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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: rum

The five winners of our Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum competition are…

Just last month we found ourselves with five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum to give away. The time has come to reveal our quintet of winners! Usually,…

Just last month we found ourselves with five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum to give away. The time has come to reveal our quintet of winners!

Usually, the way these things go is all rather dramatic. “There can only be one victor” and all that jazz. Well, not this time! We promised you five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum would be won, and won they have been, each full of delicious Caribbean rum which was blended by the Merser folks in London, and rested in good old oak. 

Plus, as well as increasing the chance of winning fivefold, we made it super duper easy to enter through the wonders of social media! 

merser & co double barrel rum

Who will be getting their lucky hands on a bottle of this?

If you simply followed both the Master of Malt and Merser & Co. Instagram accounts, tagged a friend you’d share the awesome rum with on our competition post and then gave that post a quick like, you were in.

Anyway, that’s all in the past now. We know why you’re here. Let’s get down to it!

The five lucky winners are…

Ben Lutener

Steven Young

Soeren Bendixen

Heather Haigh

Karen Sands

Congratulations to our victors! And a huge thanks to everyone who took part. 

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Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Make sure you’re her favourite this Mother’s Day – these are the most delicious gifts to put a smile on her face (and cement your position as top child) on…

Make sure you’re her favourite this Mother’s Day – these are the most delicious gifts to put a smile on her face (and cement your position as top child) on 22 March!

Choosing the perfect Mother’s Day gift can be a tricky game. You want to make her day. You want to be the generous one round the table. But, if you’re like us, you probably don’t want to spend a fortune either. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve scoured the warehouse shelves to pick out some of our favourite liquid pressies guaranteed to delight both your mum’s palate and your wallet. Hurrah! 

(Pssst… for the latest deals and even more gift ideas, check out our dedicated Mother’s Day page!)

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Silent Pool Gin Gift Pack, £62.95

If your mum adores all things juniper and is also partial to the prettier things in life, we can think of no better pressie than Silent Pool’s gorgeous Gift Pack. Not only is there a full-size bottle of delicious gin (botanicals include chamomile, lavender and honey locally sourced from the Surrey Hills), but there’s a pair of striking glasses, too! She’ll just have to share that G&T with you…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Two Swallows Cherry & Salted Caramel Rum, £23.95

This flavoured rum is right up our street – and it could well be perfect for your mum, too! The rum base comes from Guyana’s Diamond Distillery (a MoM Towers’ fave), and with cherry and salted caramel too, it’s almost like a Bakewell Tart in a bottle! We also adore the 20s vibes the label is serving us. Winning all round!  

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Old, £41.75

An absolute classic from the world of Scotch whisky, this 12 year old, sherry cask-finished Glenmorangie single malt is a joy to behold. The influence from the Oloroso and PX casks used in the latter stages impart delectable dark chocolate, honey and dried raisin notes – a highly giftable bottle, especially if your mum likes her whisky on the luxuriously creamy side…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Manchester Gin – Raspberry Infused £33.95

If your ma likes to try her hand at mixing drinks, this is a marvellously versatile gin. Infused with oodles of raspberries, Manchester Gin’s fruity concoction works splendidly in a Bramble, a Gin Smash, a twist on a Martini, or even splashed into a glass of fizz. A perfect gift, or one to snap up now so you can make her a drink on Mother’s Day…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Premium Gin Tasting Set, £19.95

What if your mum’s a bit of a drinks chameleon? Perhaps exploring a world of different tipples is her favourite pastime? We’ve got all sorts of solutions! This Premium Gin Tasting Set looks the part, and comes with five deliciously different 30ml expressions to keep her entertained. But what if she likes whisky, rum, Tequila, vodka, something else? We’ve got all bases covered with our Tasting Sets range. You could even build your own for something truly tailored!

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Bowmore 15 Year Old, £52.90

Perhaps your mum is of a peated whisky persuasion and you’re stuck for what to get her. We’re big fans of Bowmore 15 Year Old, a classic Islay expression that balances that signature smoke with the rich dried fruit sweetness from its sherry cask finish. She’d have to share a dram with you – which means she’d get the gift of a catch-up, too. Two pressies in one! 

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

J.J. Corry The Sonas, £59.95

Ok, ok, we’re a bit biased on this one. But it’s our very own Irish whiskey, so how could we not be! Our editor Kristy actually blended this one with our buyer Guy, under the watchful eye of J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane. A proper sunshine dram (‘Sonas’ means ‘happiness’ in Irish Gaelic), full of fresh fruitiness, creamy vanilla and caramelised pecan notes. And, if you buy a bottle from the J.J. Corry range, you could win a trip to Ireland to blend your very own bottling, too! That would make an epic Mother’s Day gift…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Bathtub Gin, £28.95

A multi-award-winner, Bathtub Gin is made using a traditional cold compounding method which sees the likes of juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom-infused in copper pot-spirit for up to a week. The botanicals are depicted on the gift tin as well, which makes it as pretty as a bunch of flowers, but with the added bonus that you can actually drink it. What more could your mum possibly want?!

