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Tag: New Arrival of the Week

New Arrival of the Week: Carpano Botanic Bitter

This week we’re getting all steamed up about a bitter bottling from top vermouth producer Carpano. Negroni anyone? With the bar scene temporarily out of action, more and more of…

This week we’re getting all steamed up about a bitter bottling from top vermouth producer Carpano. Negroni anyone?

With the bar scene temporarily out of action, more and more of us are turning to the joys of the home bar. When coming up with the basic kit you need, most suggestions are generic, a gin such as. . . , a decent rye, a good blended Scotch, but there’s one item that is always ordered by brand, Campari. No drinks cabinet is complete without a bottle of the red stuff for emergency Negronis

Nothing has managed to unseat Campari as the ubiquitous bitter. It’s not as if there aren’t competitors, there’s a whole world of Italian bitter drinks out there like Cynar or Amaro Montenegro but though they are delicious in their own way, they are so different from Campari that they aren’t direct rivals. You might have an exotic amaro in your arsenal but you probably also have a bottle of Campari. But recently there have been attempts to unseat the king: in 2017 the might of Martini launched the delicious Speciale Riserva Bitter, and now here’s a new contender from another vermouth producer, Carpano.

Carpano is probably best known for its high end Antica Formula vermouth  (bartender joke: antique formula, modern price, ho ho ho!) The company was founded in 1786 in Turin by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. Wikipedia somewhat fancifully claims that he invented vermouth but he was certainly a pioneer of the vermouth di Torino style. At the time Turin was part of the territory of the Dukes of Savoy that included not only Piedmont and Sardinia but also Nice and Savoy, now in France. Which explains why Turin and Chambery, home of Dolin, are the twin powerhouses of vermouth. Both cities were once in the same country.

The company is now owned by a drinks group that really understands bitterness, Fratelli Branca Distillerie, producer of Fernet Branca, so you’d expect the Botanic Bitters to impress. Nicola Olianas, Branca’s global ambassador commented: “Carpano Botanic Bitter adds further breadth to the Carpano range, with a unique recipe that combines the Carpano tradition with a contemporary complexity. With cocktail sales set for further strong growth in the UK, Carpano Botanic Bitter meets the need for continued innovation at the premium end of the market.”

The colour aims it squarely at Campari but it tastes different. Ten natural botanicals are used in the production process including saffron, sandal, fresh green orange peel, bitter orange peel, cinchona, rhubarb, zedoria, gentian, myrrh and wormwood. The bitterness is balanced out with 150g of sugar per litre, which is significantly less than its rivals which come in closer to 300g per litre. This means that Carpano Botanic Bitters has a freshness and lightness about it. No wonder that it’s already proved a hit with bartenders. In London both Balans and the Happiness Forgets have got behind it. When lockdown is over, it’s one you will increasingly see on the back bar. 

Carpano Negroni, keeping it in the family

Along with Antica Formula and a range of more affordable vermouths, Carpano is also the company behind Punt e Mes, the powerfully bitter vermouth, so it makes sense that they recommend using it alongside Botanical Bitter and Brooklyn Gin to make a signature Carpano Negroni. The other recommendations are an Americano (40ml Botanic Bitter, 20ml Carpano Antica formula, topped with tonic water though I reckon soda would be nicer) and an Irish Boulevardier made with equal proportions of Botanic Bitter, Antica Formula and Paddy Irish whiskey

With its vibrant bitter flavours and lower sugar levels, it’s one that we’re really looking forward to playing around with. It should make those lockdown days fly by. 

Carpano Botanic Bitter is available now from Master of Malt.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Balvenie Edge of Burnhead Wood 19 year old

This week we’re shining our giant Master of Malt spotlight (think 20th Century Fox logo) on a new release from Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley and kilned using local…

This week we’re shining our giant Master of Malt spotlight (think 20th Century Fox logo) on a new release from Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley and kilned using local heather. To tell us more we have brand ambassador extraordinaire Alwynne Gwilt.

The Balvenie Stories range was launched last year with three distinctive whiskies:  The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 year old, A Week of Peat 14 year old and A Day of Dark Barley 26 year old. Each one highlights an aspect of the rich history of the distillery and some of its long-serving personnel. Alwynne Gwilt from the distillery told us: “At The Balvenie, we are lucky to have an incredibly loyal team working at the distillery, many of whom spend decades or entire careers with us. As such, we have a wealth of stories that go along with that because they know what life was like working in the distillery in the 1970s, say, and how it has developed and changed over the subsequent decades.”

Alwynne Gwilt Balvenie

Alwynne Gwilt having fun at The Balvenie

One such lifer is master distiller David Stewart MBE who has been with The Balvenie for 57 years. Gwilt told us: “One of my favourite memories of time spent with David is when we were in his lab nosing samples and I asked him what motivates him to keep coming to work after so many years. And he said: ‘Because, I can always keep learning something new.’ That humbleness, that willingness to be open, is inspiring and I think this whisky with all of its intriguing facets is testament to that ethos.”

