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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Single Malt Whisky

Burns Night poetry competition – win a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay Single Malt

It’s back, the Master of Malt Burns Night poetry competition. If you fancy yourself as something of a bard, why not enter for the chance to win a bottle of…

It’s back, the Master of Malt Burns Night poetry competition. If you fancy yourself as something of a bard, why not enter for the chance to win a bottle of Islay single malt whisky?

Last year, we put on our first ever Burns Night poetry competition. Frankly, dear reader, we were amazed, not just by the number of entries but by the quality. Who would have guessed that Master of Malt customers would be so talented? You can read Richard Foster’s winning entry and the runners-up here. 

So we’re doing it all again this year in the run up to Burns Night on Saturday 25 January. All you have to do is write a poem about whisky. You can take your inspiration from the Bard himself but don’t feel constrained. If you want to do it in the style of Omar Khayyam (wine-loving Persian poet of 11th century), then we’d love to see how you get on. There are no restrictions on length or style, all we say is that the poem must be in English or Scots. To enter simply email us at marketing@masterofmalt.com or comment on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or below. Entrants must be of legal drinking age and based in a country that we ship to. We will be accepting entrants from 13 until 22 January (see full terms and conditions below). 

Aerolite Lyndsay

Chocks away!

All entries will be judged by the (extremely discerning and well-read) team here at MoM. The winner will receive a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay, a single malt from the Character of Islay Whisky Company. The name might make it sound like the sort of aeroplane flown by a man called Ginger during World War One but it’s actually an anagram of ten year old Islay. Three runners up will receive drams of Aerolite Lyndsay.

So, what are you waiting for? Time to sharpen those quills, get out your finest vellum and channel your inner Orpheus.

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New Arrival of the Week: Filey Bay Single Malt Whisky (Second Release)

This week we’re celebrating our first Monday back at work with a single malt whisky from Yorkshire that has just arrived at MoM towers. The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery began…

This week we’re celebrating our first Monday back at work with a single malt whisky from Yorkshire that has just arrived at MoM towers.

The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery began distilling back in 2016. We visited in 2017 and were very impressed by the quality of the set-up and the embryonic whiskies. So we’re very excited that its first single malt whisky is finally here. Well, actually it’s the second, the first release landed in November and sold out so quickly that we didn’t have time to write about it properly.

The distillery was founded by farmer and brewer Tom Mellor from Wold Top Brewery in North Yorkshire and business partner David Thompson, with a little help from the late Jim Swan. It’s a true farm to glass set-up with all the barley used coming from Mellor’s farm around Hunmanby, south of Scarborough. The barley goes to Bridlington for malting before going to Wold Top for mashing and fermentation. This sort of set-up, though not allowed under SWA rules, is common in the burgeoning English whisky category. I mean, if you own a brewery already, then why not do the brewing there?

Filey Bay

David Thompson (left)  and Tom Mellor next to their innovative still set-up

The still arrangement would also cause some head scratching at the SWA. There’s a 5,000 litre wash still with boil ball and a 3,500 lantern-shaped spirit, made by Forsyths of Rothes. So far so conventional, but at the pull of a lever, the spirit vapour can be sent through a four plate column for further distillation. The distillery can thus create two kinds of single malt, a heavier pot still spirit and a lighter column still distillate. David Thompson commented: “Our production allows us to create two different spirit styles, using a pot and column still configuration to create a flavour profile that is unlike any other malt whisky.”

This second single malt release is made from a combination of the two distillation methods aged in ex-bourbon barrels with a solitary sherry cask going in the mix. The warehouse inventory is 90% ex-bourbon but alongside a few sherry casks there’s some STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) wine barrels, this is a Jim Swan distillery after all, and also some casks that previously held vino de Naranja (wine made from oranges, an Andalusian speciality.)