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Aske Stephenson Garden Bramble, £28.83

We’re well on-board with this pre-mixed cocktail delight. Take the traditional blackberry-based cocktail and add in a host of florals, including elderflower and clary sage, and you get this delectably refreshing sipper that you can simply serve over ice, or give it a go with tonic. Another one that makes a cracking gift, or alternatively it’s an easy solution for pre-Mother’s Day dinner apéritifs. We think of everything. 

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

That Boutique-y Gin Company Fruit-y Gin Gift Set, £19.95 

Another splendid solution to Mother’s Day gifting dilemmas if your mum is into all things gin. This brightly colourful gift set features four 50ml bottles of four fabulously flavoursome expressions (Cherry Gin, Chocolate Orange Gin, Strawberry & Balsamico Gin and Spit-Roasted Pineapple Gin) from That Boutique-y Gin Company! It’s a taste extravaganza that’s highly giftable and we’re here for it. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Central Galactic Spiced Rum

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate!…

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate! Our New Arrival this week is the aptly-named Central Galactic Spiced Rum, and we’re sure you can guess where the inspiration came for this one…

Cast your minds back to 2009, when The Black Eyed Peas ruled the charts and the very first episode of Glee was aired (gosh, we feel old). 2009 was a momentous year for many reasons, not least because it was the very year that astronomers discovered that the centre of the Milky Way tastes of raspberries and, wait for it… smells of rum! 

We know what you’re thinking. How?! We don’t want to get too sciencey about it, but basically what happened was when astronomers peered their massive telescope into space, they hoped to find complex molecules that would prove life on other planets. While they failed to do this, luckily they found something much, much better. Ethyl formate! Aka, the chemical that gives raspberries their flavour, and also (rather conveniently in this case) smells of rum.

central galactic spiced rum

Mmm, we can almost taste it…

There was only one thing for it: to create a spirit that captured the very essence of the universe. And so, Central Galactic Spaced Spiced Rum was born! Well, the idea for it was born, we’ve had to wait ten years for the actual liquid. But it was worth it! With a base of  wonderfully aromatic Caribbean spiced rum, the creative chaps behind the spirit added copper-distilled fresh raspberry distillate, as well as star anise (in keeping with the space theme) and cold-distilled lime peel for some extra citrus zing.

The idea and inspiration behind the spirit is all well and good (okay we admit it, it’s insanely cool), but when it comes down to it, what we all really want is awesome-tasting liquid. Luckily, that’s exactly what we have here. The symphony of warming, tingling spices is livened up by authentically juicy raspberry and zesty lime. Plus, we’re sure that the retro comic book strip-style label is going to be a definite standout in anyone’s drinks cabinet. 

central galactic spiced rum

Central Galactic Spiced Rum, defying gravity!

At 43.5% ABV, this is certainly a rum that you can sip simply over ice with a generous handful of raspberries. For those of you who like to get out your shakers, we’d recommend a Daiquiri, because you don’t want to drown out the complexity of the spirit itself. Plus, so long as you can count, it couldn’t be easier to make with the 3:2:1 method, with three parts rum, two parts fresh lime juice and one part sugar syrup. Oh, and don’t forget to garnish with raspberries and a twist of lime peel. 

This isn’t just a gimmick, but is genuinely delicious whilst also letting us nerd out on the awesomeness of space. Space was cool before, but then it went and tasted like raspberries and rum? Give someone else a chance! We can’t wait to see what tasty spirits will come to light next time scientists peer a telescope into the unknown… 

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Suitably spicy boasting heaps of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, with oily orange peel and a lick of liquorice in support. Top notes of tantalisingly juicy raspberry sweetness keep it vibrant.

Palate: Sweet, fruity raspberry hits the back palate while those tingling spices return bringing warmth, with orange marmalade (without the bits) alongside a sprinkling of rich brown sugar and toffee notes.

Finish: Raspberry jam lingers alongside zingy lime peel and cinnamon, with a scattering of vanilla pod.

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Equiano: the world’s first African-Caribbean rum

In blending Cognac cask-aged rum from Africa with ex-bourbon cask rum from the Caribbean, Equiano Rum brings together liquid from Barbados’s Foursquare Distillery and Gray’s Distillery of Mauritius in one…

In blending Cognac cask-aged rum from Africa with ex-bourbon cask rum from the Caribbean, Equiano Rum brings together liquid from Barbados’s Foursquare Distillery and Gray’s Distillery of Mauritius in one exquisite bottling. Here, we talk with global rum ambassador and Equiano co-founder Ian Burrell …

A combination of aged molasses rums sourced from Barbados and Mauritius, the world’s first African-Caribbean rum is the brainchild of global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Foursquare Distillery’s master distiller and blender Richard Seale. The duo were “looking to create a unique rum that tasted good, was a little bit different, and could talk about terroir,” says Burrell. “Great rums are often influenced by where they’re fermented, distilled and aged, so we wanted to have something that combined two different cultures and two different styles.”