It’s called the Edge of Burnhead Wood, after a wood near the distillery. Doesn’t Burnhead Wood sound like the whiskiest wood ever? This expression pays homage to the landscape, the barley and the water of this most beautiful part of Scotland. It’s the first ever Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley all malted by hand on Balvenie’s traditional floor malting.

This love of the landscape goes further because, as Gwilt explained: “We put a layer of heather [collected from Burnhead Wood] on top of the coals as it was going through the drying process.” A technique that was done in the past at the distillery. Gwilt elaborated: “Preserving those stories, and those moments in time when we make interesting decisions such as adding heather to the malt during the kilning process on this new release is vital to us not only because it represents the legacy of these individuals but also because it speaks to the human element of whisky making.” Finally, the water used comes from the nearby Conval hills.

It’s David C. Stewart or DCS to his friends

Gwilt then told me a little about the casks used to age the spirit: “In the case of The Edge of Burnhead Wood it has only been matured in American Oak and does not go into a secondary cask for a finish.” It’s a 19 year old whisky bottled at 48.7% ABV. The Edge of Burnhead Wood is a limited release, much like last year’s The Day of Dark Barley, so when it’s gone, it’s got. 

David Stewart commented: “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie Distillery and are deeply embedded in all the work that we do. The story behind The Edge of Burnhead Wood captures the majestic Speyside landscape and the inventive essence of The Balvenie’s loyal and determined craftspeople. In this way, The Edge of Burnhead Wood sums up the spirit of the work carried out at The Balvenie Distillery; The Balvenie remains true to the techniques and stories passed down by its craftsmen from generation to generation, while also looking forward by exploring new techniques, flavours and marriages to develop unique and original Balvenie expressions.”

You can learn more by listening to a specially-produced podcast (available here, on Spotify, and can be accessed by scanning a QR code on the bottle) between Stewart and brand ambassador Gemma Paterson. Gwilt described it as: “the perfect escape for a time like this, when sometimes you just need to curl up, enjoy a whisky, and hear a friendly voice.” 

The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19 year old is available now from Master of Malt.

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Dried fruit with a dusting of nutmeg, honey on toast, an oily hint or two of roasted barley balanced by citrus blooms.

Palate: More dried fruit – this time Medjool dates and plump sultanas – followed by aromatic oak warmth, delicate heather honey and sugary shortbread.

Finish: More floral wafts of heather and vanilla blossom, plus a final whisper of candied ginger.

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New Arrival of the Week: Scarpa Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry Unfiltered

Today we’re highlighting a very special dry vermouth from Piedmont made using grapes from a top wine producer and bottled unfiltered to preserve flavour.  Alfredo Sconfienza from vermouth producer La…

Today we’re highlighting a very special dry vermouth from Piedmont made using grapes from a top wine producer and bottled unfiltered to preserve flavour. 

Alfredo Sconfienza from vermouth producer La Canellese was nonplussed when Riikka Sukula from Scarpa approached him about bottling an unfiltered product: ““I’ve never tried an unfiltered. Nobody has ever asked me to do an unfiltered, what would be the point?”, he said, according to Sukula. But Sukula went on to say: “In the process of trying samples, he grew really excited. He is now as proud as we are.”

Scarpa has been going for over 100 years and owns vineyards in Piedmont producing a highly-regarded range of wines including Barbaresco, Barbera d’Asti, Barolo and many others. The company had produced a Vermouth di Torino since the 1930s but stopped in the ‘70s due to lack of interest in the category. According to Sukula, the managing director, the rise of the mega producers saw most of the small operations die out. When interest revived in the 2000s, Scarpa turned to a specialist La Canellese to make its vermouth to the old family recipe because of rules about allowing alcohol and sugar in a winery. 

The regulations for Vermouth di Torino are much stricter than normal vermouth, grapes have to come from Piedmont as opposed to the EU wine lake, but Scarpa takes things a lot further. The company uses naturally sweet Moscato grapes from its own vineyards and all the botanicals are Piedmontese. According to Michael Palij from UK importers Winetraders, “nothing but fresh botanicals using only cold extraction. All done with a coffee grinder thing. Nobody does that anymore, they use essences or hot extraction. It’s expensive and time consuming but it preserves aromatic intensity.” Its two bottlings, a Rosso (made from white grapes and coloured with caramel) and a Bianco are superb but seeing the traditional production process Palij had the idea to go one step further and produce an unfiltered version. He said: “You can only do this if you’re making it in this old style. If you use essences, there’s nothing to filter out.”

Rikkala, who is originally from Finland, went into more detail about the process. They start with 38 botanicals including gentian and artemisia (woodwood) which are steeped in neutral alcohol for between 32 and 41 days depending on the time of year. No heat is used in the extraction process because, she said, “heat gives a jammy cooked flavour”. Moscato grapes give too much sweetness so they use Cortese (as used in Gavi) from Scarpa’s vineyards in Monferrato. The quality of the base wine is very important. Some beet sugar is added at the end, there is 30g per litre of sugar compared with 70g in the standard. It is then bottled at 18% ABV unfiltered so it is naturally cloudy. Palij suggests that you shake the bottle before use. 

