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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: sake

Sake for beginners

Richard Legg, Master of Malt’s educator in chief, has long had a passion for Japan and the country’s diverse range of alcoholic drinks. Today, he delves into one of his…

Richard Legg, Master of Malt’s educator in chief, has long had a passion for Japan and the country’s diverse range of alcoholic drinks. Today, he delves into one of his favourite subjects with a guide to sake for beginners.

I’m not sure when my seemingly endless love affair with Japan first started, but I have managed to pinpoint it to three likely candidates; the Mitsubishi Starion from Cannonball Run II, clips from Japanese game shows featured on late night television by the now also late Clive James, or watching Akira late at night at a very young age, completely awestruck and fully aware I probably shouldn’t have been watching it. In any case, whenever anything related to Japan and booze crops up, I’m usually the first person to be asked, which brings us on to sake.    

Sake for beginners

Now of course I really enjoy sake. The complex process of turning rice into sake has always intrigued me, and if any of you have seen the amazing documentary The Birth of Saké (which I highly recommend, regardless of whether or not you enjoy sake), it can be really quite exhausting to make. We do stock a number of sake including quite a few from the Akashi brewery, which I am going to focus on.  Better known as Akashi-Tai, it is one of the more familiar export brands, with the Tai coming from the Japanese for ‘sea bream’ and whose image adorns each bottle.  The Akashi part comes from the city of Akashi in which it is located, which is located in Hyōgo Prefecture, found in the south of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. The brewery itself (which also incorporates a distillery) has roots going back to 1856, and is one of the longest-standing breweries in the region, being overseen by their toji (master sake maker), Kimio Yonezawa.  

The Birth of Sake

Image, and image in header from The Birth of Sake

Polishing 

As a material to make alcohol from, rice is quite tricky to work with, as a result there are a number of stages involved in the production of sake. One of the key parts is polishing.

The outside of rice grains contain fats and protein which when brewed into sake, don’t give very pleasant flavours, so these are removed by an abrasive method known as polishing. To what extent the grains are polished actually helps determine the category of sake (see later).  The level of polish can be as low as around 20%, but for more premium sake they are sometimes reduced by 90% or more of the original weight of grain, leaving a tiny dot of rice left to use. Once polished, the rice is cleaned, soaked and steamed, in order to cook the starch contained within the grain.  

The next part is another key element in the production of sake, and is something we have already encountered in a previous blog post of mine, and that is koji. Those of you who have not read my previous blog posts on awamori and shochu (for shame), koji is a helpful fungus which is deliberately grown on rice (and sometimes other materials for Shochu) and acts in a similar to way to malting which is very common in Europe, in that it provides a source of enzymes which turn starch from grain, which is unusable by yeast, into sugars which are. The koji used for sake is predominantly yellow koji, which is milder in flavour than the black koji used for Awamori. It also produces no citric acid, which means low temperatures are needed to brew sake to prevent spoilage. Again if you have seen the above documentary, you will know sake is brewed in winter and it is for this reason.

Fermentation

To start brewing some koji is added, along with water, yeast and cooked, polished rice to form a starter mash. This is then added to in stages with more water, koji and steamed rice.  Unlike fermentation with malted grains, which happens in a sequence (the starch is virtually all converted to sugar, then fermentation begins) this fermentation happens at the same time, known as parallel fermentation. This fermenting rice mixture is called the moromi.

Once fermentation is complete, the fermented liquid is pressed and is often filtered and pasteurised. Pasteurisation is necessary, as unlike wine which has fairly high acidity and often added sulphur, sake does not and would frequently spoil without it.  It also destroys any enzymes present in the liquid.

As well as polish, there is another factor which determines the category of sake, which is the addition (or not) of brewer’s alcohol. This is a neutral spirit, produced from rice, potato or grains, which is added to the sake. While it may seem counterintuitive to dilute the flavour of the rice with a neutral alcohol, it actually can give for a very clean, elegant style of sake.

The categories of sake can be very confusing to the uninitiated, so I will do my best to explain them now.

Sake categories

Junmai means that no neutral alcohol is added. If there is not the word Junmai on the label, then it has been fortified.  

Next, sake is categorised by level of polish, which gets a little more confusing. At the bottom there is Futshu-shu (no Junmai in the category, so brewer’s alcohol is added) with no polishing level. This is followed by:

akashi-tai-honjozo-tokubetsu-sake

Honjozo (brewer’s alcohol is added) and Junmai (no brewer’s alcohol):
70% or less remaining (i.e. 30% or more polished off the rice).