Equiano begins its journey at Gray’s distillery in Mauritius, where molasses is fermented and distilled in a column still, before being aged in ex-Cognac casks made from French limousin oak, owing to the French influence on the island. Then the rum is shipped to Foursquare Distillery, where master distiller and blender Richard Seale blends it with his traditional-style Barbados rum, a blend of pot still and column still distillates aged in first-fill bourbon casks, “which is the tradition in the Caribbean since the fifties,” says Burrell. The liquids are married and later bottled at Foursquare.

While the Caribbean has long been renowned for its rum-making prowess, Africa has lagged behind. Although sugarcane is grown on the continent, it isn’t used for rum on the same scale, so “it’s very limited for the style and the types of rum we could use,” says Burrell. Despite limited production, there are pockets of superb producers to be found all across South Africa, the Seychelles, and, of course, Mauritius, he says – with a few smaller, more local rums coming out of Ghana, Nigeria, and Madagascar. 

The rum’s name comes from Olaudah Equiano, a writer and abolitionist from the 1700s, whose personal life journey is reflected in the journey of the rum. An “enslaved man who bought his freedom and wrote compellingly about his experiences”, it says in the British Library catalogue, Equiano ‘was an extraordinary man who became a prominent figure associated with the campaign to abolish the slave trade’. It goes on to say: “Equiano was born in what is now Nigeria and sold into slavery aged 11. After spells in Barbados and Virginia he spent eight years travelling the world as slave to a British Royal Navy officer, who renamed him Gustavus Vassa. His final master, an English merchant in Montserrat, let him buy his freedom for £40 – almost a year’s salary for a teacher, but Equiano made it in three years of trading on the side.”

After working as an explorer and merchant for 20 years, he settled in England, where he later published his memoirs – titled, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African – in 1789. One of the first books in Europe to be penned by a black African writer, the book was hugely successful and sold out immediately, with a second edition published later the same year. It was pivotal in swaying public opinion about slavery. By 1807 Britain had formally abolished the trade, though sadly Equiano didn’t live long enough to see it, having died just a decade earlier. 

“It was important for us to have that journey of the rum coming from Africa, going to the Caribbean and then ending up in England, because that’s the journey Equiano made when he was enslaved,” says Burrell. “He was a revolutionary and an entrepreneur, and we felt a brand like Equiano should represent the people who want to learn about the world and travel and push their own boundaries.” He went on to say: “Equiano’s values distil our beliefs perfectly and that is why we’re giving 5% of company profits to ground-level freedom and equality projects annually, and celebrating a man who we all aspire to be more like.”

Designed to be a ‘modern and matured sipping rum’, Equiano is 100% natural, which means no additives, sugar, spices, colourants or sulphites. It ought to be enjoyed however you please – neat, on the rocks, with a mixer – but we’re particularly keen to see it stirred into a classic cocktail, think: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or even a Daiquiri.

Equiano Old Fashioned

Curious about how it tastes? We’ll leave you with Burrell’s characterful tasting notes…

Nose: “Like any quality premium rum, Equiano subtly delivers tropical warmth as soon as its aroma touches your nose. Rich, notes of dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas combine with sweet toffee, butterscotch and caramel culminating with a suggestion of orange peel, vanilla and buttered wood.”

Palate: “Equiano delivers all the natural sweet notes of a well-aged rum from American white oak ex-bourbon casks. It has a warm toffee and butterscotch mouth-feel, with chewy raisins and brown sugar flavours that emerge from the liquid as it caresses your tongue.”

Finish: “Although Equiano is a naturally sweet rum with no added sugar or spices, it has a medium to sweet ending with touches of oak, anise, sweet pepper with a hint of bitter orange peel.”

Equiano is available from Master of Malt.

 

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Win a bottle of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum!

We have five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum to give away, which means that five lucky winners will find themselves with a bottle! How? Read on…  When…

We have five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum to give away, which means that five lucky winners will find themselves with a bottle! How? Read on… 

When we found ourselves with five bottles of Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum, we thought, why not make five rum lovers very happy? Tasty rum, and lots of it. What could be better?

First things first, what’s so special about Double Barrel Rum? Well to start, it’s the first rum blending house in London in over a century. The rum itself was distilled all over then Caribbean, and then shipped to London to be blended by the Merser folks. It was then simply been rested in oak, with not a hint of sugaring or colouring to be seen here, just like it would have been in the 17th century. 

Plus, this isn’t just a pretty bottle (though we’re not denying that either). The dimpled glass mirrors the River Thames, where rum used to be transported, and the hound and post logo is a nod back to days gone by when Londoners would recognise it and follow it to find their way to merchant houses. Kind of like a treasure hunt, only with booze at the end. 

Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum

You could win this very bottle from Merser & Co.!

Now we’ve got you all excited about tasty rum, you’ll probably want to know how to enter! 

How to enter:⁠

  1. Follow @masterofmalt Instagram account.
  2. Follow @merserrum Instagram account.
  3. Tag a friend you’d share your bottle with.
  4. Like this post⁠!

Complete those tasks by midnight on Thursday 27 February, and that’s it, you’ll be in with a chance of winning.