It tastes gorgeous neat, with chamomile, elderflower and menthol notes on the nose. On the palate, it’s almost crisp, you barely notice the sugar with gentle grapefruit-like bitterness and the quality of the base wine really shines through. Drunk chilled like this, it serves much the same role as a manzanilla sherry, tasting delicious and complex with salted almonds and olives.

Then we tried it in some cocktails. First a spritz made with just 50ml of vermouth, the flavour is so intense you don’t need so much, rather as you might use a white Port. But the ultimate serve was in a wet Martini. Edmund Skinner-Smith from Winetraders joked that the only people who drank their Martinis with such a high vermouth content were bartenders but with this low sugar vermouth, suddenly it makes a lot of sense. Drunk with 50ml gin, Smeaton’s Bristol Method gin, to 15ml of vermouth, the delicate flavour of the Scarpa came through but without making the Martini too sweet. Edmund-Smith thinks the Scarpa Extra Dry could well bring the wetter style of Martini back into fashion. He might be right. It’s certainly one of the best vermouths on the market.

Scarpa Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry is available now from Master of Malt.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Bombay Bramble

It’s Monday afternoon which means it’s time to shine a spotlight on something that has just arrived at MoM towers. This week we’re particularly excited about Bombay Sapphire‘s first-ever flavoured…

It’s Monday afternoon which means it’s time to shine a spotlight on something that has just arrived at MoM towers. This week we’re particularly excited about Bombay Sapphire‘s first-ever flavoured gin which is inspired by the Bramble cocktail.

Flavoured gin is one of those divisive drink topics, like additional colouring in whisky, whether spiced rum is really rum at all or the use of the word ‘craft’. The juniper ultras may bristle at the sight of a brand that has, up until now, prioritised botanical distillation, joining the fruity brigade, but if it tastes good and it’s still recognisably gin, then we’re all over it.  

Capitalising on the ongoing gin trend, however, isn’t easy. Pink gin, in particular, is one of the most successful new spirit product developments in the last decade. But pretty much every other flavour combination has been done:  Rhubarb and Ginger? Yep. Quinine, wormwood and blue lotus blossom? Of course. Jaffa Cake? Hell yeah! So where does Bombay Sapphire turn to inspiration? 

The answer is The Bramble, a cocktail which Henry wrote some rather excellent words on here. It was created by the late, great Dick Bradsell in the ’80s at Fred’s Club, Soho, London and was inspired by the time he spent in his childhood foraging for blackberries. It’s made with dry gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur), which gives it a deep, fruity and sweet taste.

Bombay Bramble

Bombay Bramble was inspired by the classic cocktail of the same name

It’s this profile that Bombay Sapphire used to create Bombay Bramble. The press release says the brand pushed “the boundaries of flavour and colour by marrying the brand’s vapour distilled gin with a real fruit infusion that gives a distinct crimson colour and natural flavour”. Which basically means that they used actual fresh raspberries and blackberries to make this gin, with no added sugars or colouring. That natural colour is the first thing that strikes you about Bombay Bramble. It’s very pretty and purple, like Prince in 1984. 

“Launching a flavour expression was always going to take time as it’s important that the taste experience comes purely from natural botanicals and ingredients,” said Ivano Tonutti, master of botanicals at Bombay Sapphire. “This is so we can offer even the most discerning gin drinkers the right balance of fruit flavour without compromising the quality of our core product. Master distiller Dr. Anne Brock and I worked closely and carefully to infuse our gin with an exclusive maceration of berries that have been harvested at their ripest moment”.

“Flavoured gin is a category that can’t be ignored, our consumers are demanding it with flavoured gin accounting for over a third of total gin value. We believe Bombay Sapphire shows great potential and we are delighted to see the positive reaction from our drinkers so far,” added Natasha Curtin, global vice president of Bombay Sapphire. “When it comes to taste, our refusal to add refined sugar post distillation ensures a less sweet and cloying taste, allowing the true nature of our gin to shine through. By using a rich fruit infusion versus the common practice of highly concentrated or artificial flavours, the palate becomes more attuned to the dryer option provided by Bombay Bramble”.

Bombay Bramble

Fruity G&T, anyone?

In the marketing bumf, there are ideas for all kinds of cocktail experimentation. You can, of course, embrace the simple pleasures in life and make G&Ts. Pop in 50ml of Bombay Bramble and 100 ml of tonic water over ice into a glass, then squeeze in a lemon wedge and drop the little sucker in and bam. You’ve got yourself a playful twist on the traditional. Easy as pie. Bramble pie (is that a thing?). At least that’s the recipe the brand has provided. Personally, while I think this did make quite a pleasingly punchy and refreshing G&T, it needs more balance. Some experimenting is required.