Whisky director Joe Clark (who readers might recognise from the Whisky Lounge) commented on this second release: “It was great to spend the time in the warehouse and discover how well our spirit is maturing. It means we’ve been able to launch our second release a little earlier than planned, which was fortunate as our first release has sold quicker than expected! With Filey Bay Second Release, you’ll find that it’s a true evolution of our First Release. The ‘inputs’ are very similar, leading to a house style that is light and fruity – this is something that we’ve worked hard and purposefully to create. The difference comes from that extra maturation time. There’s a little more depth to this second release and for me that not only makes it a delicious whisky, but it’s also an incredibly exciting indicator as to what’s to come in the warehouse…” 

Foley Crop

You’ll have to hurry to get your hands on the second release

This second release is not only a little older and deeper in flavour than the first release but it’s also slightly cheaper. Hurrah! Just as with the first release, only 6,000 bottles have been filled at 46% ABV. It’s available to buy here. We’ll see how quickly it sells out. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Some orange peel, blueberry muffin and lemon meringue pie, with a side of barley sugar.

Palate: Citrus ice cream, cooked apple and honey, with vanilla cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Finish: Floral honey, toasted nuts and cinnamon.

 

 

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Did our 2019 drinks trends predictions come true?

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for…

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for all things booze came true…

One of our favourite January activities is to dust off the crystal ball (AND the fancy crystal tasting glasses) and have a bit of a think about what might make waves in drinks in the coming months. 2019’s trend musings were one of our most-read features on the site this year. But how accurate were they? 

Boom time for liqueurs

Our prediction that liqueurs were set for a bit of a boom certainly came to fruition. The number of bottles we sold soared by 30% year-on-year, and there were some interesting flavours going on. Three of our top 10 best-sellers try and replicate the essence of unicorn (if you know what unicorns are supposed to taste like, let us know. And we don’t mean in burger form…) while other popular variants were coffee, herbal, caramel and all kinds of other puddingy-type concoctions. Long live the liqueur!

Teeling aside, 2019 wasn’t the year when Ireland’s new distilleries took off

Irish whiskey

We predicted we would see a whole load of new expressions from Ireland’s shiniest distilleries hit the market and liquid came of age. Actually, this didn’t really happen – but we did see even more distilleries get the green light and/or start production. Could next year be the one where we start to taste the fruits of their labour?

Botanical spirits

Back in January we reckoned botanical spirits would be a ‘thing’ this year. And we think we were mostly right! One of the biggest launches to back this up was Ketel One’s Botanical series where the vodka was infused with natural botanicals, then re-distilled. Not a juniper berry in sight. Others started to play in this space, but really what we saw was the launch of even more gins with a questionable level of ‘predominant’ juniper. Perhaps it’s time for some actual legislation?

Category-defying ‘spirits’

Another prediction where we reckon we were sort-of right. Category-defying spirits are products that don’t neatly fit into the rules of one category – think a grain spirit made in Scotland but not from malted barley so it can’t be called a single malt, as one very simple example. But it literally could be anything. While we certainly saw new products from some fresh producers (Circumstantial Mixed Grain from Bristol’s Circumstance Distillery, we’re looking at you, and Affinity, Compass Box’s whisky/Calvados hybrid, too). But we weren’t overrun with these hard-to-define expressions. Another smaller trend set to bubble away in 2020, perhaps.

2019, however, was the year of low/zero products like Three Spirit

Alcohol-free imbibing

Here’s a trend where we were bang on the money. Low- and no-alcohol product sales soared by 89% year-on-year, and there were a whole host of new launches to delight those who for whatever reason are off the sauce (or looking to reduce their intake). At London Cocktail Week, revellers sipped on Nogronis alongside full-ABV serves, and Hayman’s made waves on social media and beyond with the launch of its Small Gin. Other launches that caught our eye? Nine Elms No. 18, Three Spirit, Whyte & Mackay Light (kind of another category-blurrer, too) and Atopia. There’s never been a more delicious time to eschew the booze.

Cognac and Armagnac

We were expecting a bit of a French resurgence this year, and while it wasn’t immediately perceptible, dig a bit deeper and we can see the big names all performed really well. As a whole, however, things weren’t quite as emphatic. Cognac bottle sales climbed 18% as a whole, while Armagnac saw 22% gains. The surprise French spirit to break through? Calvados! Sales soared by almost 40% year-on-year. Can newer players to the market, like Avallen, keep up the momentum? 2020 could be a stellar year for the lesser-known apple- and pear-based French spirit. 