MoM Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 24 February to 23:59 27 February 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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The Nightcap: 21 February

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’…

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’ and made from peas.

It’s Friday, which is always a good thing, especially given that it’s Margarita Day Eve (definitely a thing). There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh batch of boozy news than with a good cocktail in hand, so get making those Margaritas and prepare yourself for the weekend. A weekend which may entail more Margaritas. Perhaps with margherita pizzas. Now that’s a Saturday. But before all that there’s Nightcapping to do, so get together your lime, salt and Tequila and proceed. It’s a corker this week.

On the MoM blog, Adam revealed the exciting news that Midleton Distillery had launched Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection, before chatting with Patrice Pinet about Cognac’s prospects in 2020, recommending some delicious agave-based spirits in time for World Margarita Day tomorrow, and enjoying a Dominican rum finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Kristy, fresh from her American adventure, presented 10 great bars to check out in the Big Apple, before Annie explored how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium. Henry then showed off our sublime video footage from our visit to the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, before picking a drink for Cocktail of the Week that’s neither French or really a Martini: The French Martini!

But there’s still more boozy brilliance to come. On to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Tickets are now on sale for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival!

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

This week tickets went on sale for the fabulous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. As you’d expect from Scotland’s richest whisky region with over 51 distilleries, there’s a lot going on. The programme contains over 700 events (see the festival’s website for more details). Highlights include an archive tasting at The Balvenie, a blending masterclass with Billy Walker at Glenallachie, and an event called ‘The Silent Stills of Speyside’, put on by Gordon & MacPhail.  For us, perhaps the most exciting thing is a chance to look round and taste at famous distilleries like Mortlach that aren’t usually open to the public. There are also food events, tastings galore, chances to fill your own bottle, and no less than five ceilidhs from Wednesday 29 April until Sunday 3 May. If you’re feeling really active, there’s a run around the region ending up with a well-earned tasting and brunch at The Macallan Distillery. For lazier folks, there are tours by train or chauffeur-driven car. Something for everyone.

The Nightcap

The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami was the undisputed star of the show

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer saw the first part of its ‘The Perfect Collection’ sell for £3.2 million, with a Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami bottle setting a new record. The “world’s largest” private whisky collection to be offered at auction contains more than 1,900 bottles of mostly single malt Scotch, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding. The auction, which saw 1,642 bidders from 56 countries take part, achieved US$4,277,000 and featured more than 1,932 bottles before it closed on Monday (17 February). The highlight was the bottle of the highly coveted Macallan which sold for £825,000, breaking the current world record for the bottle set at £702,347 in October 2018. The bottle attracted bids from 11 countries, with the winning offer hailing from Europe. A bottle of The Macallan 1928 Anniversary Malt 50 Year Old achieved a hammer price of £92,000, overtaking a previous record of £72,246 in October 2019, while a large offering of 201 bottles from The Macallan reached a total hammer price of £1,979,555. So it was a good auction for Macallan, as usual. “We always knew that The Perfect Collection by Mr Gooding could make whisky history, but with auctions, anything can happen,” said Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Not only was the highest ever sale price for Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami achieved at over a million dollars, but Whisky Auctioneer became the first online whisky auction to sell a million-dollar bottle, with multiple other lots achieving hammer price world records.” The remaining bottles in The Perfect Collection will be sold during the second part of the auction, which will run from 10 April until 20 April. Bottles include The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare, a Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year Old, and The Balvenie 1937 Pure Malt 50 Year Old.

The Nightcap

The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

Tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, is International Margarita Day, and London’s bars will be celebrating in style, mainly by offering lots of variations on this much-loved cocktail. To help you navigate around all the excitement, Patron Tequila has created a special Margarita map. Simply put your postcode into the computer thing, and the magic of science will direct you to an establishment serving special Patron Margaritas. You can also enter a prize draw for the chance to win a trip to Mexico! If you don’t win that trip, and let’s face it, you probably won’t, then don’t worry as there’s a little bit of Mexico in East London. You’ll find it at specialist agave bar, Hacha! Bartender Deano Moncrieffe has come up with a series of twists on the classic cocktail, like the colourless Mirror Margarita, plus there’s food from Mission St Tacos. There will also be special Ocho Tequila cocktails at Callooh Callay in Old Street and the Racketeer in Kings Cross. And finally, you don’t even need to leave the house to get in on the action. Jose Cuervo is offering a free Margarita delivery service today and Saturday. You can enter here and if you’re lucky, a special Jose Cuervo Margarita Rider will come to your house (London only, sadly) and mix up some cocktails for you. You don’t even have to get dressed!

The Nightcap

It’s certainly been a good week for the discerning collector!