Of course, what you really should be making is the cocktail that the drink shares its name with. Again, Bombay Sapphire has provided its own recipe for The Bramble. Simply add 50ml of Bombay Bramble, 25ml of freshly squeezed lemon and 15ml of sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker, then shake, pour over crushed ice and garnish with fresh berries. Voilà. The brand’s interpretation on the classic cocktail is a simple yet effective serve that’s really very pleasant and seems perfectly timed given this is hardly the ideal time to be shopping around for ingredients. It also works as the base spirit in the Clover Club cocktail, removing the need for raspberries.

Bombay Bramble is an interesting move for the brand because I’ve always thought of Bombay Sapphire as being a light, crisp and refreshing way to enter the world of gin. This is darker and heavier in its delivery. It’s a departure for the brand, but it does work. I appreciate that its creation was rooted in a bit of gin history and the authenticity of its flavour profile. Those primary notes of blackberry and raspberry are delightful. There’s the usual MoM tasting note below which explains more and if you want to make up your own mind about Bombay Bramble, you’ll be pleased to know it’s available from MoM now, just click here.

Bombay Bramble

Look, it’s Bombay Bramble!

Bombay Bramble tasting note:

Nose: The fruit stands out, unsurprisingly. The first time you put your nose in the glass it’s like smelling a homemade jam. The blackberries make the initial impact, juicy and rounded before they turn more bittersweet. A perfumed floral element adds to the summer vibes, as does the warm citrus of lemon peel and coriander. There’s still plenty of the botanicals you get in the classic Bombay Sapphire, hints of thick liquorice laces, aromatic spice from grains of paradise and then the subtle but very pleasant note of juniper. The raspberries add a tart edge to the nose that I really like, along with a welcome touch of complex sweetness.

Palate: Oily and thick, the palate is surprisingly bittersweet at first. Again I’m getting more blackberries, this time ripe and bold, then comes the raspberry with its unmistakable tart and sweet combo. There’s a delicate sweetness from angelica making its mark which, when combined with the fruit, gives the gin an Eton Mess vibe. The floral notes are more earthy, the warming citrus never goes away and the juniper makes a pleasant cameo.

Finish: The jammy fruits linger among a warm peppery finish that we’ve come to know and love from Bombay Sapphire.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco

This week we’re shining a spotlight on a delicious single vineyard Barbaresco from the excellent 2015 vintage. It would be perfect for Easter lunch, if you’re feeling fancy. It’s not…

This week we’re shining a spotlight on a delicious single vineyard Barbaresco from the excellent 2015 vintage. It would be perfect for Easter lunch, if you’re feeling fancy.

It’s not all Margaritas and Macallan here at Master of Malt HQ, we have some very enthusiastic wine lovers on the team. None more so than our head buyer Guy Hodcroft which means that though we don’t stock a huge selection of wine, what we do have is always interesting. This week buyer Hodcroft (that’s what we call him) is particularly excited about a parcel of single vineyard Barbarescos that have just landed at MoM HQ. 

Barbaresco is one of the three ‘B’s of Italian wine along with Barolo and Brunello. Like Barolo, Barbaresco is  produced in Piedmont from the Nebbiolo grape (the name comes from the fog that often blankets the hills, nebbia) but whereas Barolo is famous throughout the world as the ‘king of wines’, it’s very close relative is not so well known. So much so that in olden days a lot of grapes from Barbaresco went into generic Barolo. Poor overlooked Barbaresco! This is now beginning to change as wine drinkers around the world wake up to the quality lurking in its vineyards, usually at a better price than Barolo. This new awareness is being driven by single vineyard bottlings, so rather than all the grapes going into one wine labelled simply Barbaresco, you can taste the different patches of land. They’re been doing this in Burgundy, of course, for hundreds of years but it’s relatively new in Piedmont. 

We have five bottlings altogether, Asili, Montefico, Montestefano, Ovello and Rabajà, all from Produttori del Barbaresco. This firm which was founded in 1958 has been producing single vineyard wines, only in the best vintages, since 1967. It is a co-operative, owned and run by a group of farmers who pool their grapes and resources. Usually such enterprises make cheaper wines, but not the PdB which has been described as the ‘The Wine World’s Most Amazing Cooperative’. It’s probably not the easiest job marshalling 54 Italian farmers with over 105 hectares of vines between them but MD Aldo Vacca whose family were founder members is clearly a master of organisation and diplomacy. Stephen Brook writing in Decanter said: “Aldo Vacca probably knows more about the region than anyone else alive”. All the growers must contribute 100% of their Nebbiolo to the co-op avoiding the common problem where growers keep their best grapes to bottle under their own labels. 

The wine making is in the hands of Gianni Testa, who has been with the firm since he graduated from college in the 1980s. He uses traditional processes, long fermentation times and three years ageing in large oak botti which soften the wines without contributing woody flavours. Nevertheless, these wines are accessible sooner than in the past. Though Barbaresco tends to be lighter than Barolo, traditionally you wanted to wait at least ten years before broaching them; Nebbiolo can be fiercely tannic but more gentle handling allows the fruit to shine from a younger age especially in a warm vintage like 2015. 

