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Royal Salute on innovation and Scottish oak

Royal Salute is celebrating a milestone. It’s kicking off the new Kingdom Collection with a 26-year-old whisky that’s fully finished in Scottish oak casks, a first for the brand. We spent…

Royal Salute is celebrating a milestone. It’s kicking off the new Kingdom Collection with a 26-year-old whisky that’s fully finished in Scottish oak casks, a first for the brand. We spent some time with master blender Sandy Hyslop to find out where all this innovation is coming from, and where it’s going. 

How does a Scotch whisky brand created in 1953 avoid getting held back by heritage? Get a master blender like Sandy Hyslop in, that’s how.

If anyone can charm you into the world of not just Scotch whisky, but blended Scotch, it’s him. His passion is pure and infectious, and that’s after nearly 40 years in the industry, beginning in 1983 at Stewarts Cream of the Barley. In September 2016, Hyslop took on the role of director of blending across all of Chivas Brothers’ blended Scotch whisky, including Royal Salute.

Royal Salute Sandy Hyslop

A milestone with Scottish oak

But we’re not looking into the past here, but the future, as are Hyslop and his team. On a freakishly hot week in March, we’re up in Speyside to celebrate the release of the newest addition to the Royal Salute family, the 26 Year Old Scottish Oak Cask Finish. The first release in the brand’s limited-edition Kingdom Collection, it’s the first time Royal Salute has dabbled with Scottish oak, and this is the first time anyone in the world (apart from the blending team, of course) has tried the brand new release. Even Royal Salute marketing director Mathieu Deslandes is in the same boat as us! 

The Scottish oak, a type of quercus alba, is sourced and selected by Hyslop from a single sustainably-managed forest in Scotland, and the wood was dried for two years prior to being made into a cask. “This isn’t just something we’ve dreamt up overnight,” Hyslop clarifies. Specifically, it was dreamt up three years ago. “There are a lot of milestones – we want to know the provenance of the oak, we want to be there when it’s being cut down, we want to dry them properly.” The credentials behind this must be strong. “We don’t just want Royal Salute to be amazing. We want it to be amazing, and everybody know why.”

Royal Salute 26 Year Old Scottish oak

Speyside Cooperage foreman Darren Morrison shows us the types of char they’ve used; medium toast and heavy char (which only takes around 30 seconds of firing to achieve). Hyslop went for this combination to avoid the freshness of virgin oak that’s so divisive, saying he desperately didn’t want any ‘cut wood joiner’s workshop’ flavours. The heavier the char, the better the cask, in Hyslop’s opinion.

The team ordered about 70 Scottish oak casks, which Hyslop isn’t afraid to admit were “eye-wateringly expensive”. He and his team are there from start to finish, from the cutting of the oak to the drying and the barrel-making. “We’re dealing with 26-year-old whisky here,” he tells us. “It’s got a lot to say for itself anyway, so the cask needed to be well-prepared to be able to give a bit of influence.” It went so well that Hyslop has committed to buying this Scottish oak for the next three years.

A rampant flavour uptake

How was Hyslop comfortable sending this precious whisky into a somewhat unknown cask type? “I sampled it every two weeks. That’s how comfortable I felt – not at all!” Needless to say, once you’ve made that call as a blender there’s no going back. It turns out that Scottish oak imparts a wealth of flavour very quickly, so much so that this particular finishing period was just six-and-a-half months long. He tells us that the oak influence was “really rampant – it was freaking me out, actually.” Hyslop makes an interesting point that 26-year-old spirit is much lower in strength than new make, meaning that it draws flavour more slowly from the wood. Just imagine the flavour uptake from freshly-distilled spirit.

Strathisla distillery

The 26-year-old is even more malt-led than the Signature Blend, with second-fill butt-matured Longmorn a crucial part, and Caperdonich adding a whisper of bonfire embers at the finish. “There’s something like 28 different malts in this blend, with a very complicated cask recipe as well,” Hyslop adds. The whisky proportions were crafted specifically for this edition and the Scottish oak was filled with the finished blend, rather than each individual component. “Without a doubt, I designed the blend to suit the cask finish,” he tells us. “We knew it would need to be something pretty robust and flavourful to stand that period of time.” The spirit was ready before the packaging was, so Hyslop had to take the whisky out of the Scottish oak and back into fourth-fill American oak so it didn’t become overpowering. “We couldn’t leave it. We were frightened it was going to go too far, with more oak than spirit influence.”

So where does Scottish oak sit on a scale of spicy European to creamy American oak? Hyslop describes it as gingery spice and dark toffee – “not quite treacle, but dark, dark toffee” – almost immediately. The good news is that the team were so happy with how it turned out that they’ve already refilled the Scottish oak casks from this release: “I think second-fill is going to be ace, but we’ve got no plan for it.” Hyslop is relieved though that he’ll only have to sample the refill casks every month.

Royal Salute 26 Year Old Scottish oak

Hyslop gives us the opportunity to taste the new 26-year-old next to the 21 Year Old Signature Blend. Ripe orchard fruits (think apples and pears), sweet orange marmalade, toffee, and a dash of cinnamon spice are the hallmarks of the Signature Blend. We move onto the 26 Year Old Kingdom Edition, and there’s that dark toffee and stone fruit, but this time with plum and apricot. It’s thicker and sweeter than the original blend. “I know the 26 Year Old is five years older, but you can see the influence of the wood – lovely spicy, toasty, nutty, cinnamon flavours.” 

A licence to fail

What drives the team is the fact that these experiments are blending room-led, rather than demands coming from the marketing department. “Had it not worked out, we wouldn’t have released it,” Hyslop admits. “It was all about knowledge and experimentation at the end of the day. Fortunately, this one worked absolutely perfectly.”

What’s also interesting is that the ceramic decanters are on their way out. In front of me is a new coated glass flagon, and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. If anything, the embossing is sharper than on the ceramic. It’s part of Pernod Ricard’s (owner of Chivas Brothers) move towards making everything either recyclable or compostable by 2025, while still keeping high-end brands like Royal Salute as luxurious as ever – but don’t expect to see them everywhere just yet. 

“It’s a golden period for Royal Salute,” he continues. “We’ve got a phenomenal aged inventory, and the innovation we’ve done over the past few years is a pleasure. So many things that are led by Royal Salute then influence other expressions after. But if people want to copy you, then they’re going to be one step behind you.” Because Hyslop is actively encouraged to experiment, he has something which he calls his ‘licence to fail’, which no doubt encourages him to take risks, and seems to have done the brand a whole lot of good. He clearly relishes his work: “It’s a lot of detail, but it’s loads of fun.” The devil is indeed in the detail, and Hyslop misses nothing. 

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The Nightcap: 26 November

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka… Do you know…

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka…

Do you know what today is? The day when it really hits home how close Christmas is. December, and Advent with it, is next week. This time next month it will be over. We have officially entered the season to be jolly. But you don’t need to panic and suddenly force yourself to feel the Christmas spirit. It’s Friday, relax and take in a nice bundle of stories from the world of booze first.

Other stories we covered this week include our guide to Black Friday 2021, word on Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration, the reforming of Delamain Pale and Dry XO, and shining a spotlight on Brandy de Jerez. We also stirred up a seasonal drink inspired by the ancient Druids rounded up our top 10 Christmas drinks, and found out what #WhiskySanta’s latest Super Wish is.

The Nightcap: 26 November edition!

