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Tag: Scotch

The story behind the Scotch: J&B Rare

J&B Rare is a back bar favourite the world over, it’s sold millions of cases over the years and become part of our cultural history.  But how did a wine…

J&B Rare is a back bar favourite the world over, it’s sold millions of cases over the years and become part of our cultural history.  But how did a wine merchant end up creating such a remarkable whisky brand? Master blender Louise Martin joins us today to tell us the story behind the Scotch.

On St James’s  Street in London, you’ll find wine and spirits merchant, Justerini & Brooks. Established in 1749, for over 270 years it has been supplying tasty booze to its customers and has the proud distinction of being granted a Royal Warrant by every British monarch since King George III in 1761, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that Justerini & Brooks signature Scotch, J&B Rare, came into the picture. The man we have to thank for that is Eddie Tatham. He joined Justerini & Brooks as managing director after the First World War and “thrived in the era of the ‘bright young things’,” says master blender Louise Martin. “No party was complete without him. Eddie mingled comfortably with both café society and stars of stage and screen including Fred Astaire, David Niven, and Marlene Dietrich. He had good connections in America including the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts”. 

The relationships Tatham established took him to the States frequently. While there, he noticed there was tremendous potential as Prohibition was drawing to a close. The watered-down swill that was frequently traded throughout this period created a demand for quality blended Scotch. In 1932, J&B Rare was launched for the first time just before Prohibition was repealed, making it perfectly placed to meet that demand.

J&B Rare

J&B Rare has been a fixture of back bars and drinks cabinets since 1932

From wine to whisky

J&B Rare was instantly a hit, particularly in the US. By 1961 Justerini & Brooks had shipped one million cases of whisky for export and that increased to two million cases just eight years later in 1969. Alongside other notable favourites at the time like Cutty Sark, J&B Rare was instrumental in establishing the trend for blends and changing the perception of Scotch in the US after Prohibition. But how was it that a company better known for its extensive fine wine portfolio was able to create such an impressive Scotch whisky? 

Martin says that Tatham recruited right. He brought on board Charlie Julian, who was actually the man responsible for making Cutty Sark for Berry Bros & Rudd in 1923. It was a natural fit. Julian had some previous creating great Scotch for wine experts. “He worked with a wider palate than most master blenders,” Martin says. “Together Tatham and Julian mixed and matched over 32 whiskies to create the first J&B Rare blend. They then perfected the recipe which contained 42 whiskies, 40% of which are malts”. The exact recipe is confidential, but we know that at the heart of the blend is spirit from Knockando, Auchroisk,  Strathmill, and Glen Spey, and that J&B Rare holds the remarkable distinction of retaining that same signature blend of 42 single malt and grain whiskies today.

The profile was inspired by the tastes of the new American drinker. That meant light-looking, light-tasting whisky with a higher proportion of malt whiskies to add character. “Julian ensured that the malts that were used were sufficiently aged to deliver a round, fruity, unique, and distinctive taste, which is delicately balanced by grain whiskies. This gives J&B Rare its distinctive and unexpected character”. Martin also said that the maturation process is flexible to account for taste and that the brand uses American or European oak. “I love the flexibility of selecting the flavour when it is right, not working by a number. The right cask at the right time”.

J&B Rare

A common sight at Hollywood parties, J&B Rare was a pop culture icon

A Hollywood fixture

The secret to J&B Rare’s success, however, is not solely down to what’s inside the bottle. It’s always had an impressive look and that bottle you see today remains virtually unchanged from the 1930s. The striking red and yellow label, and retro design continue to give the whisky standout appeal on the shelves of supermarkets, bars, and retailers. But J&B Rare also became one of those brands that found its way into the limelight via famous fans and notable appearances. Martin explains Tatham’s ability to make excellent contacts in America was a key reason this happened. “J&B Rare had the reputation of being the drink of the influencers and innovators of the day and flourished in America after Prohibition. It was known to be of high quality and from a London wine merchant based in St James’s”. 

It’s a whisky with a significant pop culture history. J&B Rare was something of a fixture in Italian cinema in the 1970s and appears in both John Carpenter’s The Thing and in the novel American Psycho. It scored a lucrative association with the Hollywood Rat Pack of the 1950s and ’60s. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jnr all drank J&B, and even John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe counted themselves as fans. Martin says that, by the 1960s, J&B Rare had become “a society whisky, with colourful characters making it their whisky of preference including Hollywood greats such as Cary Grant, Rex Harrison and Truman Capote who always ordered a ‘Justerini & Brooks’ by its full name”. 