Nice botti

You can really taste the difference of the vineyards from the fleshy and powerful Rabajà to this week’s New Arrival, the elegant Asili which is already showing classic flavours of red cherry, Turkish delight and earthy mushroom notes. Despite the more accessible style, it’s definitely not an aperitif sort of wine, but sipped slowly with the right food, roast lamb or wild mushroom risotto, you will see why Barbaresco is one of Italy’s greatest wines.

Barbaresco Asili 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco is available now from Master of Malt.

 

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Boondocks 11 Year Old Cask Strength whiskey

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich. Whisky distillers…

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich.

Whisky distillers are like master criminals, no, not in terms of morals, well, some of them are, but that’s another story. What they have in common is that both announce their retirements, only to be lured out by one final job. Think of Jim McEwan who retired from Bruichladdich in 2015 only to be made an offer he couldn’t refuse by the Hunter Laing mob when they were setting up a new distillery on Islay, Ardnahoe

Then there’s Dave Scheurich, who retired from Brown-Forman in 2010 after over 21 years at the bourbon giant.  He was instrumental in setting up the Woodford Reserve brand and making it one of the most admired whiskeys in America. Before that he had stints with Wild Turkey, and 14 years man and boy at Seagram, the now-defunct Canadian giant who dominated the international spirits business before collapsing in 2000. In 2012 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Whiskey Advocate magazine. After that sort of career, most of us would be happy to take up fishing and long-winded anecdotes, but not Scheurich.

In 2016, it was announced that he had teamed up with the Royal Wine Company (a New York-based business that specialises in kosher wine) to create a new American whiskey brand, Boondocks. The name is inspired by a slightly-pejorative word used by fancy city types for the countryside. What we might call it ‘the back of beyond’. 

The aim was to create fine American whiskeys that were a bit different from the bourbon norm. Despite its corn-heavy mash bill (80% corn with the rest rye and malted barley), our New Arrival can’t be called bourbon because it’s not put in new oak casks. Instead like much Scotch, it’s aged in used casks. It’s also significantly older than most American whiskeys, which to be sold as such in the EU only have to be three years old (and can be much younger in the home market). This is also bottled at cask strength, 63.5% ABV, something that will appeal to aficionados. There’s also a 47.5% ABV version as well as an 8 year old bourbon.

With a name like Boondocks, you’d probably imagine it’s made in a tiny distillery in the woods, miles from the nearest town of any size, that hasn’t changed much since prohibition was repealed and staffed mainly by men called Jedediah. Sadly, nothing so romantic as the brand doesn’t have its own distillery and buys in its whiskey. Nothing wrong with that, lots of brands in whiskey, especially in the US and Ireland, don’t make their own spirit, it’s just not such a good story.

Still what matters most is what’s in the glass. And it’s good, really good, with a depth of flavour you don’t often find in American whiskeys. Previous releases have won awards like a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016 and Best of Category in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016. It’s a great sipper either with a splash of water, with ice or I can’t think of a better whiskey for an Old Fashioned. Drink it slowly, let the ice dilute the high strength and see how it changes.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Strong coffee with just a splash of milk, rich cherry sweetness and a subtly floral hint.

Palate: Toasted almonds and spicy rye, underneath layers of brown sugar and cookie dough.

Finish: Lingering buttery corn and stem ginger.

Boondocks Cask Strength 11 Year Old American Whiskey is available from Master of Malt.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Glen Elgin 2007 (Douglas Laing)

You don’t hear about Glen Elgin as a single malt very often, mainly because 95% of its production goes into blends. So, we thought it’s time to celebrate this little…

You don’t hear about Glen Elgin as a single malt very often, mainly because 95% of its production goes into blends. So, we thought it’s time to celebrate this little workhorse of a distillery by shining the MoM torch on a Douglas Laing single cask bottling.

There’s under-the-radar distilleries and then there’s Glen Elgin. Despite its name, it’s about five miles outside the town of Elgin, in a little hamlet called Fogwatt. Actually hamlet isn’t quite the right word as there’s very little there apart from some houses and the distillery. Motoring down the A941 towards Rothes, you’ll pass famous distilleries like BenRiach and Longmorn, but you wouldn’t even know that Glen Elgin was there. That’s a shame because it’s an elegant little distillery in a beautiful setting.

Glen Elgin, it’s actually much prettier from across the water. Still lovely wormtubs, eh?

The buildings were designed by Charles Doig who worked on some of Scotland’s greatest distilleries like Macallan, Glenlivet, Talisker and Mortlach. It’s best known, if is known at all, for being the last distillery to be built in Speyside for 60 years. Work began in 1898 just as Pattison’s Whisky went bankrupt. The company, it transpired, had been committing fraud, passing off cheap spirit as finest Glenlivet, and owed money all over the industry. The resulting scandal nearly collapsed the Scotch whisky business. So, not great timing! Glen Elgin finally opened in 1900 and immediately ran into financial difficulties. But after this uncertain start, it’s had a tranquil last 90 years, bought in 1930 by Distillers Company LImited, forerunners of Diageo, and has remained there ever since. 