The Nightcap: 26 November

The first of our amazing whiskies this week

Glenfiddich auctions 42-year-old Scotch whisky

Glenfiddich and Goodwood are teaming up for a pretty special whisky release, which we’re lucky enough to taste. Just three decanters of a 42-year-old Glenfiddich have been released to be auctioned by Bonhams to raise funds for Race Against Dementia at 11:00 on 7 December 2021. The whisky is taken from cask #11136 from Warehouse 8, which is a refill American oak hogshead barrel that has been maturing since 13 April 1979. It’s a celebration of Goodwood’s historic whisky connection, which can be traced back to 1836 when a chance inheritance handed Gordon Castle and its estate to the fifth Duke of Richmond, who was alarmed by his tenant’s illicit distilling and used political influence and commercial nous to ensure distilling became legal; paving the way for  William Grant to build the Glenfiddich Distillery. Each decanter is paired with a VIP experience at a renowned Goodwood motorsport event and a photograph taken and signed by renowned Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch as well as motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE.  Master distiller Brian Kinsman says about the dram that cask #11136 is “a stunning example of Glenfiddich, with an oaky, sweet and long-lasting taste. It has reached a perfection that few casks will ever achieve and is the ideal whisky to celebrate our long-standing relationship with Goodwood.” Each liquid is contained in a hand-blown crystal decanter by renowned French crystal maker Baccarat, and Bonhams have given a low estimate for each lot of £6,500. It’s a great cause and we can confirm the whisky is worthy of the plaudits. Its elegance and balance are astounding. We do hope whoever buys it actually drinks it.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Master of Flavours is made up of whiskies aged for at least 48 years from distilleries like Brora and Glenury Royal.

Johnnie Walker ends series in style with Master of Flavour

In one of his final releases before he retires at the end of the year, Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge has put together the final edition of the cracking Masters range. Johnnie Walker Masters Of Flavour has an ABV of 41.8% and was made with whiskies aged for at least 48 years from ghost distilleries like Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Brora, and Glenury Royal, which was balanced together with whisky from Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. No wonder there’s only 288 bottles priced at £20,000. To create the special release, Beveridge teamed up with previous collaborators Donna Anderson, malt master, James Carson, cask master, and Douglas Murray, distillation master, to pay tribute to the skill of whisky-making. It’s the third and final whisky in the Johnnie Walker Masters series, which includes Ruby Reserve, a celebration of Jim Beveridge’s 30 years working in whisky, and the John Walker Masters’ Edition, a whisky crafted using Scotch aged for a minimum of 50 years from distilleries that were operational during the lifetime of Johnnie Walker founder John Walker. Much like both of them, Masters of Flavour is presented in a Baccarat crystal decanter within a bespoke oak cabinet. Although, it has to be said it does look like a bottle of Haig Club made especially for the Green Goblin. Still, we imagine the whisky itself is outstanding, and excitingly we’ll have a chance to find that out soon…

The Nightcap: 26 November

The new mezcal cask Islay Jazz Festival bottling is sure to get whisky fans chattering

Lagavulin new Jazz Festival bottling is aged in mezcal casks!

The world does slowly seem to be getting back to normal but sadly this year’s Islay Jazz Festival will once again be online only this year. But never fear because sponsor Lagavulin’s annual festival bottling is happening and you can drink it IRL. It’s one that fans won’t want to miss because after initial maturation in refill bourbon casks it then spends an unspecified time in American oak barrels that previously held mezcal! Highly unusual. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% with a 13-year-old age statement, and will cost you £160. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume described it as “The first Lagavulin to be finished in mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.” “Distinctive and unusual” is just right. You probably wouldn’t guess that it had been aged in ex-mezcal casks, but it is hugely spicy and meaty with a strong lingering saline seaweedy finish. There’s also creamy toffee and vanilla lurking beneath stopping it all from getting too much. It’s a fascinating, highly complex dram, that’s sure to get whisky fans chattering. At the moment it’s a distillery-only release but we will let you know if we can get hold of a bottle or two.   

The Nightcap: 26 November

We tried this $30,000 51-year-old whisky. It’s pretty tasty.

Royal Salute releases $30k 51-year-old limited edition

We’ve had some packaging on whisky samples at Master of Malt but still, the arrival of Royal Salute 51 Year Old managed to cause a stir at the office. The 50ml sample came in a solid wooden box wrapped in gold (not real gold, sadly) chains with a combination padlock. It’s the second release in Royal Salute’s ‘Time Series Collection’ made up of casks filled before 1970 including some from ghost distilleries. Only 101 crystal decanters are available. Master blender Sandy Hyslop described it as “an undeniably special expression that blends exceptional style with high-aged whisky. Crafting a Scotch of that age requires intense care and attention to ensure the cask characteristics are perfectly absorbed without being overpowering, and the moment I tested the final blend will stay with me forever; the masterful role that time has played over a minimum of five decades of slow maturation really blew me away. This release is a one-of-a-kind expression, and I am honoured to contribute to the legacy that the outstanding Royal Salute Time Series Collection is making in the world of rare and collectable whisky.” There’s no doubt that it’s a special drop of quite jaw-dropping complexity. On the nose, there’s toffee, peaches, dark chocolate, cinnamon and cardamom with a distinct waxy note like you find in Brora (could this be one of the ghost distilleries in the blend?). The palate is spicy and lively with menthol, manuka honey, Jamaica cake, and a lingering waxy texture. We feel lucky to have had a wee taste especially as at $30,000 a pop we are very unlikely to ever taste it again. Well, we suppose that explains the packaging. 

The Nightcap: 26 November

It’s a masterclass from Ian worth seeing

Ian Burrell takes Equiano on UK rum tour

Global rum ambassador and co-founder of The Equiano Rum Co Ian Burrell is taking to the road this winter with A Tale of Two Rum Islands, a fascinating presentation of the rum-producing histories of Barbados and Mauritius. The event also gives guests the opportunity to taste Equiano Original and Equiano Light and learn the story behind its name, honouring the legacy of African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, as well as learn about the brand’s philanthropic endeavours. The session concludes with a Q&A, a rare chance to get geeky with one of the industry’s leading authorities. Burrell’s first UK tour in five years kicked off in London on 22 November, and we attended and had a blast. He then headed to Brighton (23 November) and will visit Nottingham (30 November) and Manchester (1 December) next, before continuing the tour in January 2022 in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, and Birmingham. We highly recommend it. Equiano is also marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) by teaming up with London bar Duchess of Dalston (from the team behind Callooh Callay) to create an exclusive cocktail and raise money for Anti-Slavery International

The Nightcap: 26 November

No need to panic yet but we do want to see some progress here

Wine and spirits firms warn of Christmas alcohol shortage in UK

There’s no need to panic but… a group of 48 wine and spirits companies have told transport secretary Grant Shapps that Britain will suffer a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the lack of HGV drivers. Businesses including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, and the Wine Society raised concerns over rising costs and supply chain “chaos”, raising the risk that supermarkets will run dry and festive deliveries arrive late. Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that importing products is taking five times longer than a year ago and that small businesses are struggling to compete as delivery firms have had to raise HGV drivers’ wages. Unpredictable arrival times are also resulting in goods being either not ready or are left waiting for collection. The call is for Shapps to extend a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers, which expires in February 2022, to a year, and for the government to smooth congested freight routes from ports, as well as providing regular updates on how many HGV driver licences are being processed by the DVLA. “Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond,” Miles Beale, the WSTA chief executive, summarised. Let’s hope the resolution is forthcoming, and if you do need any booze for Christmas, we might have an idea of where to get some….