J&B Rare’s appeal has seemingly always extended to royalty too, as all those warrants demonstrate. Martin says the Duke of Windsor, in particular, was a noted fan. He always travelled with a few cases of J&B Rare in his luggage and would telephone Justerini & Brooks directly to place an order. There was once an amusing mix-up with the girl taking the order, Martin says, as she didn’t recognise his voice. After announcing “Hello, it’s the Duke of Windsor. I’d like to order some J&B Rare”, her response was “I’m afraid we don’t supply public houses directly, Sir.” Martin says that Edward VIII then “graciously explained that he was the actual Duke of Windsor and not a pub of the same name!”

J&B Rare

Whip an Old Fashioned for yourself with one of the world’s most enduring blends

Standing the test of time

Stories behind brands like Famous Grouse and J&B Rare intrigue me because both are so ubiquitous. Anywhere there’s whisky, there they are. It’s a remarkable achievement and it’s one we don’t often recognize. Plenty of blends that were around in the golden age haven’t stood the test of time like the first two whiskies we’ve featured in the story behind the Scotch series. It’s a shame blends like these can still be overlooked by whisky enthusiasts gravitating to the oldest, most rare, and/or expensive bottlings they can get their hands on.

But not only does huge-selling blended whisky still very much power the Scotch industry, but many of them are also responsible for our first moments of whisky fandom. It’s easy to forget that the majority of us began our love affair with this spirit after trying stepping stone blends commonly available in corner shops, supermarkets, and award-winning online retailers (ahem). As we move into the world of single malts, age statements and start to passionately care about things like bottling strength and additional colouring our tastes change. Our palates get treated to a diverse array of whisky. But at no point should we think we’re too good for the backbone blends. And the generation of whisky lovers to come will also need accessible, affordable Scotch to join us in this wonderful world.

For anyone in the market for such a drink, I’ve long been a fan of J&B Rare and think it remains an excellent beginner whisky. It’s light, delicately sweet, and has some really beautiful fruity notes (toffee apples mostly for me). Throughout there’s also a slightly malty, rich note underneath that brings body and depth. It can be a touch immature and brash on the nose, but those rougher edges are easily soothed in an array of cocktails, where this dram really shines. It makes a fantastic Whisky Sour, I love it in Highballs (ginger ale, soda, cola – it all works) and even makes a surprisingly good Mint Julep. To show you how easy it is to enjoy this classic Scotch, I’ve popped a delightfully simple Old Fashioned recipe underneath. You can pretend you’re Frank Sinatra while you imbibe. 

How to make a J&B Old Fashioned

50ml J&B Rare
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Add one sugar cube and the Angostura Bitters to a rocks glass. Crush the sugar cube and add J&B Rare. Add ice cubes and stir, adding more ice as you go along. Garnish with a touch of orange zest and a couple of Maraschino cherries.

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Master of Malt tastes: Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series! It’s a truth universally acknowledged that…

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the mail is a highlight of any given lockdown day. Last week, a truly intriguing parcel arrived. I’d put my name down for a Bowmore Twitter Tasting (keep your eyes peeled this Thursday evening!), but what I held in my hands was a whole host of deliciousness from the Islay distillery all bundled up in one box. One jewel that especially stood out? Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series.

The biggest challenge was keeping the news, the sample and its tastiness quiet until today. And then saving some of the liquid for Thursday’s tasting. Damn you, embargo! TL;DR: this whisky is gorgeous, and I can’t quite believe I get to taste it.

Bowmore ditillery from the air

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery

After all this promise and hyperbole, what actually is it? Bowmore is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries with a recorded heritage stretching back to 1779. And it’s become something of an Islay icon; its signature balance of tropical fruit, approachable smoke, and a coastal influence has won it fans all over the world. The team at the distillery often talk about how its Warehouse No.1, which sits right against the glimmering expanse of sea known as Loch Indaal, is one of the longest standing maturation warehouses. With the distillery’s storied history such a key theme, it makes sense to group together a range of much older expressions under one banner, and here we have a new expression in the Timeless Series. 