Yeast conversations

After lots of chit chat in Scotch whisky about terroir and cask types, we thought the conversation would shift over the course of the year to the role yeast strains play in production. Apart from the launch of Glenmorangie’s Allta, we didn’t really see much of that. But what we did see in June was the Scotch Whisky Association relax its rules on permissible cask types in Scotch. This brought a new energy to how drinkers and makers think about maturation, and it’s a theme we could see continue on into 2020 as more esoteric finishes hit the market. 

Johnnie Walker highball collection

The Highball, still very much a drinks industry thing

Blended and blended malt Scotch

A tricky one to quantify, this. While we did see more conversation around good blended Scotches (and there was a LOT of lingo around the whisky Highball) we’re not sure it had any mega meaningful impact on what we’re buying. Perhaps it was a prediction too soon – but we do think Highballs rule. 

Could agave beat rum in the premiumisation stakes?

Here’s one where we can now say yes and no. How do you define premiumisation? Is it drinking less but better? Is it spending more on a product for better quality? In many ways, both rum and Tequila and mezcal all made great premiumisation strides this year. Then you factor in spiced and flavoured rums. While rum bottle sales literally skyrocketed (48%! It was emphatic!), so much of this came from spiced and flavoured rums. Now, this is no slight on the sub-category. Good expressions can be the absolute dream. But they tend to cost less per-bottle, and don’t represent meaningful premiumisation to most. In that regard, agave spirits win hands down, even if they represent a far smaller slice of the overall spirits pie. One to keep an eye on – it certainly looks like the race is on. 

Caution from the big players
Brexit, elections, trade tariffs… 2019 was a challenging year for the business types in booze. We predicted companies would operate with caution, and it’s a forecast that has come entirely true. Sizeable spirits acquisitions were few and far between (Diageo snapping up a ‘significant’ majority stake in Seedlip, Campari nabbing a trio of rhum agricole brands including Trois Rivières, and Hill House Capital taking over Loch Lomond were probably the biggest stories), and there weren’t really any huge new launches to shout about. With the exception of CBD-infused products, which while totally legal, still have a disruptive air about them, the drinks industry seemed to like it quiet in 2019. 

The verdict

We’d give ourselves a 6/10. In some areas, our trends forecast was completely spot-on. In other regards, some categories just weren’t quite ready yet. But we’re going to give it another go for 2020! Keep your eyes peeled for what we think could dominate all things booze in the coming months, live on the blog in the New Year. 

What did you think about 2019 in drinks? Were there any big surprises for you? Or did anything play out as planned. Perhaps we missed something entirely? Let us know in the comments below or on social

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Planning permission given for Port Ellen

It’s all go at Port Ellen as the local authorities have agreed to plans for the rebuilding of the great lost distillery on Islay. The famous, no legendary, Port Ellen…

It’s all go at Port Ellen as the local authorities have agreed to plans for the rebuilding of the great lost distillery on Islay.

The famous, no legendary, Port Ellen distillery on Islay last produced whisky in 1983 but, as we’ve reported before, Diageo is planning to bring it back from the dead. Now news has just come in of an important milestone in the process: the local authorities have agreed to the plans including a traditional pagoda-roofed kiln house alongside modern production buildings. Very little of the original distillery is still standing so the team at Diageo are essentially building a new distillery from scratch.The set-up is going to be a bit unusual with two pairs of traditional copper stills, exact replicas of the original stills, alongside two smaller stills for experimental runs producing different styles of spirit. 

whisky crash

Traditional meets modern, an artist impression of the new Port Ellen distillery

Master distiller Georgie Crawford commented: “We are delighted to have reached this important milestone in our journey to bring Port Ellen back into production.We are grateful to Argyll & Bute Council and to the local community who have engaged positively with us during the planning process. We are incredibly excited to begin the next phase of the project and to make our long-cherished dream of restoring Port Ellen distillery a reality.”

Port Ellen has had a turbulent history. It was first opened in 1825 by Alexander Ker MacKay as a malt mill before being developed as a distillery by John Ramsay between 1833 and 1892. The distillery later went into a decline, and closed and was mostly demolished in the 1930s. Then it rose again in the 1960s to meet the global demand for blended Scotch whisky before finally closing its doors in 1983 as the market dipped. It was never released commercially as a single malt in the modern age while the distillery was open and it was only as mature cask bottlings came on the market after it had closed that Port Ellen developed a cult following. Then in 2017 Diageo announced that it was planning to reopen the distillery along with Brora (production is due to start at both in 2021). Let’s hope this time Port Ellen stays open for good. 