Try Akashi-Tai Honjozo Tokubetsu 

akashi-tai-ginjo-yuzushu-sake

Ginjo (brewer’s alcohol) and Junmai Ginjo (no brewer’s alcohol):
60% or less remaining (i.e. 40% or more polished off the rice).

Try Akashi-Tai Ginjo Yuzushu (not strictly speaking a sake, but made with a ginjo sake base and added yuzu)

akashi-tai-daiginjo-genshu-72cl-sake

Daiginjo (brewer’s alcohol) and Junmai Daiginjo (no brewer’s alcohol):
50% or less remaining (i.e. 50% or more polished off the rice).

Try Akashi-Tai Daiginjo Genshu 

It’s important to remember the level of polish is not a guarantee of quality and lower polished grades of sake can be delicious and more to your taste. So get exploring the wide world of sake. There really is something for everyone.      

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The Nightcap: 22 April

The working week may have been slimmer but there was no shortage of stories in the post-Bank Holiday period including a new manager at Lagavulin, Guinness has been at the…

The working week may have been slimmer but there was no shortage of stories in the post-Bank Holiday period including a new manager at Lagavulin, Guinness has been at the coffee, and Ballantine’s is doing something with video games. It’s The Nightcap: 22 April edition!

Welcome to another edition of The Nightcap, folks. Here in Kent, the weather is so glorious that we’ve had an idea. The alfresco Nightcap. It’s the same collection of great boozy stories, only you read it on your phone outside and enjoy the sunshine while you do. With a Spritz of some sort. And snacks. We’ll provide the stories as usual. Speaking of which…

On the blog this week we enjoyed all kinds of cracking whisky, from a new exclusive courtesy of Lindores Abbey to some of the finest German spirit on the market from Stork Club. And not forgetting a new Whiskymaker’s Reserve from the Lakes Distillery. It’s the best yet. We also made good use of Grand Marnier’s orangey, Cognac-soaked charm by whipping up The Grand Sour, celebrated the brands that are doing it for themselves, and pondered what the future holds for English whisky.

Now, onto The Nightcap: 22 April edition!

Lagavulin distillery manager

Say hello to Jordan Paisley

Lagavulin has a new distillery manager

We reported back in February there was a distillery manager role going begging at Lagavulin with Pierrick Guillaume leaving to return to France. Well, they have found their man. It’s Jordan Paisley, an Islay native, who is coming home to manage the distillery after an interesting career in the merchant navy where he helped tackle pirates off the coast of Somalia. Makes a change from managing the Port Ellen maltings. He commented: “Coming from Islay, it’s a real source of pride to be given the chance to manage one of Scotland, and the world’s, most iconic distilleries.” We wish him every luck in his role. And what a time to start, just before the madness of Fèis Ìle starts on the 28 May. In a nice touch, Paisley acknowledged his predecessor: “Pierrick has been such a great source of knowledge and support since I joined Diageo. I can’t thank him enough and wish him all the best as he embarks on his next chapter in France”. And we can exclusively reveal that Guillaume will be joining the team at Remy-Cointreau’s Le Domaine des Hautes Glaces whisky distillery in the foothills of the French Alps. Congrats to both whiskymen!

Bladnoch

Congratulants to Bladnoch!

Bladnoch Distillery wins prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Bladnoch Distillery announced this week that it has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its excellence in international trade. Only 226 organisations nationally receive the honour and winning businesses able to use the esteemed Queen’s Awards Emblem for the next five years. The Lowland distillery, which has the distinction of being both the oldest privately owned Scotch Whisky distillery and the first ever to be owned by an Australian (equally prestigious, we’re sure you’ll agree), has been revamping its whisky and image since David Prior acquired it in 2015. In export markets such as Germany, China and the USA it has grown over 100% in the last year alone. Bladnoch’s head of commercial, Will Pitchforth, remarked that “the growth of the Bladnoch Distillery business has been a reflection of the dedication to quality and exceptional whisky making, combined with a philosophy, core to our way of working, to conduct business with integrity and fairness, recognised by our network of trusted distributors around the world.”

oldest wine discovered

Ancient wine has been discovered before, but this new discovery may well be the oldest

Oldest evidence of wine in Europe uncovered

The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has discovered evidence of prehistoric wine consumption in Philippi, northwest Greece. In what is arguably the oldest evidence of wine in Europe uncovered, the findings of grape seeds and pomace were preserved in a house fire are dated to around 4300 BC (great vintage), give or take a century. While modern science can reveal an awful lot, a lack of written records does make it difficult to create a complete picture of drinking culture from this time. Right now, there’s no telling yet if the grapes were foraged or cultivated, but the uncovered drink suggests wine was common in early-Bronze Age Greece. Maybe one day we’ll be able to revive these vines from the preserved seeds. The question, of course, is not whether we could, but whether we should. 