The Nightcap: 26 November

Want to serve draught pints at home right in time for Christmas? Now you can

Guinness launches £750 home beer tap

Guinness is launching a limited-edition at-home tap to serve draught pints right in time for Christmas. Following the successful rollout of the technology in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK earlier this year, the system should help you attain a better pint in your own home, although we all know how hard it is to get Guinness right regardless. The new technology is thankfully simple. Just pop a Guinness Microdraft into the pint puller, and the technology itself guides the user on how to conduct the perfect two-part pour. “Guinness Microdraft enables people to enjoy a beautiful looking and delicious tasting Draught Guinness on tap in a completely new setting for the first time ever,” said head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah. “Whether it’s to pour the perfect drink at a festive gathering, a Christmas gift for a friend or family member, or simply to enjoy an iconic drink of the black stuff at home with loved ones, Guinness Microdraft is sure to be a hit among beer lovers.” The Guinness Microdraft Bar Tap will be available to purchase for £750 from 6 December and arrives with four Guinness Microdraft cans and two Guinness pint glasses.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Should we be doing more to enjoy the vast array of different wines available?

The most popular wines in the UK revealed

A new survey, which looked at the preferences in wine varieties of adults of drinking age has revealed the top 10 most popular wines in the UK. Winemaking simulator game Hundred Days, which allows players to “embark on a journey of winemaking,” found the favourite varieties, although there’s not much in the way of surprises. Coming in first place is Pinot Grigio, then Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Rosé rounded up the top five, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and Rioja having to settle for places in the top 10. “Britain is one of the largest importers of wine, taking in over $4 billion worth of crates, bags and bottles in 2020. Yet, our research shows that the nation is largely shying away from expanding their wine repertoire and are stuck in a wine rut – making the same purchases over and over again,” says Yves Hohler, lead designer and co-founder of Broken Arm Games. Typically, they feel their game can make a difference by showcasing the vast array of different wines available. Of course, you could save yourself the effort and just click here

The Nightcap: 26 November

The Christmas tree from 150 repurposed Irish whiskey barrels

Hinch Distillery makes barrel Christmas tree

Getting truly into the festive spirit is Hinch Distillery, which has unveiled a 24ft Christmas tree made from up-cycled whiskey barrels. Topped off with sparkling lights and a big bow, the one-of-a-kind ‘tree’ was made from 150 repurposed Hinch Irish whiskey barrels and took 48 painstaking hours to do. It took a team of eight under the helm of Co Down decoration installer to create the structure, which pays homage to the whiskey distilling process at Hinch, including a globe made from strips that hold the barrels in place. After Christmas, the plan will be to repurpose it for furnishings including chairs and plant pots to make it a year-round installation. Hinch Distillery, which will celebrate its one year anniversary this month, lies between Belfast and Ballynahinch on the Carryduff Road and is nestled in the grounds of the beautiful Killaney Estate, so if you want to see it for yourself, you know where to go. Be sure if you’re interested to see The Whiskey Barrel Christmas Tree light switch-on, which we imagine will be quite a sight. The distillery, which has not yet got its own whiskey, has also bottled a 12-year-old Amarone Cask Finish expression. But that’s just not as impressive as a big barrel tree, is it?

The Nightcap: 26 November

Ever tried Chilli Bacon Vodka before? Now you can. Huzzah.

And finally… Baller launches chilli bacon vodka 

The ‘And finally…’ section of The Nightcap has featured many a mad product before, from the strangest of gins to the most confusing of creations. This week we’ve got a chilli bacon vodka to cast a suspicious eye on, straight from London-based distillery Doghouse. The creators of Baller Vodka, which claims to be the capital’s only vodka made from scratch, dreamt up the new flavour to “disrupt the category” thanks to its “first-of-its-kind” chilli and bacon combination. It’s produced using the brand’s wheat vodka as a base, with Mexican-grown Habanero chillies and a secret ingredient, which apparently isn’t actual bacon, to give it a bacon sweet smokiness. Could be vegan then. Not that I’d imagine that’s the target market. The distillery says to enjoy Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka with dry ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice, or in a Bloody Mary cocktail – which in fairness I can see working. Mostly this will be bought by people needing a joke present or something to shot on stag-dos you’d think. And more power to them. We are, after all, the folks behind this monstrosity

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Sandy Hyslop talks Royal Salute and the art of blending

As Royal Salute returns in typically extravagant style, we’re joined by the man behind the blend, Sandy Hyslop, director of blending and inventory at Chivas Brothers, to learn why Royal…

As Royal Salute returns in typically extravagant style, we’re joined by the man behind the blend, Sandy Hyslop, director of blending and inventory at Chivas Brothers, to learn why Royal Salute is in a golden age, what the secret to blending well-aged whisky is and why Malbec casks are worth the cost.

Royal Salute is back with another limited edition whisky: the 21-Year-Old Polo Estancia Edition. It’s the brand’s first blend to be fully finished in Argentinian Malbec wine casks, a tribute to Argentina’s love of polo, a sport Royal Salute has a long-standing affinity with. It sponsors more than 15 international tournaments and the whisky even has polo legend Malcolm Borwick’s endorsement. 

But this is a drinks blog, not a lifestyle magazine, so I know you’re much more interested in the whisky itself. And the man to speak to about that is the master blender, Sandy Hyslop. He’s come a long way since he got his start in the whisky industry in 1983 at Stewarts Cream of the Barley. He worked in the sample room as an assistant, a job his dad liked as he was able to study chemistry at Robert Gordon’s in Aberdeen at the same time. Hyslop soon found himself filling in a number of roles in the small company, learning the trade of vatting and bottling as well as working in the warehouse and in the inventory department. 

But blending was always where his heart was. He was soon asked to go to the parent company’s main site in Dumbarton to work with head blender, Jack Goudie. “I was fortunate I’d been able to work right across the whole process so it gave me a broad palate when I started working with the legendary Jack,” Hyslop recalls. “Jack used to give me lots of lessons. He always said ‘it will take you 30 years to build the brand Sandy and it will only take you one bad batch to lose it. If you work to that ethos you’ll never get caught out’. And he’s right”.

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

Say hello to Sandy Hyslop!

The guidance obviously paid off. Hyslop has been blending Scotch whisky ever since, working at Allied Distillers from 1994 and then for Pernod Ricard when it took over in 2005. When the French drinks giants came into town, Hyslop was given the reins to oversee the whole Chivas Brothers portfolio, looking after the inventory and even helping with cask purchasing. “I’m very lucky. Cask purchasing is not managed by a procurement department where we’re desperately looking for the best price. It’s the same with the laboratory and technical side. It’s about not just blending the right whiskies but laying the right stock down for the future”. 

Hyslop is loath to point out that by the time distillate he was working on the morning we spoke is used in a Royal Salute blend, he’ll be retired. You can tell he’s genuinely gutted he won’t see these projects through and his enthusiasm for the brand and its history is infectious. Royal Salute was created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and the 21 gun salute that honoured her. The youngest age a whisky can be in one of its blends is 21-years-old and a total of 14 distilleries, including Strathisla and Longmorn contribute some of its finest stock. “It’s a whisky I always admired,” Hyslop says. 