Pleasingly, we get quite a lot of detail about this bottling. The single malt comprises liquid that spent 15 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (although at this point we don’t know exactly what type of sherry). Then it was transferred into first-fill Oloroso butts for the remaining 12 years – and this shines through via the gorgeous heap of dried fruit and almond on the nose. It’s then been bottled at cask strength – here that means 52.7% ABV. There are 3,000 bottles available globally, and we’ve got some here at MoM Towers! (Though it may have sold out by the time you read this. In which case, sorry!) At £1,500 a bottle it’s not cheap, but it really is something wonderful. (There’s also a 31yo travel retail exclusive, but you’ll have to keep an eye on Twitter on Thursday evening for more on that!).

The longer you age a whisky, the trickier it can be to achieve that balance between spirit and cask. As Ron Welsh, Bowmore’s master blender puts it: “With Bowmore Timeless Series, the key is the careful selection of the right casks, at the right time.  This enables us to determine when the spirit has reached its peak, or if it should be left longer to develop its character further. This careful balance is vital to ensuring we allow the character of our whiskies to be optimised and can, therefore, promise exceptional flavour delivery.”

Bowmore’s also teamed up with French film director and artist Thomas Vanz to create an audiovisual digital immersion to support the launch of Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series. You can check it out here at bowmore-experience.com!

Tasting Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Crucial stuff now: what does it actually taste like? Here are my thoughts:

Appearance: Deep amber 

Nose: Opens with oodles of raisins, sultanas and prunes all wrapped up in marzipan. Then comes the gentle beach bonfire smoke, balanced out with cinnamon and toffee apple vibes. There’s a reminder of the traditional Bowmore tropical fruit too, a suggestion of mango and papaya. Then the smoke gets a smidge more medicinal with time. 

Palate: Hugely mouth-filling, pretty viscous, gently warming. The dried fruit cake elements continue, and they’re joined by just-crushed coffee bean, honey, and cigar smoke elements. Old leather, orange oil, proper vanilla pod, and black cherry come through, too.

Finish: It’s all about that cigar-bonfire hybrid smoke, cracked black pepper, and is reminiscent of seaweed. It’s long and just keeps developing on the palate. 

Overall: Gloriously complex and like smoking the most decadent cigar on a seriously sumptuous sofa in a library filled with dusty books. 

And if that’s not enough, it comes in a really rather fancy sand timer-shaped box. Complete with an actual sand timer. It’s set for three minutes, which is apparently how long you should savour the nose for. I say sit with it for as long as you can. It’s really rather lovely, and getting to taste it has been an enormous luxury, and a true highlight in these monotonous lockdown times. 

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #24: Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

It’s Christmas Eve! But also, sadly, the last day of #WhiskyAdvent. One door closes, another opens and all that. But today we’re mainly opening doors, specifically #24. For our final…

It’s Christmas Eve! But also, sadly, the last day of #WhiskyAdvent. One door closes, another opens and all that. But today we’re mainly opening doors, specifically #24. For our final whisky of the countdown, we’ve got a rather unique smoky Speysider… It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat!

Back in 2019, Balvenie released The Balvenie Stories range, a trio of whiskies crafted to tell tales of the distillery’s history to its drinkers. The Week of Peat was one of such three, and is actually based on The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old, which was launched in 2017. So, what’s the story? A peated Speysider isn’t something you see every day, so you know it’s going to be a good one…

Cast your minds back to 2002. The very first film instalment of Spider-Man (and arguably the best – Tobey Maguire reigns the arthropod king, and I will take this outside) had just been released, and Balvenie distillery manager at the time Ian Millar had found a rare gap in the distillery’s production schedule. There was a whole week free! So, he decided to give drying barley with peat a go. Why not, eh? There’s a first time for everything, and it certainly wasn’t the last. This smoky dram was inspired by the fruits of that experimental week, with classic Balvenie florals and butterscotch supported by a delicate layer of smoke. But don’t take our word for it, we’ve got Balvenie’s global brand ambassador Gemma Patterson on hand to tell us all about it! 

whisky advent balvenie week of peat

It’s Gemma Patterson!

Master of Malt: Tell us about the history of The Week of Peat releases!