The distillery’s rural situation was due to the proximity of Loch Millbuies which provides the water for distillation. For all you fans of technical details, here is a little extract from the excellent recently-published World of Whisky Book by Ridley, Smith & Wishart:

“Glen Elgin was rebuilt in 1964, with a new mash house and still house, and steam heating replaced the coal-fired boilers in 1970. It uses unpeated barley and operates a stainless steel, Steinecker full-lauter mash tun, nine larch washbacks  and six onion-shaped stills.” The fermentation is long and precise to yield a clear wort, and the stills are run slowly to encourage catalysis and produce a lighter, fruity spirit despite being condensed in traditional copper worm condensers.”

 The capacity is 1.8 million litres of pure alcohol per year but you don’t see it very often as a single malt because 95% of production goes into blends like White Horse (there’s a blend you don’t see very often in the UK, sadly) and Bell’s. Charlie Maclean described it like this: “A superb whisky that deserves to be better known. Ranked as ‘top class’ by blenders.” The 12 Year Old expression has a certain following in Japan and Italy, but it’s not one that Diageo puts any marketing muscle behind. There’s no visitor centre. 

Glen Elgin Douglas Laing

You do, however, sometimes see rare bottling from Gordon & MacPhail, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and, as here, by Douglas Laing, a company which, I am sure, needs no introduction to Master of Malt customers. This week’s New Arrival is part of the family firm’s Old Particular series of rare bottlings. It was distilled in 2007 and spent 12 years in single refill hogshead (cask number 13778, to be precise) before being bottled in January of this year. 338 bottles produced at 48.4 % ABV with no chill filtering. So, if you fancy something a little bit unusual, it’s worth taking a punt on this hidden distillery. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Toasted teacakes, clove and ginger. Some blackberry sweetness lingering.

Palate: Slightly peppery and warming with barley and honey. Waxy citrus peels plus a touch of juicy apple.

Finish: Malty chocolate, vanilla pod and stem ginger once again.

Glen Elgin 12 Year Old 2007 (cask 13778) – Old Particular (Douglas Laing) is available to buy here

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New Arrival of the Week: Drumshanbo Single Pot Still

A new Irish whiskey has landed at MoM Towers, the Shed Distillery‘s long-awaited inaugural release: Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Whiskey. Irish distilleries have been popping up all over the place…

A new Irish whiskey has landed at MoM Towers, the Shed Distillery‘s long-awaited inaugural release: Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Whiskey.

Irish distilleries have been popping up all over the place in recent years with a noticeable and delightful consequence: more Irish whiskey to enjoy. Teeling, J.J. Corry, Dingle, Roe & Co and Pearse Lyons have made real strides and there’s more to come from a raft of other producers. Some will inevitably disappoint, while others, like Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release, will demonstrate why there’s so much excitement around the category.

Its producer, The Shed Distillery, made its name creating the wildly popular Gunpowder Gin. It was crafted with an intriguing botanical selection that included gunpowder tea. This was followed by Sausage Tree Vodka, made with the fruit of the Kigelia Africana (also known as the sausage tree – because the fruit looks like sausages, definitely worth a Google).

Looking at the previous body of work, it’s fair to say that the first distillery in Connaught in over 101 years, based in the tiny rural village of Drumshanbo in Co, Leitrim., has set the bar high for this whiskey. It’s also demonstrated an experimental approach that has prioritised creating spirits with a singular profile, rather than appealing to notions of tradition or Irish identity. Unless I’m mistaken and Kigelia Africana is native to Donegal, I think we can all agree that the ingredients The Shed Distillery has used so far are distinctly exotic in nature. This made me curious to see how the company would innovate with its first whiskey.

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release

The Shed Distillery is the first in Connaught in over 101 years

Drumshanbo’s inaugural release is a triple-distilled, single pot still whiskey. Triple distillation is often associated with Irish whiskey and pot still is a style unique to the Emerald Isle, so that’s two big traditional boxes ticked already. Personally, as a huge pot still fan, I’m always delighted to see a distillery embrace this distinct and historical style. But where things get really interesting is the recipe. The mash bill contains malted and unmalted barley as well as a 5% helping of Irish Barra oats, which keeps it in line with the current Irish Whiskey Technical file while offering a point of difference.

Historically there’s a precedent of using oats in pot still whiskey and the forgotten grain has started to find its way into expressions, particularly in America. But if you were to have a search of the Irish whiskeys in MoM Towers right now you’ll notice that oats have yet to make a significant comeback. The fact that The Shed Distillery has chosen to embrace it demonstrates both an appreciation for the category’s heritage and a helping of that experimental side we’re used to seeing from the Connaught-based producers.

As for maturation, Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release is made up of whiskey that was aged for between three and five years in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and oloroso sherry butts. It was then bottled at a relatively hefty 46% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration which should appeal to those who enjoy getting geeky about such things.