 

 

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #22: Peat’s Beast

Peak careful opening door number 22 of The Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar because there’s a beastie lurking behind. . . it’s Peat’s Beast!  Peat’s Beast is a…

Peak careful opening door number 22 of The Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar because there’s a beastie lurking behind. . . it’s Peat’s Beast! 

Peat’s Beast is a mysterious wee beastie, it’s a very smoky single malt whisky but the team at Fox Fitzgerald won’t tell us which distillery or even what part of Scotland it hails from. How mysterious! All we know is how it tastes: spicy and smoky, certainly, but also fruity with a sweetness from bourbon casks.

Fox Fitzgerald is made up of Eamon Jones and Aidan Smith, drinks industry veterans who met while working at Bulmers cider before a stint at Whyte & Mackay. The company is based in that well-known centre of the whisky trade, Heredforshire. It produces rare bottlings from distilleries such as Macallan and Tomintoul plus own-label products like Peat’s Beast (in various forms including a cask strength, a 25 year old expression and a PX cask finish) and The Corriemhor, a single malt created by Richard Paterson specifically to go with cigars. Swanky!

To tell us more about the Beast, the company and what the world of booze has in store for 2020, we have Eamonn Jones himself.

Master of Malt: Exactly how beastly is Peat’s Beast?

Eamonn Jones: Peat’s Beast is certainly beastly enough to be rewarded with a Double Gold medal at both the Berlin International Spirits Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The key to a great peated whisky is to obviously deliver all the key elements like tar, medicinal notes, smoke, oily, briney, sea air etc. but also have the balance: sweet notes of great first fill bourbon casks, and just sheer quality of a great whisky. We want the peat element to enhance what is already a great whisky, not mask a very average whisky.

 MoM: Can you tell us a little about where Peat’s Beast comes from and how it is matured?

EJ: Unfortunately we are not able to say where the peated whisky is distilled – our partner distillery doesn’t want it advertised that some of its best whisky is supplied to us. Suffice it to say, it is matured in one of Scotland’s most acclaimed and awarded distilleries and only the finest malted barley, spring water and first-fill bourbon casks are used to provide this peated beauty.

MoM: What exciting things went on at Fox Fitzgerald in 2019?

EJ: 2019 has been an incredible year at Fox Fitzgerald. The first client the business had when it was established in 2010 was Bruichladdich. This was a true eye opener – that business really could be about doing the right thing, not the most profitable thing. That a brand really could be built by passion, teamwork, imagination and fun in a world dominated by the corporate behemoths. Since Bruichladdich was sold in 2012, the visionary behind the distillery and the brand Mark Reynier looked for an opportunity where the Bruichladdich project could be taken to the next level; he found this with the Waterford Distillery in Ireland which has now been distilling since late 2015. Fox Fitzgerald is proud to be shareholders in this project but even prouder to be appointed global sales agents with the first bottlings being launched in 2020. We cannot wait to bring this incredible whisky based on the concepts of terroir, transparency and traceability to market. Similarly we are involved in the most incredible rum distillery, Renegade Rum on the island of Grenada, again the brainchild of Mark Reynier, and look forward to launching first spirits from this distillery in 2020.

Peat's Beast

The Beast is here!

Mom: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

EJ: I think with all the political and economic upheaval in the UK and beyond, I see the year being one of consolidation. Quality branded spirits, supported by the global giants, will continue to grow and develop. There will be ever increased polarisation with premium spirits, especially those supported by large advertising budgets or those having a clear and authentic point of difference, continuing to maintain share. Similarly the rise of the discounters will see the value propositions thriving. However, anything caught in the middle will do well to maintain the status quo. Rums, clairins, mezcals etc. will continue to grow, especially in markets such as France and Italy, but growth will mostly come from those brands backed by the big boys. I see the global Scotch market remaining static at best, and Irish continuing to grow along with US whiskies. But in summary in such an uncertain global climate, I’d suggest the vast majority of brand owners would be more than happy to maintain current volumes and margin in 2020.