Gemma Patterson: The Week of Peat started back in 2002 when we cleared the production schedule for a week at Balvenie and ran a heavily peated batch of malt through the distillery. This is a tradition that continued and we have maintained an annual Peaty Week ever since. Ian Millar, distillery manager at the time was the brains behind the operation, he inspired a number of trials that ran through The Balvenie maltings in the years leading up to the first full week of peat. It was maltman/poet/songwriter Robbie Gormley who was responsible for experimenting with the malt, using Highland-grown barley that had been peated to around 28PPM. Brian Webster, mashman/raconteur, was responsible for milling, mashing, and fermenting the stuff and he lovingly refers to this variant as “that stinkin’ stuff!”. In the end, after 14 years resting in an American oak bourbon barrel the peat has mellowed to around 5PPM. The dram is still characteristically Balvenie with smooth honey undertones, only laced with a wisp of peat. Oh, and it is bottled at 48.3% ABV so it has a nice kick to it. I like to add a wee splash of water to this one. If you want to hear more from the people who made this whisky then head here and have a listen to our podcast.

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink Balvenie?

GP: It depends on the dram, hand me a Caribbean Cask and I love a wee splash of water with it. If you’re generous enough to pour me a PortWood then I would sip this one slowly neat.

MoM: Has there been a Balvenie highlight of 2020?

GP: The highlight of 2020 was launching the next variant in our Stories Series, The Edge of Burnhead Wood. We did this virtually via Zoom, Teams, and live distillery tours. This involved connecting with our Balvenie families across the world, from our local ambassadors, the distillery team, and malt master David C. Stewart MBE from his home in Glasgow. Like the rest of the world, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the course of the year getting to grips with new technology and different ways to communicate, but overall it has been an enjoyable journey, keeping connected has been incredibly important for us all to keep sane. One day we may show you our blooper reels…

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting down with a Balvenie dram. Which one is it?

GP: The Week of Peat of course! You can’t beat a wee smoky dram in front of the fire at this time of year. 

MoM: Do you have a go-to Christmas cocktail?

GP: I’m going to experiment with making a Balvenie Caribbean Cask Eggnog, let’s see how that turns out…

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #11: BenRiach 10 Year Old

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’…  Well,…

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’… 

Well, well, it’s the 11th day of Advent. We’re not half way just yet, but gosh darn it’s not far off either! You’ll know that though of course, because you can see how many doors you’ve opened on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and it’s got a treat for you on this special day.

We all know you’re here for the whisky, so we’ll get down to it.

Today’s dram is… BenRiach 10 Year Old!

This particular expression was first launched in April 2015, and is the flagship expression from the Speyside distillery after it changed hands in 2004 from Pernod Ricard to Billy Walker (it was subsequently bought by Brown-Forman in 2016). So, this was the first core range expression to be predominantly crafted from whiskies distilled at BenRiach since Walker took over. And it’s still going strong! 

The Speysider is drawn from both bourbon and sherry casks after a decade of ageing, so you have all those sweeter, creamy notes from the bourbon cask sitting wonderfully alongside the spicier notes from the sherry cask. 

Benriach 10 year old

It’s the wonderful Dr Rachel Barrie, everyone!

We got to chat to the awesome master blender Dr Rachel Barrie, to talk us through all things BenRiach! It’s been quite the year for the Dr Barrie, as among many other achievements, after 27 years in the industry she was inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’

Master of Malt: Wow, here we have the flagship expression from BenRiach! Can you talk us through what we should be expecting flavour-wise?

Dr Rachel Barrie: Benriach 10 Year Old glides on the palate like a delicious patisserie, with layers of succulent orchard fruit on a base of pastry-like malt and vanilla cream, topped with toasted almond and a touch of spice. 

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink BenRiach 10 Year Old?

RB: I enjoy BenRiach 10 Year Old neat or with a splash of water for the perfect multi-layered balance of fruit, malt and oak. 

Benriach 10 year old

Behold, Benriach 10 Year Old.

MoM: What’s been a BenRiach highlight of 2019?

RB: In 2019, the launch of the latest BenRiach Cask bottling Batch was a highlight, after selecting 24 casks from Warehouse 13, including Benriach unpeated and peated matured in oak casks previously filled with Tokaji wine, oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez, Port, claret, Madeira, Sauternes, virgin oak, South African red wine, Jamaican rum, Rioja, Sicilian Marsala, and bourbon! The drinker now has the chance to select from the same eclectic collection of casks I have the pleasure of nosing every day.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas cocktail?