Rare rum found in Charles Metcalfe’s cupboard is sold for £12,000

Top wine writer and collector Charles Metcalfe made a pretty penny this week after he sold 11 bottles of rum for £12,000. Metcalfe inherited the 11 bottles of Lemon Hart rum, bottled in the 1940s, from his late father who saved them as a souvenir from his time spent working with Lemon Hart & Sons in 1946-48, following his return from a prisoner of war camp where he was held during the Second World War. The famous British brand has a long history and is best known for its appointment by the Admiralty as the supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. The rum had been kept in a cupboard for years after his father died, but Metcalfe recently made the decision to sell the majority of the collection and had bottles valued by a specialist team at www.whisky.auction. Each bottle has sold for around £1,000, some as high as £1,450, in the online auctions since September. There is one more bottle to sell which will be made available on 1 March. “As a wine collector, I’m well aware of the value that old wine can fetch at auction, but I hadn’t imagined that my father’s rum would be worth quite so much,” Metcalfe told the West Sussex County Times. “It shows how valuable a quick look into the back of your spirits cupboard can be!”

The Nightcap

100% of funds raised from this online charity auction go straight to Rural Aid

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

The Australian bushfires still burn, with over 18.6 million hectares of land destroyed to date. However, over 100 Australian distilleries have joined forces in order to help Bushfire Relief, donating over 200 bottles of Australian spirits, including whisky, gin, rum, moonshine, vodka, liqueurs and more. You’ll find tasty spirits from brands such as Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Brookie’s Gin and Manly Spirits among the names. It’s not just pre-existing bottlings either, with a new whisky having been crafted for the cause dubbed The Aussie Spirit. The “godfather of Australian whisky”, Bill Lark, will oversee blending and maturation of five different casks of whisky at Old Kempton Distillery utilising new make from 13 distilleries around the country. If you want to get your hands on some of this while supporting Bushfire Relief, then you can head over to the online charity auction, with 100% of funds raised from going straight to Rural Aid, one of Australia’s largest rural charities.

The Nightcap

The Big Drop Brewing Co. founders showing off the colourful new design

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

The wonderful folks at Big Drop Brewing Co., dedicated solely to bringing delicious alcohol-free brews to our doorsteps, have gone and revealed a brand-new design for their tasty creations! It’s bold and colourful, with each expression’s design taking inspiration from the liquid within. Each of the designs is based on an environment that is linked to the individual beers’ style, and which inspired the names, illustrations and colourways. To create the new designs, the folks at Big Drop teamed up with London-based design agency Foundation, rolling out the new packaging onto the full range including Uptown Craft Lager, Paradiso Citra IPA, Pine Trail Pale Ale and Galactic Milk Stout. For example, Uptown Craft Lager‘s design is inspired by hot summers in London, with the pattern taken from a section of concrete at the city’s Barbican Estate, the colours reflecting a dramatic orange sunset. Meanwhile, Paradiso Citra IPA’s green design mirrors the depths of a jungle, with green leaves and exotic fruits, reflected in the flavour profile as well. “Working with Foundation on this re-packaging project has been brilliant and the results speak for themselves,” says co-founder James Kindred. “2020 is a big year for the brand, and this bold new design direction starts us off in a fantastic way.” We know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but we can’t argue with bright colours and tasty booze-free beer!

The Nightcap

The finalists from 2019’s World Class GB Final make it look like a lot of fun

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

Diageo Reserve’s World Class is back and open for entries in the UK. Organisers expect to receive the highest number of entries yet from the country’s bartending community following a record attendance for the UK-wide bartender training tour. The annual competition, which is now in its twelfth year, encourages bartenders to submit a digital entry of one or two serves to be in with the chance of making it into the top 100. The two modules bartenders have been asked to submit to are ‘Acid House’ and ‘Heritage Highballs’. The former challenges contestants to replace the fresh citrus that forms an integral part of Diageo’s gin brand, Tanqueray No. Ten with an alternative acid of their choice and the latter challenges entrants to produce their own highball serve using Johnnie Walker Black Label and a range of ingredients with an interesting backstory. Bartenders will need to submit a cocktail to one or both of the challenges by midnight 9th March at www.theworldclassclub.com and share a photo of the drink on social media using #WorldClassGB2020. Competitors will then be invited to share a Ketel One ‘One Square Mile’ serve online for the judges, consisting of previous GB winners and Diageo BAs, to taste-test. Just 20 of these contestants will then be shortlisted to compete to be crowned GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 at the final which is taking place in the New Forest in June at the first ever GB ‘Camp World Class’. The overall winner will get opportunity to tour with the World Class team hosting events and workshops and Diageo-owned distilleries across Scotland, get a budget for bar tools, equipment and custom serve creation and a guest bartending shift at one of Europe’s best bars, as well as the obligatory nationwide exposure and dedicated PR throughout the year. Oh, and a place to represent GB in the World Class Global Final hosted in Sydney, Australia this autumn. Entries for Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 are now open, closing on 9 March. 

The Nightcap

The collection features artefacts that have never been available for public viewing before

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

A collection of Johnnie Walker artefacts are set to go on display before the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Dick Institute museum in Scotland. The John Walker exhibition in Kilmarnock, Scotland, will feature historical ‘crown jewels’ from the Johnnie Walker archives that have never been available for public viewing, until now. Visitors can also see a John Walker stock book from 1857, a hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store dating back to 1825. It’s the oldest existing record from the shop and details things such as teas from China, spices from Jamaica, and Scotch. There’s also an 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock, which is the oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection. It records the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the founding of his grocery store. “These items really are the crown jewels of our collection. They are remarkable historical documents that give us a fascinating insight into the roots of Johnnie Walker,” says Christine McCafferty, chief archivist at the Johnnie Walker Archive. “I’m delighted that to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker starting out in his business we are able to put these items on display to the public in the town where the story began.” The Johnnie Walker exhibition will be a permanent feature at the Dick Institute, with artefacts rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display at the museum until October 2020.