MoM: And finally, what will you be drinking this Christmas?

EJ: This Christmas, I’ll be drinking some beefy French reds, some crispy Burgundy white wines and some PX sherry cask finished Peat’s Beast. Our latest batch took incredible colour and a sweet tobacco note from the amazing casks and that contrasted with the peat notes and fine balance of the whisky; it makes for an incredible Christmas dram.

 

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Whisky Advent 2019 #20: Glenfarclas 15 Year Old

Behind the door #20 of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a classic 15 year old Speyside single malt aged in sherry casks. Yum! Earlier this year…

Behind the door #20 of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a classic 15 year old Speyside single malt aged in sherry casks. Yum!

Earlier this year we attended a masterclass with George Grant from Glenfarclas where he talked us through five years of The Last Casks releases of rare whiskies. Well, masterclass isn’t quite the right word. What you’re not going to get from Grant is the slick brand ambassador act: on-brand, on-message and lots of well-honed schtick. Instead, we were treated to jokes, rambling anecdotes about peculiar goings on in a Las Vegas hotel and a startling admission that one bottle in the line-up just wasn’t very good. Everyone had a great time. It helped, of course, that the whiskies (even that particular one) were so good.

Grant can get away with being a bit unconventional because his family owns the distillery and have done since 1865 when George Grant bought the place. As Grant said to the group, it’s a very easy story to remember as pretty much everyone is called George Grant. He is the sixth generation Grant in the business.  There is no corporate hierarchy, no shareholders, and no mission statement. The distillery is a similar experience: it’s not glitzy and polished, the equipment neither particularly old nor brand new. The whiskies are matured in oloroso casks, the stills are direct-fired, a rarity now, and look at those labels, they’ve never been near a brand consultant.

George Grant - Glenfarclas

George Grant with faithful hound

The 15 Year Old lurking behind door number 20 offers much of the sherried goodness of the Last Casks but at a very reasonable price, especially when compared with a certain other Speyside distillery famous for its sherry casks. To tell us more, we spoke to George Grant himself:

Master of Malt: In what ways does being family-owned enable you to do things a little bit differently at Glenfarclas?

George Grant: Being family owned means we can react to things much quicker, can change direction, be a bit more adaptive.

MoM: You spend quite a bit of time on the road spreading the word about Glenfarclas. What’s your favourite place to visit and why?

GG: My favourite place to visit is home and my own bed. Because I sleep much better. I love watching those TV commercials about getting a new mattress and we are supposed to change them every 10 years. My mattress easily will last 30 years then.

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old – sherry heaven

MoM: What has been your highlights of 2019 at Glenfarclas?

GG: Highlight must be the Glenfarclas Trunk, contain 50 x 200ml bottles of Glenfarclas every year from 1954 to 2003

MoM: What does the future have in store for the wide world of whisky?

GG: Continued enjoyment, education of future generations to enjoy such a wonderful spirit.

MoM: Which Glenfarclas will you be drinking at Christmas and why?

GG: Mmm, which ever one Master of Malt send me for answering your questions.1959 Glenfarclas, was the last year we distilled on Christmas day.

 

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #13: Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year…

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of the UK lies Caol Ila. It’s the largest of the Islay distilleries by output, but you’d never guess from its quaint, waterfront position, all white-painted warehouses and traditional buildings, only accessible by snaking, single-track road. The distillery clings to the steep hillside; the Paps of Jura tower from across the Sound of Jura. It might produce 6.5 million litres of alcohol a year, and it might be a significant player in the blended behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, but when you visit Caol Ila, there’s an incredible sense of tranquillity.

This could be about to change. As part of a £150 million investment across its network of distilleries, parent company Diageo is in the process of updating the visitor centre at Caol Ila. It’ll be the Johnnie Walker’s Islay embassy, if you will. There’s to be a stunning aerial walkway and state-of-the-art facilities. Get set for a transformation.

We might need to be a little patient before we can explore the new visitor centre, but there are drams aplenty we can enjoy right now. And coincidentally, Whisky Advent’s Day 13 dram hails from Caol Ila. It’s a sumptuously smoky drop, with delicious texture and incredible character. It’s…

Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Say hello to Pierrick Guillaume!

