strength version:

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toffee penny, cherry jam, and bundles of dried fruit.

Palate: Earthy root ginger spice, cinnamon stick, and toasted barley.

Finish: Brandy-soaked raisins and burnt brown sugar on the finish.

Old Perth Original and Cask Strength are available from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Myatt’s Fields Baby Otis

The husband and wife duo behind Myatt’s Fields are taking the fuss out of drinks at home with batched cocktails like the Baby Otis, a rum Manhattan that’s spent time in…

The husband and wife duo behind Myatt’s Fields are taking the fuss out of drinks at home with batched cocktails like the Baby Otis, a rum Manhattan that’s spent time in cask to gain extra deliciousness. 

Do you remember drinks parties? For those who don’t, here’s a little reminder. In the before times, you would invite people over to your house, give them drinks and some snacks, put on some old records, maybe indulge in some dancing or sneak outside onto the balcony for a cigarette even though you gave up years ago. All great fun, except if you were making cocktails. Inevitably, the quality of what you were drinking would deteriorate as the evening progressed. This is where pre-batched cocktails come into their own. All you need to do is make sure you have enough ice, and you can concentrate on the things that matter, like dancing like a robot to Homework by Daft Punk.

Myatt’s Fields Cocktails is husband and wife business consisting of Clemency and Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe

The dynamic duo, Clemency Penn and Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe

Batched cocktails are having a moment

Pre-bottled cocktails aren’t just brilliant for parties, they’re good for picnics, festivals and train journeys, and yet despite none of these things happening at the moment sales are booming. The magnificently-named Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe from Myatt’s Fields Cocktails said that business is up 1000% since last year. He made the comparison with ready meals. Once they were of airline food standard but now there’s a lot of companies producing excellent quality ones. The same with cocktails. Rather than buy lots of ingredients that you might screw up anyway, get the experts in. It’s like having your very own bartender making a perfect cocktail every time.

Myatt’s Fields Cocktails is a husband and wife business consisting of Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe and Clemency Penn. The idea came from them wanting cocktails at their wedding but didn’t want people to queue while each drink was made to order. They tried lots of premade cocktails but, as Gilbert-Rolfe put it, most tasted like “a dumping ground for bad ingredients.” So they started making their own. After experimenting for a year, trying out recipes on their friends, “which made us very popular” Cyrus said, they unleashed their concoctions on the wedding guests. These were such a hit that “we got more comments about the cocktails than my wife’s dress,” he joked. 

They decided to turn it into a business. Both had digital marketing backgrounds: “We knew a lot about e-commerce but not much about health and safety,” he said. Nevertheless, the business thrived. It is named after a nearby park in Camberwell, South London, Myatt’s Fields. According to Gilbert-Rolfe, the cafe in the middle of the park was their first customer. Now they are stocked by Fortnum & Mason, Fenwicks and, of course, Master of Malt.

Myatt's Fields Vesper Martini

Myatt’s Fields Vesper Martini

Cocktails with a difference

Their cocktails aren’t just delicious but they offer an experience that would be hard to replicate at home. The Vesper Martini for example uses vodka infused with quinine to mimic the taste of Kina Lillet, an aperitif that disappeared in 1986. They make a Limoncello with less sugar and more lemon that’s a world away from the washing up liquid taste you get in your average Italian restaurant. And the Espresso Martini uses Monmouth coffee and was created with the blessing of the late Dick Bradsell‘s partner, Eline Bosman. Bradsell invented the Espresso Martini, along with the Bramble and many other modern classics.

But their big thing is ageing. The pair were inspired by work done by Jeffrey Morgenthaler in the US and Tony Conigliaro in Britain on the effect of controlled oxidation on cocktails. Cyrus explained how they do it: “We make a drink and put it in a cask for two months. It really evolves, it’s more of a journey than fresh cocktails.”