RB: A smooth, spiced fruit cocktail with cloudy apple juice, ginger beer, cinnamon and cloves, and a slice of red apple perched on glass, to crunch between sips. The perfect balance of sweet and dry, warm and spicy yet refreshingly smooth and fruity.

MoM: What can we expect from BenRiach in 2020?

RB: BenRiach will really come alive in 2020 with many exciting developments when it comes to our pursuit of flavour and pushing the creative boundaries of whisky-making in our three styles – classic, peated and triple-distilled.

Tasting note:

Nose: Citrus-forward, with gingerbread and cinnamon in support.

Palate: Fried banana, brown sugar, powerful barley notes driving it all along.

Finish: Lasting hints of peppery malt and vanilla custard.

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Five minutes with… Ervin Trykowski from The Singleton

Scotch whisky is the most versatile spirit in the entire world, says Singleton’s global brand ambassador Ervin Trykowski, but the drinking ritual it’s long been associated with – sipped neat,…

Scotch whisky is the most versatile spirit in the entire world, says Singleton’s global brand ambassador Ervin Trykowski, but the drinking ritual it’s long been associated with sipped neat, with a drop or two of water at best is a barrier for newcomers. It’s high time we stripped away the pompous rules, clichés and tired tropes that keep the category trapped in ‘tradition’ and let the liquid speak for itself…

Dufftown, Glendullan, and Glen Ord: The trio of distilleries you’ll find branded across the various bottles of The Singleton. Look through the history books and you’ll find each has produced single malt for more than 100 years, but rather than dwell on heritage, the folks behind The Singleton are unconventional in their focus on the here and now. 

‘We are proud of our roots,’ they write, ‘but we’re not bound by them. If you take The Singleton with a side of ice cream, then great. Or straight with a bacon brioche, then that’s your call my friend. Do, drink, and eat what you love. The Singleton is simply a whisky to be Unapologetically Enjoyed.’

It’s a refreshing approach to what can be, at times, a remarkably conservative industry. Here, the man at the helm – Ervin Trykowski, The Singleton’s global brand ambassador – urges whisky purists to throw out the rulebook…

the singleton ervin

Introducing The Singleton’s Ervin Trykowski

Master of Malt: Let’s get to grips with the liquid first. What is it about The Singleton that makes it Diageo’s best-selling single malt?

Ervin Trykowski: Primarily the style. The Singleton is a family of three different distilleries and all of them are known for producing an incredibly approachable and easy to enjoy single malt. The distillate at all three very much fits a profile, with green, cut-grass notes, and it matures into this delicious, sweet, fruity, vibrant whisky. In a word, it’s approachability: it’s a super accessible style of spirit that seems to resonate around the world.

MoM: Your marketing is a refreshing departure from the stuffiness of Scotch. What’s the industry’s biggest hurdle with regards to recruiting new whisky fans? 

ET: The clichéd old rules attached to Scotch. It’s always very closed language: You shouldn’t add ice, don’t add water, don’t put it in a cocktail. It’s all ‘don’t, don’t, don’t’. Our biggest hurdle as an industry is that four to 20 years previously we spent a lot of time talking about that classic Scotch ritual, and if you’re new to Scotch whisky, it’s daunting. Walk in a whisky bar anywhere in the world and the first thing they tell you is how many they’ve got – ‘we’ve got 500 whiskies’ – and straight away you’re like, ‘how on earth am I supposed to navigate this category?’. And then the person over the other side of the bar tells you what not to do. It’s not very helpful. Other spirits have been talking about mixing first, getting people on board before maybe explaining the nuances between different gins, for example, but in Scotch whisky we go: ‘go on, drink that’ at 43%. Scotch whisky is the most versatile spirit in the world and we pigeonhole it as one moment, when in reality we should be making it apply to more occasions. Nobody wants to drink a cask strength Scotch on their summer holidays in Marbella at 11 o’ clock in the morning. You want a highball or a cocktail, but in the industry, it’s done as an afterthought. They take you through the vertical tastings – usually the non age statement all the way up to the 18 or 25 year old – and then they say, ‘oh, by the way, this also makes a really good Old Fashioned’. We flip it on its head and start the journey with that, and then introduce them to [the whisky] on the rocks or neat once they understand the flavour in a more approachable way. 

MoM: A cocktail-first approach makes way more sense. Tell us a bit about you, then – what’s your background in booze?