Tamnavulin white wine

We’re looking forward to tasting this Tamnavulin

Tamnavulin Distillery unveils White Wine Cask Edition

When you’re a distillery that has had great success finishing your whisky in red wine casks, the logical next step is surely to pop your spirit in white wine casks, right? Well, that appears to be thinking at Tamnavulin Distillery anyway, which is capitalising on the popularity of its Red Wine Cask Editions with its latest creation called, naturally, Tamnavulin White Wine Cask Edition. The single malt was matured initially in American white oak barrels, before undergoing its second maturation in Sauvignon Blanc white wine casks, a finish you don’t see too often. The resulting whisky takes that distinctive mellow, sweet orchard fruit profile Tamnavulin spirit has and adds fresh, rich, and dry elements like, ripe honeydew melon, white peach, jasmine, cinnamon spice, ginger, and lime biscuits. All for a single malt that has an RSP of £32. When this one arrives at MoM Towers, we think it’s one to plump for.

Guinness Cold Brew Coffee

It was inevitable really, wasn’t it?

Guinness launches Cold Brew Coffee

Guinness is lovely, isn’t it? So is coffee, come to think of it. Why hasn’t the brand merged the two? Oh, wait. It has. In the brand’s latest creation, ice-cold Guinness meets cold brew coffee in a 440ml can format that will be rolled out to consumers over the coming months. The coffee, which has been steeped in cool water for long periods of time instead of brewed with boiling water, is added to the draught stout alongside additional roasted barley flavours. There’s only 2mg of caffeine per can too, which is the same as a decaf coffee. “We firmly believe we have created a taste experience truly unrivaled in the market and with over 95 million cups of coffee being consumed every day in Great Britain alone, now is the moment to offer a product that plays to an excitingly vast consumer space,” says John Burns, Head of Guinness GB. “There is already a natural connection with coffee notes in Guinness’ signature offerings like Draught and Extra Stout, so the creation of Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer was a perfect match.” This move doesn’t mean it’s ok to bring a can on the morning tube, though.

Lindores Abbey STR

Another new whisky!

Lindores Abbey launches another new whisky!

You would think after launching one whisky this week, Lindores Abbey would sit back a little and enjoy the results. But there’s no rest for the wicked at the Lowland distillery it would seem as the brand is following up its single sherry cask release with a whisky matured exclusively in STR wine barriques. The Spanish casks are one of the three core styles used at Lindores and have undergone the shave, toasted, and re-charred process pioneered by Dr. Jim Swan, who worked with the distillery before his passing. The new bottling is the second installment of the “Casks of Lindores” series and, as with all of its whiskies, the release is non-chill-filtered, of natural colour, and bottled on-site at Lindores Abbey Distillery at its unique limited-edition strength of 49.4% ABV. If you want to get your hands on this new release from the hardest working distillery around, then you won’t have to wait long as it will be on the virtual shelves of MoM Towers very soon.

The Gauldrons Sherry

We have high hopes for this one

The Gauldrons unveils first Limited Edition Release

Douglas Laing & Co is expanding its award-winning Campbeltown Malt Scotch whisky brand The Gauldrons with its first-ever limited-edition expression. The Gauldrons Sherry Edition is a marriage of single cask single malt exclusively from Campbeltown that were then finished in Spanish sherry casks before being bottled at 46.2% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration. Experimenting with these exceptional-quality sherry casks has resulted in a classically Campbeltown dram with smoky sweetness balanced by rich spices, and we truly can’t wait to share it with whisky aficionados across the globe,” says Cara Laing, marketing director for the family brand. The run is strictly limited to no more than 2,125 bottles, so it’s one to get your hands on ASAP. Good thing it’s en route to MoM Towers…

sake robot

Look at its little face!

Sake brewery employs adorable weeding robot

What do you do when you want to remove unwanted weeds in a sustainable manner? If you said the words, “use a robotic duck”, you’ve earned yourself a free drink. Because that’s exactly what Kojima Sohonten has done by putting the Aigamo Robot (named after the breed of duck which is known for ripping up weeds) to work across 12 hectares of rice fields. The robot, designed by an engineer who once made cars for Nissan, resembles a miniature hovercraft as it glides through the water-logged paddies, plucking out unwanted weeds while two ducks’ feet rotating rubber brushes on its underside oxygenate the water by stirring it up and prevent weeds from taking root. It’s part of a programme of sustainability for one of the world’s oldest sake producers, which has also taken the unprecedented move for the sake industry to switch all electricity used for its production to renewable energy generated in its surrounding area. That’s not as fun as robot duck though, is it? We simply must have one.