It’s not hard to see why. The portfolio is something of a blender’s dream. Few get to play with such an array of whisky, including stock that can reach 50+ years old. It’s a risky game, however. Mess it up and you’ve wasted precious liquid worth thousands of pounds. So, how does Hyslop do it? “My team understands long maturations and appreciates different fills of cask. It’s a balancing act learnt over many years. A first-fill cask is not the be-all-and-end-all when you are blending something that’s so old. I desperately don’t want too much oak flavour. I want the distillate character to be able to shine through too. So I am using second-fill casks in the blends to get that balance of flavour right. The rich, sweet, opulent character should be complemented by the lovely, toasted oak-vanilla notes coming from the cask, not completely overpowered with it”.  

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

Hyslop thinks more and more people are appreciating the beauty of the blend

Hyslop thinks the category is increasingly making whisky lovers question the notion that the finest drams are all single malts. “I love single malts. They give you the profile of the distillery and four or five real key signature flavours that can be really enjoyable. But many of them won’t have the spread of flavours that a blended whisky does,” Hyslop says. “They’re so multifaceted. Particularly once you play with finishes, adding the influence from different cask types and different distilleries. It’s such a complex offering”. 

Hyslop is kept busy by his art, with something like 42 new product development projects underway now across all the brands at Chivas Brothers. He isn’t overwhelmed by this prospect, however, but invigorated. “I am actively encouraged to go and try new things. I have a ‘license to fail’, to experiment with different casks and techniques. I also have the luxury of a significant inventory, with 365 warehouses all over Scotland. And the joy of nurturing each whisky since the day it was distilled and filled into casks all the way through that maturation journey to come out the other end, to make Royal Salute”. 

This perspective is fueling something of a golden age for Hyslop, who says the brand is constantly pushing the art of blending into new, creative, and ambitious forms. “In recent years we have been really innovative. I think Royal Salute has absolutely found its feet. It’s been quite humble over the years. But now we’re branching out with these one-off magnificent expressions with unique briefs. It’s such great fun, it’s genuinely like a hobby. You can tweak the blend by making it slightly more malt orientated or putting in a lot more of one distillery, and then there’s the luxury of being able to bring in exotic casks”. 

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

A golden age for Royal Salute?

The creative juices were obviously flowing for the Polo Estancia. Hyslop air-freighted freshly emptied Malbec casks from Argentina to Scotland (at great expense, he says) and did a trial batch to ensure the process would work. “About 80% of the casks were filled with whisky, then the rest were left empty to see how they handle a transit situation. From that, I was able to gauge the amount of flavour pickup you were getting. We were cautious to make sure we weren’t going to lose a lot of 21-year-old spirit on a crazy plan that wasn’t going to work. Once the whiskies were filled in those Malbec casks I checked them every four weeks to see the variation from cask to cask. That is how particular I am!”

The precision paid off. The 21-Year-Old Polo Estancia Edition retains the signature Royal Salute profile (I think sweet pear and peaches, Hyslop concurs) and it’s got the elegant, supple mouthfeel we’ve come to expect from Royal Salute. The depth and variety are there too, as the Malbec cask finish complements the whisky rather than competes with it. The rich, velvety mouthfeel kept me coming back for more, as did a distinct raspberry note, a bit like homemade raspberry jam. It’s a worthy dram to salute the master blender with.

The Royal Salute 21 Year Old Polo Estancia Edition Tasting Note:

Nose: Lots of ripe raspberry and blueberry initially with jam roly-poly, vanilla ice cream and toffee pennies in support. Warm gingerbread, liquorice, tinned peaches, hazelnut chocolate, rose water, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Palate: Blackberries, dark chocolate and crème brûlée lead with a tremendous variety of rich, fruity notes underneath with charred pineapple, tart cranberry, orange marmalade and Conference pear. Acacia honey, nutmeg, liquorice is present underneath along with sandalwood, treacle toffee, soft woody tannins as well as some old leather and mint.

Finish: Long and sweet with a slightly dry and gingery finish.

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The Nightcap: 6 December

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them! December has arrived, and while some people…

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them!

December has arrived, and while some people are counting down to Christmas, other people are counting down to something completely different, though the event occurs on the same day. I am of course talking about Roast Potatocalypse. The day roast potatoes fear the most. So eagerly I await the day, but to pass the time, let us indulge in another edition of The Nightcap!

Over on the blog #WhiskySanta was feeling particularly festive as he made Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old his Super Wish this week, while we began to tuck into our Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Check out each day (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) to see which delightful dram hid behind each window and for a fabulous Q&A with a key figure at the distillery. Elsewhere, we announced the winner of our Jarrod Dickenson competition and revealed what Dram Club members can expect from December, before Adam cast a spotlight on Ron Izalco. Henry, meanwhile, got stuck into some of 2019’s best drink books and an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer for our New Arrival of the Week as Annie Hayes hung out with Sir Ranulph Fiennes to talk rum, as you do, and still found time to enjoy a Hard Seltzer.

Now let’s press on, the Nightcap awaits!

The Nightcap

Richard Paterson created the impressive bottling from two ex-sherry casks filled in 1951!

The Dalmore unveils rare 60 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky

There is only one way to celebrate 180 years of creating delicious whiskies, with a limited-edition pink gin. Just kidding. The Dalmore has marked the occasion by releasing a spectacular 60-year-old single malt whisky. The Dalmore 60 Year Old was created by master distiller Richard Paterson, who reunited two extremely rare ex-sherry casks from six decades ago which were first filled with spirit first distilled on 7th June 1951. The two twin casks were the last of the Mackenzie era when the Mackenzie clan owned the distillery, which ended in 1988 when Colonel Hector ‘HAC’ Mackenzie passed away. Under their stewardship, The Dalmore established long-standing relationships with suppliers to source casks that remain to this day and took the decision to adorn each decanter with the distinctive Royal stag. “Over the course of the past 180 years, The Dalmore has constantly strived for perfection, setting the standards for many other whisky makers today. The Dalmore 60 Year Old is a fitting tribute to the masterful talents of our distillers past and present, who have all helped to create an incredible body of work,” said Paterson. “For me personally, nurturing and caring for these two casks has been a true labour of love. The reunion of the two spirits has produced an unforgettable whisky that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.” The Dalmore 60 Years Old is limited to just one decanter, which will be unveiled at an exclusive celebration at The Dalmore’s Highland home, before embarking on a global tour to Shanghai, Los Angeles, Taipei, and London. Further details will be announced in due course, which you can find on the Dalmore website.

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The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute launches The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute and insanely old whisky fanatics, hold onto your hats. “Amplified and way more luxurious than anything before,” is how master blender Sandy Hyslop introduced the brand new Royal Salute expression, The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish. This has been a labour of love and immense skill, periodically sampled every 18 months. At 38 years old, Hyslop decided not to bottle the whisky, oh no. He decided it was time to move it to another cask to be finished for 14 more years in American oak. “I desperately didn’t want the cask influence to be too much here,” Hyslop tells us. You’d be forgiven for thinking that over five decades in oak would result in a dry and woody whisky, but this is anything but. It dances between sweet and spicy, with the hallmark Royal Salute syrupy pear notes in there too. When we headed to a mysterious clock tower in St. Pancras to try it (Time Series, clock tower… we see what you did there Royal Salute), we were the only group outside Hyslop and his blending team to try have tasted the liquid in its finished form, which is pretty mind-boggling. Enough of that, we’re sure you’re eager to know how it tastes. The nose is sweet, thick and juicy, with plums, dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon. The palate is mouth-coating to another level, revealing sweet liquorice, pears in syrup, orange marmalade and candied ginger, with a finish which goes on for almost as long as the whisky was aged itself! Of course, the spectacular whisky is presented with in an individually-numbered hand-blown Dartington Crystal decanter, alongside a stunning box featuring five layers of wood, each representing a decade of the blend. Whisky collectors, this one’s for you. There’s only 106 bottles, and if you have a spare $30,000 burning a hole in your bank account, we’d thoroughly suggest trying it.