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release

Founders Patrick and Denise Rigney with head distiller Brian Taft.

Every drop of Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release was crafted by head distiller Brian Taft at the distillery itself. The Shed Distillery clearly made a decision that it would not buy-in any spirit made elsewhere, which is quite refreshing for an Irish whiskey brand. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing this, but I like drinking a whiskey knowing that I’m tasting some distillery character. It might explain why the price is on the premium side of things, however. Also, I’d like to draw attention to the fact that, according to the Irish Independent, Prince Albert of Monaco and Count Carl Von Hardenberg of the German drinks dynasty are the proud owners of two of the first-ever casks of whiskey distilled in Drumshanbo. For no other real reason other than I found that quite amusing.

So,  what should you (and Albie and Carl, for that matter) expect from Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release? In my opinion, good things. The market for Irish whiskey is highly competitive but there’s always enough room for those who are creating distinctive drams. That’s exactly what the Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release is. It’s delightfully creamy, the sweet notes are well-measured and it really tastes a good few years older than its age. Very promising stuff.

The Shed Distillery is currently in the process of expanding the distillery with a €1.5m visitor centre that is set to open in the summer and there’s sure to be more whiskey to follow. It’s certainly a producer to keep an eye out for. For now, it’s three expressions all provide something different to enjoy and you can find all of them here at MoM Towers. Sláinte!

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release

 

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Inaugural Release Tasting Note:

Nose: Creamy vanilla is at the core with custard and caramel in support. The sherry-cask influence then arrives with raisins, red berries and a touch of baking spice. Hazelnut whip brings a nutty element to the aroma while apple turnover, golden cereals and a hint of milk chocolate add sweetness underneath.

Palate: It’s a fantastically creamy and slightly rich palate. Notes of stewed plums, Christmas cake and flamed orange peel appear first, before leather, red chilli heat and aromatic nutmeg add depth.

Finish: Quite long and delicately sweet. The spices make way for more dried fruit, grassy malt and honeyed porridge. 

You can buy it here from Master of Malt.

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New Arrival of the Week: Bruichladdich 28 Year Old

This week’s New Arrival is a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing and filled in the early ‘90s when the future of the distillery looked far from certain.  Islay…

This week’s New Arrival is a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing and filled in the early ‘90s when the future of the distillery looked far from certain. 

Islay had a rough time in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A downturn in the Scotch whisky industry meant that there wasn’t such a demand for malts, especially such distinct ones. Port Ellen closed 1983 and was partly demolished. Others escaped a similar fate only by a whisker, distilleries like Ardbeg and the one we’re looking at today, Bruichladdich.

The distillery dates back to 1881 when it was founded by three brothers: Robert, William and John Harvey. It was a purpose-built distillery, state of the art for the time. As is the way with Scotch whisky distilleries, except Glenfarclas, it changed hands a number of times before settling down with Invergordon Distillers (now part of Whyte & Mackay) from the 1960s until the ‘90s. Bruichladdich was largely used in blends. At some point in the ‘60s peat was abandoned and the maltings fired by coal instead. So, unlike its neighbours, most Bruichladdich is unpeated. It’s not your typical Islay single malt.

Bruichladdich

The Bruichladdich Distillery today

After some uncertain years, the distillery finally closed in 1994 and was mothballed. That may have been it but a London wine merchant called Mark Reynier was an enormous fan, selling quantities through his business and was heartbroken at his favourite distillery’s closure. As you do, he decided that he was going to buy it. After being rebuffed by the distillery’s owners for many years, he put together a consortium who finally managed to purchase Bruichladdich in 2000. He had two strokes of luck in bringing the name back from the dead. Firstly, the distillery was largely intact and was able to get the original equipment, including a 19th-century cast-iron mash tun, six Oregon pine washbacks and four swan-necked stills, working again. Secondly, Islay whisky hero Jim McEwan was retiring from Bowmore at about the same time and rather than settle into a life of golf and Saga holidays, was looking for a new challenge. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. McEwan’s role in the Bruichladdich revival is portrayed in the film The Golden Dram.

Bruichladdich began working again in 2001 and since then has become famous for doing things a little bit differently. The packaging to start with, you’ll find no tartan or Monarchs of the Glen here. The team has stayed true to the elegant Bruichladdich style with unpeated whisky but they also make the heavily-peated Port Charlotte and the oh-my-god-it’s-so-peaty Octomore (named after a local spring). There’s also an excellent Botanist gin made using a Lomond still which appeared in 2010. All the whiskies are created from Scottish barley and there have been releases made with a rare archaic cereal called bere. If you want to talk about terroir in whisky, it’s a good place to start.

Talking of terroir, Reynier’s latest venture is the Waterford Distillery in Ireland making true single estate whiskey, as well as Renegade rum looking to do a similar thing on the island of Grenada. Bruichladdich was bought by Remy Cointreau in 2012 but seems to have kept what made the distillery special. 

One for your whisky library.