Today’s New Arrival, the Baby Otis, has had just such treatment. Cyrus said “it has a huge base of people who love it.” It’s basically a Manhattan made with Cuban rum, two types of vermouth and grapefruit bitters. This is then aged for around six weeks to meld all those flavours together and bottled at 24.5% ABV. So if you wanted to make this drink at home, you’d have to start six weeks in advance; who is going to be that organised? With Myatt’s Fields Cocktails, Cyrus said: “it’s like having a pro in the house doing it for you.” It’s hard to argue with that. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Touches of cedar wood, brown sugar, and banana, balanced by rich red berries, orange pith, and bittersweet grapefruit.

Myatt’s Fields Cocktails Baby Otis is available from Master of Malt.

Myatts Fields Baby Otis

Myatt’s Fields, SE5 and proud of it

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New Arrival of the Week: Folle Envie

We’re very excited about a new aperitif that has just landed at Master of Malt towers. Folle Envie is made from the sort of grapes that normally go into Cognac…

We’re very excited about a new aperitif that has just landed at Master of Malt towers. Folle Envie is made from the sort of grapes that normally go into Cognac but macerated with herbs and spices to make a lowish ABV drink that’s particularly delicious with tonic water.

The French do love a grape-based aperitif. There’s drinks like Pineau des Charentes, a mixture of unfermented grape juice and Cognac, or Floc de Gascogne, the Armagnac equivalent. Or Byrrh, a quinine drink made from red grapes from the south of France. But there are also versions that the French like to make at home, like DIY vermouth

I tried one made by the owner of a B&B in Pauillac made from a mixture of Martinique rum steeped with spices and Bordeaux grape juice. It was sweet, fiery and a bit rustic, but tasted very nice with pizza on a warm spring night. 

One such homemade aperitif was made by Estelle Sauvage’s great-grandmother, though a bit more elegant. She ran a grocery store in the Charente region, the home of Cognac, which turned into a bar in the evening serving her trademark aperitif. Sauvage came across the recipe and, she writes: “80 years later, I had the crazy idea to revive this aperitif, simply as an homage to Zilda, who loved life so much, the truth and everything that you share.”

Folle Envie aperitif with tonic water

A Folle Envie and tonic makes a great low ABV G&T substitute

The idea was to make Folle Envie – pronounced something like ‘Fol On-vee’ – as much as possible from local ingredients. Sauvage says: “Doing things right for us meant ‘Made in France’. Why go elsewhere to find our ingredients, our partners if these raw materials, skills, and exceptional level of quality that we wanted exist nearby?” 

The starting point is Ugni Blanc grapes. This variety is the basis for almost all Cognac but also makes fruity, floral wines in south west France and Italy where it is known as Trebbiano. The grapes are only part-fermented which preserves sugar as well as fruit character. 

This is then blended with neutral grain alcohol which has been steeped with cardamom and dried lemon peel. It comes out at a nice moderate 11.2 % ABV with around 70g of sugar per litre – most vermouth will have at least double that. Everything is done at Planat, an organic Cognac producer.

Sauvage is big on sustainability. The business is certified B Corp, rather like Bruichladdich, meaning that it meets stringent environmental standards. The product is organic and the bottles are recycled. The labels on the bottles are made from recycled sugar cane fibre and the ink used is vegetable ink.

Most importantly, it tastes great too. Fresh and floral with a nutty spicy quality, the flavour is not unlike a dry white port like Taylor’s Chip Dry and as such it’s perfect foil for tonic water like Fever Tree original. In fact, the company makes its own organic tonic water called Archibald using French gentian root rather quinoa bark which has to be imported from Africa or South America. Add ice and a piece of lemon peel, and you have the perfect low alcohol sipper. 

It’s a bit early to be thinking about it as the arctic winds blow through Kent but this should be the drink of the summer: low alcohol, not too sweet, and packed full of flavour. But Folle Envie is also a versatile mixer. It’s great in place of vermouth in cocktails, try it half-an-half with gin in a very wet Dry Martini while you wait for the weather to improve. 

Folle Envie is available from Master of Malt.

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