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Wright Brothers gin, worth shelling out for

Wright Brothers launch Half Shell Gin

When sustainability and delicious boozes come together, it makes us very happy here at MoM Towers. So, when we were invited to try the new Half Shell Gin from Wright Brothers, made with reused oyster shells from the London-based restaurant group, we jumped at the chance, hook, line and sinker! To create the spirit, Wright Brothers partnered with The Ginstitute distillery of West London, using the thousands of oyster shells which the restaurant goes through each year. “We use Carlingford oyster shells, which are cold-macerated in neutral spirit and then distilled,” says Ivan Ruiz, Wright Brothers beverage manager. “We then add a percentage of the distillation to the gin. The oyster-shell taste is then balanced with a kelp seaweed, and other ingredients like juniper and Amalfi lemon. The result is a savoury gin with high mineral notes and a pink pepper finish.” We can absolutely vouch for that, it was thoroughly delicious. The outstanding seafood was accompanied by a G&T and a Martini, both showcasing Half Shell Gin. The Martini is an absolute winner, slightly savoury, well-balanced and exceptionally smooth. Visually, it’s an absolute joy, and seeing hundreds of oysters served up while we were sitting at the bar sipping on the very gin made from the shells is pretty cool. “We’d thought about creating our own wine, but we feel gin, especially this gin, reflects both our restaurants and the city we call home,” says Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers. You can grab a bottle of your own at Wright Brothers restaurants, or choose to sip it in their wonderful cocktails.

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Congratulations, guys!

Irish Distillers takes home the World Whiskey Producer of the Year trophy

It’s fair to say Irish Distillers had a good time at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London last week. It scored the highest number of medals across its portfolio of Irish whiskeys throughout the 2019 awards season, beating distillers from Japan, Ireland and the USA. Midleton Distillery claimed 24 award wins, including the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy for Redbreast 12 Year Old, while there was gold medals for the Powers Three Swallows release, Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old, Redbreast 15 Year Old and Red Spot 15 Year Old. Jameson Cooper’s Croze and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy also scored 98 points out of 100, as Irish Distillers ended the evening with the most Gold Outstanding honours within the Irish whiskey category. But above all that, the Irish whiskey producers were given the prestigious title of World Whiskey Producer of the Year. “We are honoured to be recognised as World Whiskey Producer of the Year by one of the most respected awards bodies, and to see such outstanding results across the portfolio,” said Tommy Keane, production director at Irish Distillers. “This trophy is a tribute to the incredibly hard-working passionate and skilled craftsmen and women at Midleton – 2019 has truly been a landmark year for Irish Distillers.”

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call an immersive floral installation

St. Germain at Heddon Street Kitchen

We know that it’s dark and cold, but one of the best things about winter is all the awesome festive pop-ups! The latest one we popped along to was St-Germain’s Winter Bloom Experience at Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen. The immersive floral installation is golden, shiny and full of fairy lights and all things elderflower. We were told that the semi-dried flowers even have to be touched up every couple of weeks, which is more attention than we give our house plants. Each of the four serves has a suggested food pairing, created in collaboration with the team at Heddon Street Kitchen. Our personal favourites were the cockle-warming Cidre Chaud (St. Germain, Calvados, cider, star anise and lemon) and the light, refreshing Winter Spritz (St. Germain, Prosecco and soda). If you love elderflower like nothing else, this is the spot for you, though serves like Le Grand Fizz (St. Germain, Grey Goose vodka, lime and soda) aren’t overwhelmingly floral if you’re not mad for it. You’ll find the cosy floral hideaway at the restaurant all throughout the month of December. Perhaps a spot to keep in mind to treat yourself to a post-Oxford Street Christmas shopping session. 

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Responsible and festive, you don’t often pair those two together!

Beer brewed with recycled Christmas Tree needles launched

Being both sustainable and festive isn’t easy, but Lowlander Beer has managed with a Winter IPA brewed with recycled Christmas tree spruce needles. Part of the zero-waste ‘From Tree to Tipple’ campaign from the award-winning Netherlands Botanical Brewery, The Winter IPA is the result of last year’s initiative which collected unwanted Christmas trees to turn into beer. This year the brand has gone one further and made its Christmassy creation available to purchase as a gift pack from Not On The High Street and from other retailers throughout December. The profile of the beer isn’t dark and heavy as you would suspect from a wintery beer, but instead, it’s a light, refreshing White IPA brewed with juniper berries alongside the unconventional spruce needles. Expect a piney aroma alongside the hoppy & light citrus character. Over six hundred kilos of needles were needed to produce the 2019 batch of Winter IPA. Although only the needles were needed to brew Lowlander’s Winter IPA, the brewery reused every piece of the donated trees in limited-edition products, including bottles of a new creation: Lowlander Botanical Brut, a limited-edition sparkling beer made with spruce and Champagne-inspired Riesling yeast, available in the UK from 2020. Commenting on the release, chief botanical officer Frederik Kampman said, “Every December, about 2.5 million real trees bring Christmas spirit into our homes. By New Year, most of these end up in the chipper, on bonfires or piled at the roadside. We have found another use for them: in beer.” 

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The lovely, lovely Brora whisky on offer made us excited for the silent distillery’s future

Brora ramps up 200th-anniversary celebrations

What a year it’s been for silent Highland Scotch whisky distillery Brora. The momentum first got going back in 2017 when parent company Diageo announced it was going to reopen both Brora and Port Ellen, the iconic distillery over on Islay. Then, in August this year, we got word of a very special 40-year-old expression, developed to commemorate Brora’s 200th birthday (more on this shortly). And just last month, the distillery’s historic stills were whisked away for refurbishment – bringing that all-important reawakening a significant step closer. So when we were invited to a dinner earlier this week to celebrate it all, we just had to be there. Also in attendance were senior archivist, Jo McKerchar, and the Brora master distiller to be, Stewart Bowman. We looked at plans for the restored site (pop September 2020 in the diaries, folks), historical documents from the old distillery, and basically, had a thoroughly lovely time (and yes, we did get to taste that 40 year old – it’s rounded, and elegant, and like the robust smokiness of Brora but dressed up in a black-tie gown or tuxedo. We liked. A lot.). 2019 shall forever be known as the Year of Brora – until 2020 comes around and the closed distillery reawakens from its slumber. Bring it on!

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The biodegradable drinking straw is made from up-cycled agave

Jose Cuervo unveils ‘sustainable’ agave straws

We all now know plastic is the scourge of the earth (all hail David Attenborough), and that single-use bits and bobs are now about as welcome as the common cold. But sometimes straws are just, well, needed. Step forward Tequila brand Jose Cuervo, with has teamed up with scientists at BioSolutions Mexico and production types at Mexico-based PENKA to create agave-based straws! They’re made from upcycled agave fibres (the raw material in Tequila and mezcal) and are biodegradable. More than a million of them will be sent out across the US and Mexico in 2020. “The past, present, and future of Jose Cuervo is tied directly to the agave plant – without it, we would not exist,” said Alex Coronado, Cuervo’s master distiller and head of operations. “As the Tequila industry worldwide booms, it is our company’s responsibility as the leader to take care of the agave plant and ensure that we are producing tequila sustainably. It takes an average of six years to grow an agave plant before it is mature enough to harvest for Tequila production, and we have to be committed to finding more ways to use the agave fibres once that process is complete. The debut of our biodegradable, agave-based drinking straws is a new step in utilising the full potential of this very special Mexican agricultural product.” Now, agave is far from the most sustainable raw material for spirits (think: monocrop issues and all the energy requirements for all that processing), but it certainly seems like a mammoth step in the right direction. Good riddance, plastic!