But all this in the future when our New Arrival was distilled. In 1991, it was filled into a refill hogshead (cask number 16883 to be exact) and there it lay for 28 years before being bottled (at cask strength 50.7% ABV with no chill filtering) by Hunter Laing, the Glasgow-based independent bottler who last year moved into distilling with Ardnahoe on Islay. This expression is part of its ‘First Editions’ range, about which the company said: 

“As the name may suggest, each cask is carefully selected to evoke the qualities of a rare literary volume – those of character and collectability. Colour-coding on the labels denotes the particular regions the whiskies themselves are from and each bottle is individually numbered and presented in a gift tube. A ‘First Editions’ bottling without doubt makes a valuable addition to anyone’s whisky library.”

But don’t just leave it on the shelf in your whisky library, you can also drink it. Only 295 bottles have been filled. It’s a slice of history that’s unlikely to hang around. 

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Grassy malt with honeyed cereal, sea breeze and melted butter.

Palate: Spicier than the nose suggests, with cinnamon, nutmeg and toasted oak. Lots of apricot, pear and apple following on.

Finish: Layers of toffee, oat, lemon and black pepper.

Bruichladdich 28 Year Old 1991 (cask 16883) – The First Editions (Hunter Laing) is available now.

 

 

 

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Relicario Peated Finish rum

This week we’re particularly excited about a Dominican rum with a difference, it’s been finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky giving the spirit a subtle smoky…

This week we’re particularly excited about a Dominican rum with a difference, it’s been finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky giving the spirit a subtle smoky quality. 

As the expectation and excitement around the rum category continue to swell, we can expect to see more and more innovative expressions. While some of this experimentation will inevitably make us cringe, there’s also plenty of room for those who create the intriguing and delicious to shine and we’re always happy to help them share some of that spotlight.

Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish

The Dominican Republic, looks nice, doesn’t it?

Take Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish, an aged Dominican rum from Relicario (owned by the Spanish-based Beveland Distillers) that was finished in American oak barrels which previously held peated whisky. It’s simultaneously an interesting drink for seasoned rum lovers and exactly the kind of bottling that will convert whisky drinkers to the joys of rum. It shares a similar production process to the brand’s core expression, Relicario Ron Dominicano, that is until the end of the maturation process. The rums are made from 100% native Dominican sugar cane juice harvested by hand. The sugar cane juice is fermented for 30 hours with yeasts (the distillery reveals this is saccharomyces cerevisiae, which should delight yeast fans), before the spirit is distilled in two different stills. I told you this rum was interesting. It is distilled initially in a continuous column still and then again in a copper pot still, which Relicario says is to create a smoother delivery. 

The rums are then matured in 225 litre American white oak barrels in the Dominican Republic, which means you can expect the humidity and temperatures typical of the Caribbean, as well as some sea breeze, to add to the character of the product. Where Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish differs is that following ageing on the island for between five and ten years, the barrels were transported to Speyside to be matured for a further 6 months in those 250 litre American oak barrels that contained peated whisky.

New Arrival of the Week: Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish

The expression was finished in peated whisky casks from Speyside, not Islay

Yes, that’s right, Speyside. Some of you might have been expecting that maturation to take place at an Islay-based distillery, but Islay holds no monopoly on peated whiskies. Speyside has a few distilleries that embrace the smokier side of things such as Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, BenRiach, Tomintoul and Glen Moray . Relicario doesn’t confirm which distillery housed the whisky and/or provided the casks, so you can have a fun game of ‘guess the distillery’ yourself when you taste it. 

Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish is definitely the kind of bottling that you would consider to be a sipping rum and I would recommend trying it neat, at least initially, so you can pick out the peaty influence. Relicario went for a more subtle style of smoke, which was the right choice in my opinion. The character of the rum isn’t overpowered by the peat, instead, it adds a really pleasant earthy and savoury quality to balance the sweetness of the molasses and vanilla. The nutty elements that come through in the palate predominately are also delightful.

New Arrival of the Week: Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish

The Almond Fashion

And then it’s time to move on to cocktails.  The brand recommends the Almond Fashion, which is essentially a rum Old Fashioned, which I’m very partial too. It’s made by combining 60ml of Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish, 25ml amaretto and a dash of grapefruit bitters. Garnish with an orange twist and a maraschino cherry. The rum still takes centre stage with all those nutty, sweet and smoky notes which the grapefruit bitters complement beautifully.

So, if this sounds like you’re kind of thing or you’re after something a bit different, then you’ll perhaps you’ll plump for a bottle of Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish. It’s now available from Master of Malt and we’ve included our own tasting note below, but be sure to let us know what you think as well!

Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish

Relicario Ron Dominicano Peated Finish Tasting Note:

Nose: Thick treacle, earthy vanilla and gentle sweet peat smoke combine with chocolate digestives and oily toasted nuts.

Palate: Brown sugar, roasted nuts and juicy dried fruit take centre stage before notes of tropical fruit and a hint of salinity emerge in the backdrop.

Finish: Gentle smoke with lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness, a hint of citrus and some cinder toffee.

 

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