Ballantine's Moxxi

The future is now, old man

And finally… Ballantine’s hires Borderlands video game character

In news that frankly makes us here feel a bit old and cranky, Ballantine’s has announced a partnership with top computer game series Borderlands from Gearbox. This apparently entails appointing the non-player character (NPC) and bar mogul Mad Moxxi to the role of chief galactic expansion officer (CGEO) to help launch the world’s second-largest Scotch into the gaming stratosphere. The bar owner in the game’s setting, Pandora is better known for giving in-game missions to players, but now she’s launching her very own limited-edition bottle of Scotch whisky: The Ballantine’s x Moxxi’s Bar Edition. Those who snag a bottle will get access to exclusive Borderlands 3 content, but will have to adhere to new ground rules in Moxxi’s Bar that promote “responsible drinking via a special, personalised, cameo-filled message, encouraging visitors to her bar and beyond to drink and play responsibly”.  Sounds crazy! This is said to be the first step in a long-term partnership between the two, with more news to follow in 2022. Personally, we’re not sure how this managed to get past the Portman Group as there must be concerns about this encouraging underage drinking, new ground rules or otherwise.

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Behind the scenes at the UK’s first sake brewery

Through the strapline, ‘brewed like beer, enjoyed like wine’, Peckham sake brewery Kanpai is introducing British drinkers to the magic of fermented rice. Crafted according to Japanese tradition and moulded…

Through the strapline, ‘brewed like beer, enjoyed like wine’, Peckham sake brewery Kanpai is introducing British drinkers to the magic of fermented rice. Crafted according to Japanese tradition and moulded by modern London, the debut range has a distinct style of its own. We chatted with co-founder Lucy Wilson to find out more…

A sake buzz is building in the UK. It’s happening slowly – very slowly – but gradually, us Brits are increasingly showing interest in Japan’s beloved national beverage. Established in Peckham by Lucy Wilson and her husband Tom, the country’s first sake brewery (complete with upstairs taproom) marks a tipping point for the fermented rice spirit.

“It was born from a trip to Japan originally,” Wilson explains. “We went for a holiday – not specifically on a sake quest, we were there for the amazing Japanese food and culture and all the sights of Tokyo and the main cities. We ended up drinking a lot of sake, which led to us visiting breweries in some of the smaller towns that we went to. We really liked it and brought bottles and bottles back with us. So it stemmed from this inherent love for the drink.”

Lucy Wilson making sake

By the time they returned home to the UK, the Wilsons were hooked. Keen homebrewers, they turned their hands to sake and began making their own creations, practising initially with sushi rice – sake rice is tricky to get hold of, Wilson says, and sushi rice isn’t a dissimilar style grain. Unwittingly, they were laying the foundations for what would one day become Kanpai. 

“We used to have sake parties with friends and serve them our sake and other sakes and people really liked it,” she continues. “It grew into something that couldn’t quite fit in our flat anymore, and so we got a little lock-up in Peckham, because that’s where we live. It started out as something to do at the weekend and then before we knew it Tom could quit his day job to make sake full time.”

Today, the duo has three sakes in their core Signature range, available all year round, and as well as a limited edition trio of ultra-premium sake bottlings dubbed No Evil. Generally, Kanpai’s style is typically a little drier than than your average Japanese sake, Wilson explains, taking inspiration from the familiar flavour notes found within craft beers and dry white wine. From inoculating the rice to bottling the liquid, every aspect of production happens in-house. The entire process takes, on average, around three months.

“It’s a really slow build up at the beginning,” Wilson says. “You inoculate a portion of the sake rice with Koji mould spores, then you steam pressurise it and build it up with sake yeast. Then it’s just a long, low slow ferment. We do ours extra low and slow because the water in London is a lot harder than in Japan – the ferment would go wild, because the yeast actually loves the minerals in hard water.”

Pretty labels

“We press it, separating the rice solids from the liquid with a machine that replicates really old school sake breweries in Japan, bottle by hand in a little bottling machine, and then leave it to rest,” she continues. “It doesn’t really need to mature as such – we serve unpasteurized fresh sake from the tap room, which is quite spritz-y – but in the bottle we’d leave it for around a month to settle before we release it.”