ET: I’m one of the new style of Scotch whisky ambassadors that has come from the on-trade. I started working for Diageo five years ago as a Scotch whisky ambassador in Scotland and for the last three years, I’ve been travelling the world as global Scotch whisky ambassador – working across the portfolio, with my primary focus being The Singleton. I come at Scotch from a very different angle: getting it in front of people who aren’t necessarily traditional Scotch whisky drinkers. With a brand like Singleton, that’s our raison d’etre; that’s what we’re here to do. Plus, getting to travel the world and talk about your national spirit is a bit of a treat for anyone from Scotland. 

MoM: Could you share some of the interesting ways you’ve seen people enjoying Scotch whisky on your travels?

ET: My first trip as a global Scotch whisky ambassador was to Mexico for [annual Diageo cocktail competition] World Class. As part of my role I look after the Scotch whisky for the programme and engaging with the world’s best bartenders is an incredible way to see how different cultures engage with Scotch. On the plane I was looking through the menu and the guy who was serving me recommended Johnnie Walker Black Label and coconut water. It’s not just what you’re drinking with it, though, it’s how you’re drinking it and the occasion you’re drinking it in. A lot of cultures don’t take the mixing thing half as seriously as we do. In Malaysia I led a masterclass in a karaoke restaurant – which was really good fun but also shows that Scotch whisky really fits in different circumstances the world over; it doesn’t just have to be in front of the fire clad in tweed. It’s interesting doing a whisky masterclass in between people murdering Madonna. 

The Singleton Ervin

Trykowski defying tradition and pouring something delicious

MoM: Being free to ‘unapologetically enjoy’ whisky is at the heart of The Singleton’s ethos. Do you think the industry has an attitude problem? And if so, how can it shake it off?

ET: I don’t think there’s an attitude problem, it’s a problem with education and we need to change it as ambassadors. For me, coming from a bar background, it’s really important to engage with the on-trade and educate them on how they are recommending Scotch whisky. A massive amount of people who are starting to get into single malt will try it in a bar, people are eating and drinking out more than ever before, so it’s important to educate bartenders because that’s the first barrier, if you like. People panic, maybe they don’t know about every single malt on their back bar, so all of a sudden they’re regurgitating the same thing they’ve heard from a family member, rather than understanding that people need to be encouraged to try things in new ways. Often the oldest Scotch whisky markets are the worst for it. I go to Manila in the Philippines quite often, and out there the attitude towards single malt is incredible because they started with a blank canvas – they’re very open to it in cocktails and highballs and there’s no preciousness or preconceptions about what they should or shouldn’t do.

MoM: Ditch the rulebook. Got it. With that in mind, what’s an easy-to-make Singleton cocktail serve?

ET: I’ve got just the thing: You get a highball glass, fill it with ice right up to the top and add around 40ml of Singleton. Get yourself a good artisanal, free-range, bespoke, sparkling apple juice – I’d recommend Appletiser – and add about 100ml of that followed by around 50ml of soda water. It’s absolutely dynamite. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it’s definitely not rocket science, but it plays on the flavours that you’ll already find in The Singleton, those classic Speyside apples and pears.

MoM: Tell us where and when you enjoyed your most memorable dram…

ET: There’s something magical about drinking a whisky at the distillery. One of my favourite places in the world to drink whisky is the Port Ellen lighthouse on Islay, it’s well worth experiencing and made even better if the weather’s crap. When it’s really windy and the waves come crashing over the top it’s amazing. I was lucky enough to be out there with Colin Dunn, one of our whisky ambassadors, who’s a legend – if you could print that it would be great – drinking Port Ellen on the lighthouse looking over the old distillery. That’s pretty magic. Yesterday I was up at Dufftown Distillery and if you walk around the back there’s a wonderful little hill that leads up to some warehousing. It looks over both Dufftown and Mortlach so I had a wee dram with some guests up there yesterday. The short answer is: a Scottish distillery.