The Nightcap

Diageo agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

It was a difficult week for spirits giant Diageo, which was fined US$5 million by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after its North American arm created a “misleading picture” of its financial results. According to the US securities regulator’s charges, the North America division at Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin owner Diageo  “pressured” distributors to buy excess inventory in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions in its 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Diageo failed to disclose the excess stocks to investors which created a “misleading impression” that it was able to achieve their sales targets through normal customer demand. The charges found Diageo failed to disclose the positive impact “over shipping” had on sales and profits, but also the negative impact this would have on future growth, according to an SEC statement. “Investors rely on public companies to make complete and accurate disclosures upon which they can base their investment decisions”, Melissa R Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained: “Diageo pressured distributors to take more products than they needed, creating a misleading picture of the company’s financial results and its ability to meet key performance indicators.” Diageo hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings but has agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations, which the SEC has accepted. “Diageo is pleased to have resolved this legacy matter, which relates back to fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” commented a Diageo spokesperson. “Diageo regularly reviews and refines its policies and procedures, and is committed to maintaining a robust and transparent disclosure process.”

The Nightcap

‘Carbon negative’ and made from peas. You don’t get greener than that!

And finally… There’s now a ‘carbon negative’ gin made from peas

Arbikie Distillery in Scotland has just launched what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon-negative gin, and it’s made from peas. Can’t get greener than that. It’s called Nàdar, meaning ‘nature’ in Gaelic. According to the accompanying study, the amount of carbon produced during its distillation and packaging is more than offset by using peas as a base instead of wheat. Not only do the clever green vegetables fertilise the soil, thus saving on nitrogen fertiliser, but leftovers can be used to feed animals too, thus saving on livestock food, predominately made from soya beans. It’s the product of five years of research by master distiller Kirsty Black in association with Abertay University in Dundee and The James Hutton Institute. She commented:  “Peas are a part of a unique set of plants known as legumes that are able to source nitrogen, which is critical for plant growth, from the air. This removes the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and, therefore, avoids the negative environmental impact its production and use has on our waterways, air and soils.” According to Arbikie each bottle produced means 2.2 kg CO2 that won’t be released into the atmosphere. John Stirling, director of Arbikie Distillery added: “Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our single estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful homegrown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability.  It also tastes fantastic, which is a credit to our distilling team.” Let’s raise a glass to peas in our time.

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Island spirit: a visit to Mermaid Gin

Last year on a beautiful clear August day, we visited the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, film at the distillery and learn the secrets of…

Last year on a beautiful clear August day, we visited the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, film at the distillery and learn the secrets of its deliciousness. Some, sadly, we’re not allowed to divulge. 

Xavier Baker from the Isle of Wight Distillery asked us not to reveal the location of his best foraging patch for rock samphire, an important botanical in Mermaid Gin. We’d got up early to follow him on an expedition down to the beach. The island sparkled in the August sunlight with the palm trees making this corner of southern England feel like the south of France. While Baker hopped from rock to rock with the agility of a mountain goat, I lumbered after him more like a rhinoceros occasionally grazing my hands and knees in a desperate attempt not to fall. As we foraged, Baker explained a little about what we were looking for: rock samphire grows above the waterline; it’s a completely different species to marsh samphire, which grows in water; rock is related to the carrot whereas marsh is related to asparagus. Top trivia to impress your waiter with next time you see samphire on a menu.

Samphire used to be big business on the Isle of Wight with barrels of the stuff going to London every day. Today, Baker is one of the few harvesting it commercially though that he sometimes runs into local Michelin-starred chef Robert Thompson on his forays. The Isle of Wight distillery needs 75 kilos of the stuff every year, so Baker is keen to keep his best patches a secret. It provides a unique flavour to Mermaid gin, Baker describes it as “ocean breeze in a glass.” Raw it tastes sweet and slightly nutty with a dusting of salt. Other botanicals in Mermaid Gin include locally-grown hops as well as juniper, coriander seeds, fresh lemon zest, grains of paradise, angelica, liquorice, orris and elderflower.

With its unique taste and stylish blue bottle, Mermaid Gin is now one of the most recognised and popular gin brands in the country. The company was founded in 2014 by Xavier Baker, and local wine-maker, the impressively monikered Conrad Gauntlett (which makes him sound like a 1930s media magnate). Baker is a brewer by training, “I’ve been brewing since before I could legally drink”, he told us. He’s done stints at giants like Molson Coors and tiny outfits like Dingle brewery in Ireland. After quite a bit of wangling with HMRC, the pair began distilling in 2015. The distillery is housed in a slightly-rough round the edges converted pub near Ryde. Its functional charms make a nice change from cost-no-object City money set-ups one sometimes finds at new distilleries. Cleverly, they have kept the pub side going. While we were there a constant stream of visitors arriving to have a drink, see round the distillery and almost all of them left clutching a bottle of gin. 