The need for a lower, slower ferment gives the sake those signature dry flavours, and it’s this that Wilson feels most prominently embodies the London style. That, and the fact that everything is done by hand. “All the koji is turned by hand, the rice is washed by hand, we take it out of the steamer to cool by hand,” she explains. “The presidents of Japanese breweries come and visit us and they’re amazed that we’re still doing it this way. We’re very small scale!”

Growth is happening, albeit slowly. Last year, Kanpai hired its first employee, an assistant brewer, to cope with increasing production demands. The main focus for 2020 is growing the taproom, which is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays. “We’re really working on our tap range,” says Wilson. “We can do more small batch sakes and maybe experiment with flavours to see what people think – tea flavours and natural infusions, things like that.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, here is the core range. There’s some technical information for sake nerds. The Sake Metre Value measures how sweet your sake is, the higher the number, the more dry it is.

Kanpai!

Sumi –  clear Junmai
  • Off-dry +6 Sake Metre Value (SMV)
  • Gohyakumangoku Rice, 70% Polishing Ratio
  • #701 Japanese Sake Yeast
  • 15.0% ABV

Sumi is Kanpai’s clear, classic Junmai sake. “Very versatile, you can have it hot or cold,” explains Wilson. “It’s quite fruity but savoury at the same time. It’s your safe bet sake that you can pair with loads of different foods.”

Kumo – cloudy Nigori
  • Off-dry +7 SMV
  • Gohyakumangoku Rice, 70% Polishing Ratio
  • #701 Japanese Sake Yeast
  • 15.0% ABV

Kanpai’s Nigori-style sake, which means ‘cloudy’ in Japanese. “This has a little bit of the finalised sediment in the sake, so it’s got some texture to it,” explains Wilson, “it’s a bit more banana-y, a bit punchier in flavour. It’s our Marmite one, it splits the room – you either want loads more of it or it wasn’t quite for you. 

Fizu  – sparkling sake
  • Dry +9 SMV
  • Calrose Rice, 70% Polishing Ratio
  • #901 Japanese Sake Yeast
  • 11.5% ABV

Kanpai’s “most playful sake,” says Wilson. “It’s dry-hopped with Mosaic hops, which gives it blueberry notes. It has a natural secondary fermentation, so it’s got really fine bubbles like Champagne. That makes it quite versatile for cocktails.”

 

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The Nightcap: 27 September

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! September has almost…

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

September has almost concluded. Soon it will be October, which means Halloween. We all know what follows that. It’s all moving too fast, isn’t it? You need something to take your mind off things, something to relax you. Ten bite-sized pieces of boozy news, for example. All rounded up in one handy location. With a snazzy drink-inspired name. That should do it. You need The Nightcap, folks.

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, the blog welcomed the return of Nate Brown, who took a rather dim view of cocktail competitions, before Adam championed a delightfully sherried English single malt whisky for our New Arrival of the Week, as well as the good work done by the Gorilla Spirits Co. on World Gorilla Day (24 September). Elsewhere, Annie talked all things Irish whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub and then looked at how the worlds of coffee and alcohol collide now more than ever ahead of World Coffee Day (1 October), while Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a cold, fruity little number that features a unique Polish vodka.

But the world of booze has even more to offer. It’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The sixth batch from the popular series will be available here soon…

The Balvenie Releases Batch 6 of Tun 1509 Series

The Balvenie’s mighty fab and highly collectable Tun 1509 series has returned with Batch 6, a non-chill filtered whisky that comprises liquid from sherry refill butts, ex-bourbon American oak barrels and DoubleWood refill sherry butts (which were used once to finish previous DoubleWood) before being filled with new make and aged. The latest addition to The Balvenie Tun 1509 continues malt master David Stewart MBE’s exploration of the Speyside distillery’s aged stocks. He brought together a total of 21 unique casks to marry in the Tun, where it was left for three months before being bottled at the distillery at 50.4% ABV. Every bottle of Tun 1509 Batch 6 will come complete with a breakdown chart showing in-depth detail of the whisky, with visual representations of the flavour profile of each of the 21 casks and the overall character of the resulting single malt. “The liquid presents a beautiful depth on the palate with a touch of maple syrup, candied orange and runny honey,” Stewart said. “It is delightfully rich on the nose with soft brown sugar, toffee, blossom honey and ginger oak spices, and presents a sweet and malty finish featuring swathes of oak vanilla alongside a spicy layer. Batch 6 is a truly remarkable liquid that showcases gorgeous character and rich depth produced during the marrying process. This expression is sure to have whisky enthusiasts excited, much like the last Tun 1509 series we released a year ago.” Batch 6 of Tun 1509 is available at MoM Towers right now, so hop to it!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, folks!

Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inducts new members and bestows lifetime achievement award

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame has had a busy week. Not only did it induct six individuals into its hallowed ranks, but it also presented a certain icon with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order, Katrina Egbert, visitor centre marketing coordinator at Wild Turkey; Wesley Henderson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Louisville Distilling Co.; Larry Kass, the former director of trade relations, Heaven Hill Distillery; Charles W. Medley, master distiller at the Medley Distilling Co.; and Peggy Noe Stevens, founder and president of Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates. Congratulations are in order for all those lovely folk, but a glass or two should also be raised in particular in the direction of the recipient of the lifetime achievement award, Even G. Kulsveen, the executive director of Willett Distillery. The award was attributed to his work resurrecting one of the state’s most historic distilleries and helping to return the family-owned brand to global prominence. “Even has demonstrated disciplined leadership, strategic decision-making and bold forward-thinking,” said Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association’s board of directors. “He has built a family legacy that will last for generations to come, and we thank him for his significant contributions to Kentucky’s booming Bourbon industry”. In accepting the award, Kulsveen observed, “How many of us would have thought, 30 years ago, that we would be here today”, but daughter and Willett president Britt Kulsveen added that “We have always said that he is lifetimes ahead of his time with all of the innovative, genius creations he has imagined and brought to fruition. This award is a long time coming.” The induction ceremony was held on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, one of the state’s most revered historic sites and each inductee was presented with an engraved miniature copper still. Their names will also be added to the Hall of Fame display at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown.

The Nightcap

There’s plenty of options for those who want to celebrate World Sake Day

Celebrate World Sake Day

We know you’ve probably got a big red circle around the date in your calendars already, but here’s a reminder that it’s World Sake Day on Tuesday 1 October! Recent years have seen sake become increasingly popular, though if your knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch you can check out our blog. To celebrate the occasion, we decided to give you a little round-up of where to celebrate the day in style. If you’re in London, then Dinings SW3 over in Knightsbridge places sake right at the heart of its cocktail menu (which we went and tried out back in June). Take the Dinings SW3 Negroni for example, which switches things up with the addition of juniper and yuzu sake. If East London is more your scene, then there’s Nobu Shoreditch, with its landscaped terrace and Kampai happy hour from 4pm-6pm every day, which showcases the team’s favourite Japanese tipples and nibbles. Finally, if you happen to be near Manchester, the wonderful Peter Street Kitchen is hosting an exclusive World Sake Day masterclass on 5 October, so you can really get stuck in! Held in the Rikyū Bar, you’ll get a taste of hot, cold, sweet and sparkling sake, along with some tasty Japanese cocktails and canapes of course. Mind you, if you can’t make it to these spots, then we might know of a certain online retailer who could help you out with some lip-smacking sake right to your door…

The Nightcap

It’s quite the accolade for Matteo Monotone to receive

Matteo Montone wins World’s Best Young Sommelier

Being the best at something in the world is a pretty big deal. Having your best-ness be confirmed by a panel of judges is just next level. That’s what it’s like being in Matteo Montone’s shoes, Head Sommelier at Berners Tavern at The London EDITION hotel, who was crowned Best Young Sommelier in the World at the International Final of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs competition in Seoul! Of course, this achievement didn’t come out of nowhere. Having moved to London in 2013, Montone has had an impressive career in restaurants such as Aqua Shard, the Ritz London and Locanda Locatelli before he joined Berners Tavern. Then in March this year, Montone was also crowned Great British Young Sommelier of the Year. Now, just six months later and he’s achieved world domination! A huge congratulations from everyone at MoM Towers!

The Nightcap

More delicious English whisky is always a good thing…

East London Liquor Company launches three new whiskies

East London Liquor Company has proven once again why we love it so much with not one, but three new distinct whiskies! There’s the East London Single Malt, the first single malt from the English distillery, a double-pot distilled expression which was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma and ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky for a minimum of three years. It said to have notes of milk chocolate, peanut butter, fresh hay, biscuits, bitter almond and a slightly vegetal finish of green tomatoes and light tar. It’s joined by another newcomer, ELx Sonoma, a blended whisky made in collaboration with owner and whiskey maker Adam Spiegel of the aforementioned California distillery, Sonoma. It features the delightful London Rye, the first-ever whisky release from the distillery, which was aged in a variety of casks, including ex-peated and ones that held its barrel-aged gins and finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks. This was then married with Spiegel’s own unique blend of Sonoma bourbons. Expect notes of toffee, brandy-soaked cherries, almond butter, hay, clover, black peppercorn, dried apricots and honeysuckle. The final bottling of the three is the second release of London Rye, which was matured first for a year in virgin oak before it rested in ex-Sonoma and Kentucky bourbon casks for two years before spending six months in an ex-peated cask and then finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez. Toffee, sarsaparilla, dark chocolate, dried cherries, tahini, sea salt, leather, peat, bouillon, porridge and peanut butter notes are to be expected. “We’re unbelievably excited for not one, but three new whiskies to be hitting people’s glasses at the same time,” said Andy Mooney, whisky distiller at the East London Liquor Company. “Working with Adam Spiegel of Sonoma Distilling Company, I really appreciated his sentiment of ‘making whiskeys in a small way for a big world’. I like to say that, as a distillery, we’re incredibly lucky to be making whiskies that we want to drink ourselves, and then getting to share them with the rest of the world so people can find their own perfect dram.”