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Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington

Graham’s releases 1940 tawny Port

Now you have the chance to taste a little bit of history as Port house Graham’s, part of the Symington group, has announced the release of single harvest tawny from 1940, a blend of two exceptional casks. Wine from this period are extremely rare not just because of their great age but because with Port’s principal markets at war, very little was made.  Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington commented: “It’s not often we have the privilege of releasing a wine that is eight decades old and bears such unique historical significance. The 1940 Single Harvest really is remarkably refined and balanced, offering a reflection not only of the quality of the original wine but the skilled care and attention it received from our forebears.” Yours for around £800. Interest in old single harvest tawny Ports (aged in barrel as opposed to vintage Ports that are aged in bottle) has been increasing in recent years. The 1940 is the final part of Graham’s Cellar Master’s Trilogy of old tawnies, joining the 1994 and 1963. It’s old but not as old as the special 90 year old tawny the company released in 2016, a blend of three years 1912 , 1924 and 1935, released to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

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Keep your gin safe with an Edinburgh Gin Safe

And finally. . . protect your precious boozes with the Edinburgh Gin Safe

Tired of flatmates or relatives pilfering your favourite gin? Well, the boffins at Edinburgh Gin have come up with the answer: a gin safe. Available directly from the distiller, your safe consists of a clear box containing a full bottle of gin with the contents safely secured with a padlock. The only way to open it is to solve a cryptic puzzle which will reveal the combination for the lock. Neil Mowat, UK marketing director of Edinburgh Gin, commented: “Given Christmas is the most wonder-filled time of the year, we wanted to bring some of our own distinctive magic to the concept of gift wrapping with our gin safes. Designed with the ultimate gin fan in mind, they’ll be able to see the reward that’s waiting for them, but they’ll need to have a little fun first to unlock the wonder within.” All great fun but we can see a problem that owners might forget the code after too much eggnog. . . or perhaps that’s the point. 

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We taste the new Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish in Seville

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and…

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and creative advisor Barnabé Fillion to learn all about the history and processes behind the blend.

“I think we’ve been pretty humble with Royal Salute for years and years,” Sandy Hyslop tells me. His pride is evident and, after a few days in Seville learning all about the brand, I can see why. It’s the only whisky brand which has consistently has a 21 year old expression since its origins in 1953, which is also the youngest blend in the brand’s portfolio. Royal Salute was first created as a gift for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the inspiration for the latest release, a 29 Year Old blended malt finished in Pedro Ximénez casks, came from the Queen’s first royal visit to Spain in 1988, hence the sherry wood. Rather appropriately, the new expression is presented in a deep red ornate porcelain bottle, rather than the blue we’ve seen before. 

royal salute 29 year old

The Royal Salute 29 Year Old PX finish, in all its glory!

The whisky

This is a first for Royal Salute, which hasn’t finished a whisky exclusively in sherry casks before. “With this release, we’ve done everything as it should be done,” says Hyslop. The blend was finished in sherry casks for 18 months or so, though the processes to source the casks began around four years before the whisky entered the wood. The casks used for this expression are custom-made from Spanish oak to hold Royal Salute. PX is so viscous that if it’s filled straight into new oak, it won’t be able to permeate the wood. So, after the cask has been dried for around 18 months, it’s first filled with Oloroso sherry for two years to prep it for the PX. Hyslop and Fillion even popped over to Spain to choose exactly which PX they wanted.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

The Ave Maria orange grove, not a bad spot for lunch…

We make our way to the Ave Maria orange grove just outside of Seville. Wandering through the orange trees and scent of orange blossom, we come to a clearing that is to be where we have lunch. Next to a glass of the 29 Year Old there is an incredibly dark, viscous liquid, revealed to be the PX sherry used to season the whisky casks. No wonder they chose this one: it’s like nectar, dried fruits galore, choc full of cherries and liquorice. There are murmurs around the table, many people are saying that this has converted them to sherry, and that they can’t wait to try some when they get back home. Hyslop later tells me, “they’re going to be so disappointed.” This PX is over and above exceptional.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Sandy Hyslop tasting us through the awesome PX sherry.

Then it’s time to try the whisky. “The first time, seven years ago that I tried Royal Salute, Seville orange was the first thing I picked up,” Fillion tells me. What better spot to try the whisky than here? On the nose, there is indeed that classic Royal Salute chunky orange marmalade, along with sandalwood, treacle toffee, ginger spice, liquorice and loads of plump sultanas. It’s incredibly rich and complex on the palate, and tried next to the PX, the sherry influence shines. There’s plum, honey, dark chocolate-coated almonds, and more treacle toffee. Vanilla and syrupy fruits appear, with prickles of spice around the edge. The finish just goes on and on, taking an age to disappear thanks to the use of top quality casks. 

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Barnabé Fillion and some Seville orange. On the nose of the whisky, on the trees, it’s everywhere!


“A 29 Year Old in a sherry cask… It was a dream for me,” professional nose Barnabé Fillion tells me. Fillion has been in the perfume business for most of his adult life, having created scents for brands like Aesop while also working as an independent perfumer, joining Royal Salute as creative advisor for the brand in 2016. Evening draws in, and a sensory dinner (which is really more of a banquet) hosted by Fillion awaits us for our final evening in Seville. He begins by telling us the 95% of your sensory experience comes from your nose; now there’s no excuse for not nosing your whisky first. He wants to flood our senses, giving us new experiences and olfactory memories. “You may end up feeling a bit overwhelmed, but this is sort of the point,” Fillion says. To help us dissect the nose of the 29 Year Old, Fillion has deconstructed it scent by scent. Various oils are dipped onto paper, there’s incense, and some scents are presented on 3D printed ceramic, which more accurately replicates how a scent appears on your skin.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Incense, flowers and whisky – Fillion’s sensory dinners have it all!

Sandalwood incense is passed around the table, leaving a trail of aromatic smoke, as well as sandalwood oil, which has an almost milky scent while still remaining dry. Then there’s the rare scent of vanilla orchid, which is creamy and intensely floral. Then, vanilla extract obtained through Co2 extraction comes around, which captures it in its purest form, and at first nobody is quite sure what it is. Usually vanilla is associated with sweetness, though this is so earthy and raw. The point of this is to pick up these subtle notes in the whisky, which we have to nose alongside these various scents. 

If you were to hold your nose while eating or drinking something, then you wouldn’t be able to taste anything. It’s why having a cold is totally rubbish. So, scent has a huge impact on our taste, and they are completely intertwined. Having said that, smell and olfactory is pretty subjective as it relies on your past experiences, smells and memories. So how does somebody like Fillion ensure that each person gets the same experience out of a certain scent? Well… he doesn’t. “I don’t want to standardise your experience, I don’t even want to guide it,” Fillion tells me. “I just want to plant some little seeds that will make your tasting even more interesting.” For Fillion, the whole idea of this olfactory is to “celebrate your subjectivity and life experience,” and give us the vocabulary to describe our sensory experience, rather than create it.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Hyslop and Fillion, the dream team!