Is it a mermaid washed up on the shore? No, it’s Xavier Baker from the Isle of Wight Distillery

Originally though, gin was not part of the plan. “We wanted to be a whisky distillery but gin sort of  took over”, Baker said. They filled a few barrels with new make before stopping to concentrate on gin. It’s a column malt made with Isle of Wight barley. Baker said, “the wash came from Goddards brewery down the road, we did a long slow fermentation.” It’s currently sitting in custom casks, American oak white wine barrels with heavily-charred English oak heads. That initial whisky is now nearly four years old. According to Baker, “there was so much interest when it came of age”, but there’s no immediate plans to sell it yet. Baker gave me a little to try. It’s a deep colour and intensely-flavoured with a nose like rum: chocolate, creme brulee and toffee. In the mouth, there are quite noticeable oak tannins but overall it’s very smooth with a lovely walnut finish. 

They have just finished a refurbishment of the distillation equipment with a new 1,000 litre copper pot still that can be used for gin and whisky plus a column still and condenser. According to Baker it’s a very adaptable set-up. With this increased capacity, Baker told us that he intends to start distilling more whisky soon. 

On sale alongside the Mermaid Gin and its pink sister, there’s a vodka and HMS Victory Navy Rum. This came about when, following a successful navy-strength gin, the Isle of White Distillery was approached by the National Museum for the Royal Navy with making a navy rum. They looked at distilling molasses in England but ended up sourcing rum from Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, just like the Royal Navy used to do. It is then aged in a cask that contains some wood from Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory (yes, really). It sounds a bit gimmicky but it’s a superb drop, punchy and packed full of flavour, but dangerously smooth and drinkable.

But it’s not just about making high quality spirits. For Baker having the least possible environmental impact is very important. “We’re completely plastic-free right down to the cork, we use the highest quality natural cork,” Baker said. The cap is wrapped in biodegradable cellulose. The distillery is very involved in beach clean projects. “We want to protect the environment in which Mermaids live,” said Baker. The Isle of Wight business model seems very sustainable too. The distillery is a model for how a small outfit can do something a bit different in the crowded gin market and build a national following from a strong regional base. And that’s just Mermaid Gin. The maturing whisky points at the huge potential in the Isle of Wight Distillery. If only we could persuade them to bottle some.

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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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Black Tears: the new spirit of Cuba

Two of the biggest trends in drinks are spiced rum and premiumisation. So we were excited to try Black Tears, an elegantly-flavoured Cuban rum that was launched recently. We talk…

Two of the biggest trends in drinks are spiced rum and premiumisation. So we were excited to try Black Tears, an elegantly-flavoured Cuban rum that was launched recently. We talk to the team about cocktails, sugar and the difficulties of doing business in Cuba. 

We’re often told stories from distillers about how hard it was getting permission from HMRC, but dealing with the Cuban government is something else according to Adele Robberstad from the Island Rum Company. ““Oh my God!” she said laughing, “it’s complicated, very complicated.” She has been trying to finalise a joint venture to produce Cuban rum since 2010 but only last year did the first product, a spiced rum called Black Tears, hit the market. “We thought we were going to sign an agreement years ago!”, she said. “No one is allowed to make any decisions. That’s how Cuba works, nothing is logical.”

The joint venture, the first such in Cuba since Havana Club, is called Ron Vigia and it was put together by two Norwegians Tore Villard and Hans Christian Holst, and Enrique Arías, a Spaniard from a rum-producing family that left Cuba after the revolution. “It was very important for him to go back and invest in Cuba,” Robberstad said. “He won’t say he wants to get back what he lost because he is smart. Cuba knows everything about him, he has to be very careful,” she added. Which sounds menacing, another lesson that doing business in Cuba is far from straightforward. Robberstad’s background is in drinks, first a premium mineral water for restaurants and then liqueurs like Cherry Heering and Asanti cognac liqueur. “I increased the alcohol levels over time”, as she put it. 

Funky label

Bureaucracy isn’t the only problem in Cuba: almost everything has to be imported to the island including glass bottles. There are shortages all the time: “The shops don’t have any tomatoes or butter,” she said. This is partly down to transport problems. She told me that people flying in from Miami are often carrying car parts that are unobtainable in Cuba and there are long lines for petrol. The key is to have your own trucks and the company has had to lay on buses to get staff to work. The company’s two distilleries are in a remote area in the centre of the island. Even then it’s a struggle: “Most of the staff have two to three jobs to survive,” she said. The Island Rum company pays the government in hard currency which then pays the workers in “monopoly money” as she calls the local currency.

The dollar economy is very important. Cuba is opening up with direct flights from the US. The company has plans for tourism on the island including a visitor centre in Havana next to Ernest Hemingway’s old house. Since Obama’s time, it’s much easier for Americans to reach the island, but it’s not so easy for Cubans to get out. Robberstaad told me about the female maestro ronero who oversees the distilleries who won’t be allowed to leave the country.