The Nightcap

Apparently there’s gin in this photo. We’re yet to spot it. Look at him, ffs.

David Gandy joins the juniper fray with Savile Row Gin

Just when you think you’d seen every gin launch imaginable, one comes along that genuinely catches your eye. Yes, of course, it was the liquid that… ahem. Yes. New gin. Last night, our Mariella headed up to London Town for the launch of Savile Row Gin! It’s made with 12 botanicals – including the signature kumquat – by Rob Dorsett (the chap behind the likes of Palmers 44 Gin and a host of others via the Langley Distillery). Oh yeah, and actual David Gandy (model, writer, driver and all-round beautiful human) was revealed as an investor in the brand – and its ambassador, too! He’s involved in the gin on a “day-to-day” basis, apparently. “I look to invest in British start-ups that I believe to be of superior quality with inspirational teams,” he said. “As a lover of gin, Savile Row Gin stood out from the crowd with its smoothness and flavour. I loved the fact it is a quintessentially British product, produced in the UK and curated on one of Britain’s most iconic streets, one that stands for craftsmanship and quality. I’m excited to be part of the team to help expand and grow the brand.” Founder Stewart Lee (not that one) seems chuffed: “David embodies the refined elegance and style of Savile Row and I am delighted to have his support, both as an ambassador and investor for the brand.” The best news? You can snap up Savile Row Gin right here!

The Nightcap

It may not be Guinness, but it’s still dark and beautiful.

Guinness launches limited-edition coffee 232 Brew

Inspired by a shared passion for rugby, the creators of the famous pints of the black stuff have teamed up with coffee company Tiki Tonga, which was founded by current Saracens captain and former British and Irish Lions player, Brad Barritt, to create a called ‘232 Brew’. The delicately balanced, full-bodied coffee should make those early morning kick-offs at the 2019 Rugby World Cup a little easier to handle (it’s held in Japan this year). The name comes from the fact that the coffee was roasted at 232°C, which is the same temperature as the barley used to brew Guinness, which is pretty neat. It should be made very clear, this not an alcoholic drink. Nothing is stopping you from making that coffee truly Irish, however. 232 Brew is said to have notes of fruit and nut chocolate leaving you with a rich mouthfeel and a long-lasting distinguished chocolate finish, and will also make a delightful Americano, cappuccino or flat white. The delicious blend will be available at selected venues across the country including Flat Iron Square (London), Oasthouse (Manchester) and Brigadiers (London). “The next six weeks are set to be some of the most exciting weeks of the year for fans of rugby, but we know that for many the early morning starts are far from ideal,” said Niall McKee, head of Guinness Europe. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Brad and the team at Tiki Tonga to create the ultimate coffee. We want to be there with rugby’s biggest fans for those early morning starts – bringing belief and team spirit.”

The Nightcap

Even adventurous spirits need to be enjoyed responsibly.

McQueen Gin gets told off by ASA

It wasn’t a great week for McQueen Gin’s parent company Trossachs Distillery. It was scolded by advertising watchdog the ASA for airing a TV ad that was declared “irresponsible”. The ad in question shows a group of three mates having a jolly good time in the Scottish Highlands, climbing mountains, swimming in lochs and taking in the view at the top of a rocky peak. The only trouble is that they celebrated the climb with a cheeky G&T – which very much implied that the return journey would be undertaken post-booze. Tricky, when you’re not allowed to suggest that physical activities are a good idea after alcohol (legal types would refer you to BCAP Code rule 19.13 (Alcohol)). “In this case, we considered the ad suggested that the activities would be undertaken after the consumption of alcohol and were therefore irresponsible,” an ASA statement reads. Best leave the gin back at the ranch and toast the day’s achievements after both legs of the journey are complete.

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call autumn!