What’s next?

“I think this is a bit of a golden period for us,” Hyslop tells me, referring to the explosion of new releases for the brand. Throughout his tenure Hyslop has made history, bringing three new expressions into the range where only one stood before for decades, with the Malts Blend and Lost Blend released earlier this year, and now the 29 Year Old. He’s not done yet either, and is now laying down casks that he will never see come to fruition, the responsibility of future stock on his shoulders. So, what’s next for the brand? Quite simply, more experimentation, namely in the form of cask finishes. “We need to start saying, ‘this is what else we can do’,” says Hyslop. “If we want to do Port, we’ll try and do Port.” Of course, whatever cask finish comes next will go through the same rigorous process to seek perfection. “Consumers want different things now,” Hyslop continues. “If it’s not right, we’re not doing it.” That in itself sums up why Royal Salute has had such success, as well as only a small handful of core releases throughout its 66 years.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

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Royal Salute unveils new drams and makeover

Royal Salute is toasting a couple of delightful additions to its signature range with its first-ever blended malt and permanent peated whisky, as well as a fancy new makeover. Back…

Royal Salute is toasting a couple of delightful additions to its signature range with its first-ever blended malt and permanent peated whisky, as well as a fancy new makeover.

Back in May, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Aynhoe Park, a Grade I listed, 17th-century country house in the Cotswolds, by Royal Salute, who promised big news. But before we get to that, we need to discuss the venue.

It’s like the Mad Hatter’s summer house. There are stuffed giraffes with bow ties and bowler hats. A herd of (unstuffed) white stags roam in the fields outside. There’s even an underground nightclub. Somehow, none of this was the most exciting part of our adventure, however.

That was to come in the form of delicious Scotch whisky, as Royal Salute revealed the reason why we were all assembled was so it could show off its brand new look and two delicious drams: The Lost Blend and The Malts Blend. We’ll get to the makeover later, but we know you really want to hear all about the two additions to the signature 21 Year Old range.

Master blender Sandy Hyslop was visibly excited about them himself at the event. “As master blender for Royal Salute, there is no greater honour than protecting the continuity of the blend that was first created in 1953 and has remained exceptional ever since,” he explained. “But to have the opportunity to create something entirely new for this sensational portfolio – an elevated Scotch evoking the signature Royal Salute style but with its own unique characteristics – that’s truly the dream.”

Without further ado, let’s take a look at them…

Royal Salute

Aynhoe Park: it’s wild.

Royal Salute The Lost Blend

Our first newcomer is The Lost Blend, which includes scarce whiskies from distilleries no longer in production such as Caperdonich and Dumbarton (much like the Lost Distilleries Blend). Whisky from the Imperial Distillery is said to be at the heart of the blend, which is a fitting choice for Royal Salute, a brand that has obvious connections to royalty. Imperial was named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, while the distillery itself topped with a gilded cast-iron crown in tribute to the momentous event.

Available exclusively at Duty-Free stores around the world, the Lost Blend is the first permanent peated whisky to join the Royal Salute range alongside The Signature Blend. The expression is, of course, presented in Royal Salute’s new-look packaging and housed in a crafted porcelain flagon.

“Including some of the scarcest whiskies in our inventory, The Lost Blend celebrates the legacy of some of the best whisky distilleries in Scotland which I am proud to immortalise in an exceptional new 21 Year Old blend”, Hyslop said of the whisky. In the press notes, we were told to expect notes of sweet, juicy pears, orange rind, hazelnuts and aromatic peat from The Lost Blend. Here’s what we thought of it:

Royal Salute

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Lost Blend

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Lost Blend

Nose: Bergamot, banana milkshake and crème brûlée initially, then ripe barley, some drying ginger and sharp Granny Smith Apples. An aroma of incense and charred pineapple add depth underneath.

Palate: Through bonfire embers, cinder toffee and conference pear there’s light oak char, freshly baked gingerbread and earthy vanilla. There’s a note of lemon and orange sherbets present in the backdrop.

Finish: Caramelised tropical fruit and aromatic peat linger.

Royal Salute The Malts Blend

The second addition is The Malts Blend (my personal highlight), which was crafted with more than 21 single malts aged for a minimum of 21 years from the five whisky regions of Scotland. Royal Salute’s hot new makeover is also present in The Malts Blend’s packaging, which is housed in a crafted porcelain flagon. Because consistency is key.

“Like a symphony, each of the single malts ‘performing’ in this blend complement and enhance one another’s unique flavours and together create the final composition,” commented Hyslop. “Working with the finest single malts to create The Malts Blend was extremely special, and from the moment you taste the super-sweet richness of this blend, with its hints of spice, it’s clear that this whisky is nothing short of magic”.

Royal Salute says that The Malts Blend is an “indulgent and profound Scotch whisky” that’s bursting with notes of orchard fruits and enriched by subtle spices. Once again, here’s what we think:

Royal Salute

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Malts Blend

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Malts Blend

Nose: Ripe nectarines, homemade blackberry compote and crème brûlée, then stem ginger and cardamom ponds. The nose then develops into notes of apricot yoghurt, marzipan icing and vanilla ice cream with golden syrup drizzled on top. It’s a deeply beautiful, nostalgic nose.

Palate: More baking spice, ginger powder this time and a rush of tannin oak initially, followed by sticky sultanas, toffee apples and sponge cake drenched in honey. Delicate florals and a little black pepper heat are present underneath.

Finish: Stone fruit in syrup, which lasts an age, with a hint of cooked banana.

Royal Salute

Royal Salute showed off its new look at Aynhoe Park

The new-look Royal Salute

The makeover, meanwhile, was created in collaboration with artist Kristjana S. Williams. “We wanted to create something special for our Signature 21 Year Old. This is, after all, a whisky first created for royalty. The result is a fun, vibrant take on our rich heritage that brings to life our royal legacy with a colourful depiction of the British Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from a Scotch whisky,” commented Mathieu Deslandes, Royal Salute’s marketing director. “There has never been a more exciting time for our brand. With a bold new look across our packaging that speaks to our unique quality, craft and personality, we’re raising the bar for Scotch whisky. And we’re only just getting started.”

The packaging really is something, especially the Royal Salute lion, crooked crown and all, looking over his colourful kingdom. It’s quite the scene. There are patriotic fluttering tartan butterflies, one very fashionable owl and plenty of nods to the production process of Royal Salute whisky like oak casks, a rushing river and Speyside distillery. It’s quite a departure from the classic Royal Salute look. It also has to be said, the more you look at the design, the more Aynhoe Park makes sense as a venue. It literally had a lion with a crown in the dining room. I want to go back.

Things are certainly looking good for Royal Salute, in and out of the bottle. We’re looking forward to seeing what they do next.

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How did The Glenlivet, Chivas Regal and Jameson perform in 2018?