It is appropriate then that the first product, a premium spiced rum, from the company is called Black Tears. The name comes from an old song Lagrimas Negras which has become the unofficial national song of the island. The base is a column still aguardiente of 74% ABV, so still plenty of character. It’s flavoured with cacao, aji dulce (a king of sweet pepper) and coffee, and bottled at 40% ABV with only nine grams per litre of sugar. With its funky packaging, the aim is to create something a bit different to Havana Club. “Havana Club is excellent,” Robberstaad said, “it has built a category. We’re aiming to do something a little bit more progressive for a new generation.”

The Enrique Varona distillery

It’s very different to most spiced rum. Delicious, layered and packed with flavour, sweet-tasting but hardly sweet at all. It’s excellent neat but particularly good mixed with tonic, a Tears and Tonic, as they call it. I think it would be an excellent Daiquiri Mulata (there’s a load of recipes on the website.) The formula for Black Tears was tweaked with a tasting panel of bartenders around the world. The emphasis is very much on the bar trade, Black Tears was launched at BCB (Bar Convent Berlin) in October. Peter Thornton ex-Pusser’s Rum is involved on the sales side, and both Ian Burrell and Simon Difford are fans. Difford has been devoting a cocktail a week for a year to it on Difford’s Guide

Jaspreet Anand from Skylark Spirits which is bringing Black Tears into the UK told me, “spiced rum is the fastest growing category in the UK and the rest of the world. It [Black Tears] is a good gateway between spiced and more serious rum. There’s nothing really similar in the industry.” Black Tears is currently available in 25 countries but hasn’t officially been launched in Cuba. They have big plans, though, as you might guess. Feedback from the name and the bottle has been highly positive. According to Robberstad, Cubans are proud to see their national song in English on a bottle. The delay is finalising the joint venture has been like a “four year seeding campaign” on the island, she said. 

The joint venture consists of two distilleries in Ciego de Ávila Province, and, most excitingly, 7,000 barrels of mature rum. The company has bottled two aged rums which are not yet available in Britain: La Progresiva 13 and the ultra swanky La Progresiva 500. Only 900 bottles of the latter were produced. Island Rum was meant to get half but has only received 200 bottles. The government has the rest. Further proof, that business in Cuba is never straightforward. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

We’re getting excited about a fabulous rum this week from the Hampden Estate, one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Known for its punchy, flavourful heavy pot still rums,…

We’re getting excited about a fabulous rum this week from the Hampden Estate, one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Known for its punchy, flavourful heavy pot still rums, our new arrival this week certainly doesn’t disappoint.  

Hampden Estate has been in the business of delicious rum since  1753. Tropical fruit, funk and high ester pot still rums are the distillery’s thing. If you’re not familiar with Hampden Estate, then there’s no better place to get a feel for the distillery’s style than Hampden Great House Distillery Edition, because it was literally crafted to showcase what the distillery is renowned for.

Since 2009, the estate has been owned by the Hussey family, who are invested in preserving the traditions and values of Hampden. For example, the boiling house is covered in old wooden walkways, where fermentation takes place for up to three weeks (which is pretty darn lengthy in the fermentation game), with 89 fermentation tanks each holding between 9,000 and 13,500 litres. The distillery makes use of the unique wild yeasts that live and reproduce in the fermentation rooms. No commercial yeast to be seen here! There are four stills, which is where the magic happens. The oldest is a John Dore, from the oldest distillery engineering business in the world, installed back in 1960. The very first stocks were aged on the estate in 2010 after the acquisition by the Hussey family in 2009, and these stocks were used in the very first Hampden Estate releases.

Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

It’s Hampden Estate everyone!

Now, onto the rum! Hampden Great House Distillery Edition was created by the master distiller, blending the most representative marques (or marks) of the distillery. To get technical, this is made from a blend of tropically-aged 2012 OWH and 2016 <>H marques (all Jamaican rum distilleries make a variety of distillates, from light to heavy rums, and each batch falls within one of their marques). ‘OWH’ has an ester level of 40 to 80 gr/hL AA (grams per hectoliter of absolute alcohol), standing for ‘Outram W. Hussey’, while ‘<>H’ has an ester level of 900 to 1,000 gr/hL AA, which stands for ‘Hampden’. For perspective, the highest ester level allowed for export by Jamaican regulations is 1,600 gr/hL AA, so this one is pretty powerful stuff.

Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

The Hampden Great House Distillery Edition, looking fancy.

It’s blended with local spring water and bottled up at a burly 59% ABV, packed full of funk and flavour. The result is a truly authentic and unique Trelawny rum, full of everything we know and love from Hampden Estate. Initially, the release of 1,200 bottles was only sold at the distillery in Jamaica and at a few special events around Europe. Luckily, we got our mitts on the awesome bottle, and we’re rather big fans.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Toasted brioche, pineapple, BBQ lemon, cigar box, oily smoke and a little hint of chocolate sauce.

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