Dalloway Terrace Transforms for Autumn 2019 with Æcorn Aperitifs

The wonderful Dalloway Terrace (yes, that’s a Virginia Woolf reference) over at The Bloomsbury Hotel has gone through quite the seasonal transformation embracing all things autumn! To do this it’s rather appropriately teamed up with Æcorn Aperitifs. Expect oodles of golden leaves, brushed gold butterflies and a wonderful flower-filled terrace, to evoke the feeling of dining under a magnificent oak tree. Everyone’s dream. It’s not just the visuals that have been autumn-fied; the drinks menu has had a seasonal reboot, too. Expect wonderful aperitifs such as the Æcorn Elderflower Spritz, with Æcorn Dry, elderflower cordial and English sparkling wine. There’s also a unique Afternoon Tea menu inspired by Æcorn’s three alcohol-free aperitifs, and it’s totally autumn-inspired. I mean come on, there’s ‘Conkers on a String’, which isn’t really a conker, but chestnut and milk chocolate cream laced with Æcorn Aromatic. So seasonal! If the colder months are your thing, then Dalloway Terrace is definitely the spot for you.

The Nightcap

The future is here, and it’s boozy!

And finally… Spotify soundtracks cocktails while Diageo headsets predict your fave

Fifty-four of the world’s best bartenders and industry luminaries gathered this week for the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Global Final 2019 in Glasgow’s West End, which was won by the amazing Bannie Kang from Singapore! But that’s not the only thing that caught the eye as the drinks giant has announced a couple of startling new initiatives. The first, a collaboration with Spotify, led to the creation of six data-driven playlists curated for signature cocktails. Using social data and keywords related to specific Diageo Reserve brand cocktails, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service was able to identify key tracks and music that best encapsulated the mood and spirit of the cocktail. Rak Patel, head of UK sales at Spotify said: “Together with Diageo, we’re tapping into these insights to set the mood as they sip their favourite cocktails while creating a delightful and impactful connection with the brands they love.” Also on show was a headset linked to a sensory experiment that could be the answer for gin lovers unsure what to mix with their Tanqueray No. Ten. The Head vs Heart activation recommends personalised serves based on the results from the EEG sensors, essentially reading your mind to find the perfect cocktail. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out personalised and immersive experiences in our category,” Benjamin Lickfett, said Diageo’s head of futures, who has clearly never watched any films with AI or advanced mind-reading robots before. “Head vs Heart is just one example of an emerging technology enabling consumers to explore their own taste preferences and the flavours of our award-winning Tanqueray No. 10 as part of an engaging, sensory and surprising experience”. Stu Bale, director of London’s experimental creative bartending hub ‘Crucible’ also demonstrated the use of ‘weird machines’ like rotavaps, centrifuges, and ultrasonics to express different aspects of flavour and texture. World Class really sounds like a who’s who of ‘what the hell?!’ this year. You can visit www.theworldclassclub.com for more info.

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Kanpai! 10 things you should know about sake

It’s complex, versatile and seriously cool, but how much do you know about sake? If your knowledge is lacking, fret not – we’ve got all the info on this lip-smacking…

It’s complex, versatile and seriously cool, but how much do you know about sake? If your knowledge is lacking, fret not – we’ve got all the info on this lip-smacking Japanese tipple (for starts, don’t refer to it as ‘rice wine’). From the origins of the drink to its intricate production processes, here are 10 things you need to know about sake…

Japan: the home of elaborate toilets, bizarre vending machines, Studio Ghibli, selfie sticks, and matcha lattes. The island nation is also known for making an array of delicious boozes, from the popular – in the case of Japanese whisky and its waning stocks, we’re drinking them a bit too quickly – as well as some lesser known ones (think: shochu).

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Summer spirits trends? Agave and Asian spirits top the charts

We take a look at 2017’s hottest summer spirits trends – based on what you’re drinking right now. With the sun presumably shining, what better way to toast the long…

We take a look at 2017’s hottest summer spirits trends – based on what you’re drinking right now.

With the sun presumably shining, what better way to toast the long summer days than with a top tipple? Whether it’s holiday serves or sippers, a little liquid indulgence goes a long way to add to that sunny feel-good factor. And you, our wonderful customers, clearly agree. We shipped 60% more spirits bottles this June and July than during the same two months in 2016 – which means more of you than ever enjoyed a summer drink from Master of Malt.

But it’s not all kicking back with a cocktail. We’ve spotted that you’re a savvy bunch indeed, with your seasonal sipping choices well ahead of the curve when it comes to summer spirits trends. And this is especially true when it comes to agave-based drinks and Asian spirits.

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