With Pernod Ricard’s full-year sales results hot off the press, we take a peek at how the likes of Scotch whiskies The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, Ireland’s Jameson, Cognac brand…

With Pernod Ricard’s full-year sales results hot off the press, we take a peek at how the likes of Scotch whiskies The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal, Ireland’s Jameson, Cognac brand Martell and Absolut vodka fared in 2017/18. Spoiler alert: Scotch wasn’t the star of the show…

It’s results season, folks! Big companies left, right and centre are publishing their annual (or quarterly) reports, giving us an insight into how they’re getting on sales-wise. Today it’s the turn of Pernod Ricard to disclose its full-year data to the end of June. We had a nose through the docs and crunched the numbers to see how some of the world’s biggest drinks brands got on…

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Royal Salute unites master blender and perfumer with latest whisky

Perfume and Scotch whisky may seem like unlikely bedfellows. However, Royal Salute 28 Year Old – Kew Palace Edition, the latest release from the distillery’s annual Flask Collection series, demonstrates…

Perfume and Scotch whisky may seem like unlikely bedfellows. However, Royal Salute 28 Year Old – Kew Palace Edition, the latest release from the distillery’s annual Flask Collection series, demonstrates how the two worlds can harmonise to create something truly unique…

We’ve previously explored the interesting crossover between perfume and Scotch whisky. The two have plenty in common: both are luxury elixirs, both are crafted by specialists and both attempt to create aromas that become a mode for recalling memories.

That partnership of perfume and whisky has arisen once again thanks to Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition. The latest addition to the acclaimed annual Flask Collection range was inspired by London’s Kew Palace (the charming former home of George III) and the substantial sensory experience that is its iconic Kitchen Garden, and was created from a collaboration between Chivas Brothers’ director of blending Sandy Hyslop and famed perfumer Barnabé Fillion. This is the first time in Royal Salute’s history that a master blender has teamed up with someone else to make a new expression.

We spoke to both Hyslop and Fillion about the latest offering from the luxury whisky brand to see what whisky can learn from perfume, what whisky can do to broaden its horizons and what memories the new edition evokes for the pair.

Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection - Kew Palace Edition

Sandy Hyslop and Barnabé Fillion

Master of Malt: What attracted you to this project?

Fillion: Having spent years working in the olfactory and perfume world, my experience and approach is very much related to flowers and plants, which is why I felt such a real affinity with Kew Gardens. The creation of Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition was also an unmissable opportunity to collaborate with Sandy Hyslop, someone who I’ve long admired for his unparalleled knowledge and expertise when it comes to creating distinctive and truly special prestige whiskies.

Hyslop: Being able to work with Barnabé was a big draw for this project. Last year’s Flask Edition release was a great success, so the benchmark was already set for the 28 Year Old Kew Palace Edition. We knew we needed a different approach that would make this iteration stand out, and Barnabé has been working on the Royal Salute brand as a creative advisor for many years now. The 28 Year Old Kew Palace Edition also provided an opening for the very first collaboration under my tenure at Royal Salute, and it’s been an absolute pleasure.

MoM: What’s the key to creating a distinct aroma?

Fillion: You know you’ve created something special the moment it touches and moves you. It could be a classic, faceted or disruptive ingredient, as long as it procures an emotion that you haven’t known before. You have to bring the inspiration of a scent to life, giving it all the attention it requires and that’s what’s key to a distinct aroma.

MoM: After so many blends, what’s the key to having original ideas and making sure each blend has its own personality?

Hyslop: We wanted to create something to inspire and excite our consumers, but it had to be rooted in the Royal Salute style because that’s what people trust. Creating a new and original blend comes down to experimentation and extensive experience of how tastes, scents, and flavours will work together. That’s why Barnabé’s input was so important, helping us to embody the scented flora Kew Gardens is renowned for while delivering a bespoke blend that also remains true to Royal Salute’s signature style. We’re always experimenting and trying new things; different flavour expressions, different cask finishes and more. Limited editions and collaborations like this are particularly innovative in the Scotch whisky category.

Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection - Kew Palace EditionAttempting to find the sweet smell of succes

MoM: What’s the challenge when working with whisky?

Fillion: Sandy and I quickly discovered that we have two very different jobs and speak two very different languages in our respective worlds. We used this to our advantage, bringing together our skills to create a new sensorial language and produce something truly unique. For example, even though perfume and whisky have a lot in common, when it comes to nosing scents and expressions I can’t say taste has ever been an important part of my job! It was wonderful working with Sandy and seeing how his nosing and tasting go hand in hand to deliver the perfect blend.

MoM: What’s the benefit of working with someone from the world of perfume? Did it present any challenges? What can the world of whisky learn from the world of perfume?

Hyslop: I think the biggest benefit we had from working with somebody outside of the whisky industry was the fact we both complemented each other’s style. My job as director of blending for Royal Salute is to maintain the family style and ensure the quality and continuity first and foremost. But on this occasion, we wanted to bring a new dimension to the whisky, and that’s why Barnabé was instrumental.

It was a fascinating experience working with someone from a very different sphere, but there were also synergies, as both worlds are all about flavours and the senses. Even things like the phrases and words we used to describe the whisky when nosing and blending were so different, which was actually really inspiring. Together, we created a new language and that was certainly a completely new and different experience for me.

Fillion: There is plenty of crossover between the world of whisky and the world of perfume, and the similarities and differences between the two can be found in the art of blending. Time is an absolutely critical component for Sandy, which is unique to whisky and not for perfume. While Sandy plays with maturation to bring quality and add something special to his blends, I need to work with extremely fresh elements, and this is where we can learn from each other. The maturation stages for our ingredients are different, but the process of blending them together is quite similar.

As with perfume, creating the perfect whisky requires the blender to really push their sense of smell to the limits – if you close your nose when tasting whisky, you’re not really tasting whisky. Sandy and I have had very different life experiences to build up our flavour memory, but we are absolutely steadfast in our agreement that so much of the tasting experience, and moreover the entire sensory experience, comes from what we smell.

Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection - Kew Palace EditionIt’s all fun and games – and tasty whisky

MoM: Does whisky need to do more to broaden its horizons and seek more input from external industries?

Hyslop: When working on a Royal Salute whisky, my team and I are always looking for different ways to innovate but always keeping within the strict rules related to whisky-making. I have several experiments currently ongoing from special formulations to cask finishes which I monitor on a regular basis to see if there are any opportunities for new and exciting expressions that will complement the Royal Salute family of whiskies.

Fillion has stated previously that the job of the aroma is to transport the individual to past experiences. Does Royal Salute 28 Year Old Kew Palace Edition conjure up any specific olfactory memories for you?

Fillion: Kew Gardens is considered by many as the ‘garden of the world’. It’s fascinating how much there is to discover and it’s a never-ending process which is great. In my opinion, it is without a doubt, the most important botanical garden in the British world, a real atlas, and certainly the most famous to perfumers. Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition reminds me of my beginnings in perfumery!

Hyslop: Many flavours conjure up vivid memories from your childhood. When I nose the Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Kew Palace Edition, it transports me to my grandmother’s house. When I used to visit her, she always had a row of flowering pot plants on her window ledge and some of the flavours in the whisky remind me of the concentrated sweet scent coming from the flowers. Also, the ripe pear notes remind me of some amazing desserts my mother would give me when I was young.

Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection - Kew Palace EditionRoyal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition

Tasting Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition

Royal Salute 28 Year Old Flask Collection – Kew Palace Edition Tasting Notes:

Nose: Intense fruity and delicate floral notes dominate the nose with ripe pear and a hint of aromatic autumnal leaves alongside delicate floral notes of violet. A creamy, caramel quality lingers throughout.

Palate: Rich and sumptuous, with plenty of soft toffee pennies, acacia honey and just a prickle of sherry spice and Islay smoke.

Finish: Deliciously long, smooth and sweet finish with a wisp of smoke.

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