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Talisker’s top five ways to bring Wild Spirit to your cocktail

Remember Talisker’s maritime-inspired Race to Skye competition? Well, this year the single malt Scotch whisky distillery’s annual cocktail challenge has transcended the tumultuous Skye shoreline to encompass Britain’s fields, forests,…

Remember Talisker’s maritime-inspired Race to Skye competition? Well, this year the single malt Scotch whisky distillery’s annual cocktail challenge has transcended the tumultuous Skye shoreline to encompass Britain’s fields, forests, and farmer’s markets. Here, brand ambassador Jason Clark shared tips for crafting a drink inspired by the wilderness…

If there’s one thing the Isle of Skye’s only distillery excels at, it’s crafting a bold, smoky, spicy, maritime dram. And if there’s one thing the UK’s bartenders know how to do, it’s make a damn fine cocktail with the stuff. So, it’s with great anticipation that we welcome back Talisker’s bartender training programme and competition for a third year. And this time, it’s evolved.

Wild Spirit Whisky Tour

To spread this fine news, Talisker brand ambassador and double World Class Global Finalist Jason Clark has embarked on a UK-wide tour of 16 seaside locations and other cities to chat about the brand’s history, production and characteristics, and share a few Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Oh, and he’s doing the whole thing in a Talisker Land Rover Highland Defender – camping in each location and documenting his journey along the way.

After his tour is over, bartenders across the UK will be invited to submit a Talisker Wild Spirit serve and add it to the menu in their bar for eight weeks to be in with the chance of bagging a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for themselves and two of their colleagues. We’re a curious bunch, so we decided to sneak into Clark’s first session, which was hosted in London-based subterranean whisky den Black Rock. Here’s what we learned about crafting cocktails with a touch of Wild Spirit…

  1. Test your palate

Experiment with “seasonal, natural flavours that are different to the classic flavours you find in a bar”, Clark suggests. Things like different mushroom varieties, toasted nuts, pine needles, olives, beetroot, tomato, different blossoms and flowers, salt, different types of honey, different types of apples, pears, weeds, roots, cured meats, samphire, rhubarb, figs, nettles, tangerines, stone fruits, dandelion, and seaweed varieties.

  1. Consider homegrown

“These flavours may be grown in your garden or on your windowsill,” Clark suggests – indeed, garden centres sell all-in-one kits for mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and various herbs. Otherwise, “they might be foraged from a local park or coastline, they might be purchased from a local farmers market, or even from the supermarket,” he adds.

  1. Forage with care

Our neighbourhoods, parks, reserves, and coastline are all abundant with forageable produce, you just need to know what you’re looking at, suggests Clark. However, “you need to know that the area you’re sourcing from is natural, clean and safe,” he says. For example, don’t pick blackberries from a graveyard, a dog park, or an industrial area.

  1. Utilise the ingredients

If you forage something, and simple use it as a garnish or muddle it in the drink, you’re missing a trick. “It’s going to be gone in a day or three,” says Clark. “But if you look at ways of preserving it, you can use it on an ongoing basis for, potentially, the remainder of the season.” Syrups, infusions, shrubs, bitters, tinctures, pickling and cooking all bring out flavour in different ways. “You could do something as simple as infusing ginger bitters with magnolia flowers,” he adds.

  1. Give it a fancy name

When someone opens a menu and sees the name of a cocktail, it instantly creates a mental image, says Clark. Think: Winter Waves, Spring Orchard, Shackleton Toddy, Highland Fire, Campfire Tales, and so on. Take it a step further by creating a little story about that as well.

Foraging not your forte? Here are three pre-approved Talisker cocktails you can whip up from the comfort of your own home…

Talisker Sea Sour

Talisker Sea Sour

Sea Sour

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 30ml lemon juice, 1 egg white, 15ml honey syrup, 3 dashes celery bitters
Glass: Old fashioned or tumbler
Garnish: Fennel or samphire
Method: Shake and double strain then garnish.

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

Campfire Hot Chocolate

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Skye or Storm), 50ml boiling water, 45g dark chocolate (60%), 150ml milk (dairy or oat), 10ml golden syrup
Garnish: Toasted marshmallow and spice dust
Method: Mix chocolate with water and stir. Add other ingredients and steam on a coffee machine milk wand. Pour into mug and garnish.

Talisker Hot Todday

Talisker Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

Ingredients: 50ml Talisker (10 Year Old, Storm, or Port Ruighe), 10ml ginger liqueur, 15ml heather honey syrup, 25ml lemon juice, 25ml apple juice, 100ml boiling water
Garnish: Cinnamon-spiced honeycomb
Method: Build in a pre-heated mug and garnish.

The Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour will run until 20 April. To see the full schedule and sign up, bartenders should visit https://taliskerwildspirit.events.idloom.com.

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