Here to tell us more is Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila site operations manager.

Master of Malt: Caol Ila is a remote distillery even by Islay standards! Tell us a little bit about a typical day in that setting…

Pierrick Guillaume: A typical day would consist of walking down to the distillery from home. In the winter you face the sun rising over the Jura hills with the sea between us. Well… when you see the sun! I’m lucky enough to regularly see wildlife through my office’s window such as seals, otters, guillemots or dolphins! Then after work, in the summer you can walk three minutes away from the distillery and catch a fish for dinner or if you are lucky, stop a fishing boat from the pier to get lobsters straight off the water! There are a lot of amazing spots to go for a run or a walk around the distillery too and there are a few sports activities that you can go to at night, rugby, football, netball, swimming, kayaking.

MoM: Talk us through the signature Caol Ila character…

PG: Caol Ila is a fruit market in a smoky hall. Caol Ila 12-year-old is the perfect entry door to the peaty world. When you take away this gentle peat wrapping the aromas, you are facing a whole range of fruitiness going from exotic notes to richer and darker fruits.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

The beautiful Caol Ila Distillery

What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

PG: I think we will see an increased focus on sustainability in whisky-making – we are constantly innovating in this field to reduce the water usage at our distilleries and looking at ways of reducing our environmental impact, and this will, of course, continue to be a priority into 2020 and beyond.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

PG: It will be Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition back home in the South West of France with my family whilst eating our home-made Yule log cake.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s lively, fresh and herbal, with a distinct smoke wafting through. There are hints of cooked ham, too, along with cigar leaves and an aromatic citrus vibe. 

Palate: The rich, oily texture is immediately apparent, along with the tar and smoke notes. There’s a confectionery sweetness along with orchard fruits. 

Finish: The smoke goes on and on, framed with a gentle pepper warmth. 

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2019 Diageo Special Releases masterclass videos

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with…

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with the MoM film crew there to record everything for posterity.

The arrival of the Diageo Special Releases is one of the highlights of the whisky lover’s calendar. Every year we are knocked out by this series of rare and unusual single malts (and sometimes grains) from some of Scotland’s greatest distilleries. We think this year’s crop, titled ‘Rare by Nature’ and bottled at cask strength, tasted superb, but we have to admit that they tasted even better in the company of a couple of Diageo’s finest brand ambassadors. Newcomer TJ and veteran Colin Dunn have their own unique way of talking about whisky, and both really brought these expressions to life.

Diageo Special Releases 2019

The full line-up of the Diageo Special Releases 2019

 

Without any further ado, here are our 2019 Diageo Special Releases videos:

Cardhu 14 Years Old:

Cragganmore 12 Years Old:

Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old:

Lagavulin 8 Years Old:

Mortlach 26 Years Old:

Pittyvaich 29 Years Old:

The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Years Old:

Talisker 15 Years Old:

 

 

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Introducing Glasshouse Whisky: Blended Scotch, but not as you know it

The bartending trio behind Langstane Liquor Company have reverse-engineered the Whisky Highball and bottled the ultimate blended Scotch for the base. We sipped a Glasshouse Whisky and Soda with co-founder…

The bartending trio behind Langstane Liquor Company have reverse-engineered the Whisky Highball and bottled the ultimate blended Scotch for the base. We sipped a Glasshouse Whisky and Soda with co-founder Alex Lawrence – who you might also recognise as global head of bar operations for Mr Lyan Group – to find out more… 

“Fruity, bright, banging,” says Lawrence. “That’s the gist of it”. And honestly, we have to agree. If there are three words that best describe Glasshouse – the second spirit from Scottish trio Alex Lawrence, Ben Iravani and Josh Rennie, following on from Porter’s Gin – fruity, bright and banging are, well, bang on the money.

That’s because it was developed with the whisky Highball in mind, “All the big brands are doing whisky Highballs now, but no one’s actually sat down and gone, ‘I’m going to make a whisky for that drink’,” Lawrence says. “It’s just convenient that it’s nice. So that’s what we set out to do – we set out to make a highball, and this is just one component of it. I find that really exciting.”

Alex Lawrence

It’s only Alex Lawrence!

So, what’s in the bottle? Glasshouse is a blended malt whisky made from 100% malted barley. Just two whiskies make up the bottling: one column still distillate and one pot still distillate from Highland distillery Loch Lomond, both aged in American oak. The resulting blend is bottled non-chill filtered at 46% ABV. 

“We’re not going for ultra-nuanced, multi-layered whisky,” says Lawrence. “I don’t know how to do complicated blending. I’m a bartender. I put two things in a glass and it tastes great, and that’s what we’ve done here. The only thing we did play with was the ABV – at 46%, it’s a little punchier, but it needs that for it to be flavourful and lengthened [in a highball]. ”

On the nose, given aromas including bobbing apples and breakfast cereal. On the palate, pear drops and malt, with Toffee Crisp on the finish. That’s as far as the tastings notes go. But then, Glasshouse isn’t meant to be a geeky brand, Lawrence says, or even a complete product. That it tastes phenomenal sipped neat was a happy coincidence. “When I was blending and tasting it was always with soda water, never by itself,” he says. 

The name Glasshouse is inspired by the Victorian glasshouses within which exotic fruits, like pineapples, were grown in Scotland back in the 1800s – a nod to the tropical fruit flavour notes found in the whisky. The colour scheme is modern and fresh; a contemporary blend of green and pink hues – an intentional sidestep from the overt boujiness* of single malt marketing. 

Glasshouse whisky

Glasshouse is a whisky designed to be mixed

“The pantone of the brand isn’t traditional,” says Lawrence. “It’s designed to be a little bit disruptive, but not in an aggravating manner. Put it this way, I’m not sure all the old guard of whisky are going to love this brand. But ultimately it’s not for whisky drinkers – it’s for more people that are gathering in a certain way. 

“With that single malt that sits on your shelf, you have to wait for a special occasion,” he continues. “When you go to a party or a barbeque you want to take something fresh and bright that feels nuanced and grown-up but not packed with sugar. It shouldn’t feel precious, it shouldn’t feel un-consumable.”

At just under £30 a bottle, Glasshouse is intended to be consumed in a more disposable manner than a single malt. In fact, that’s the entire point of it. Ultimately, this is about democratising the Highball; making it easy to enjoy an uncomplicated, unfussy, super tasty drink so you can focus on more important stuff, like catching up with your mates. You don’t need fancy ice or elaborate glassware for that, as Lawrence points out.

“There’s so much to think about when you order a drink now,” he says. “It’s good because people are more discerning, but at the same time, you have a 10-step process to get a gin and tonic. Are you joking? Just put a lime in it, pal. And listen, I’m from that world – I still make cocktails, I still work in cocktail bars. But at the end of the day, I just want to sit down with some soda water and some whisky and have fun with my pals.”

*Young person’s term meaning snobbish or stuck-up.

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The Nightcap 22 November

This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re…

This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re only making it worse. 

We don’t know about you, but we’ve spent most of this week scavenging for firewood around the Master of Malt warehouse. At the first sign of a broken pallet out came the kindling vultures to squabble over scraps of pine and medium-density fibreboard to be hoarded and turned into life-giving heat later in the day. What a life! This is just a roundabout way of saying that it’s been properly cold this week. But it’s also the perfect weather to curl up by the fire with a dram of something rich and smooth, and revel in this week’s Nightcap. 

The blog went competition crazy this week with a chance to win tickets to see singer songwriter Jarrod Dickenson with Balcones whisky and with #WhiskySanta is giving away a bottle of Hennessy Paradis worth nearly £1,000. In non-competition news, our Jess tried The World Whisky Blend from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, and went to Seville to discover the Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez. Meanwhile, Annie got acquainted with Dutch spirit genever, and spent five minutes with Dr Kirstie McCallum, the new head of whisky creation at Glen Moray. Adam tried a bourbon with a Japanese twist courtesy of Beam Suntory, and, clearly in a Kentucky frame of mind, spoke to Jackie Zykan, master taster for Old Forester. Kristy peered into her crystal ball to look at rum’s future with Lucy Cottrell from Dead Man’s Fingers; and Henry brought us news on the revival of Rosebank distillery and cooked up a hot cider cocktail to keep the cold out. 

That’s the week that was. On with The Nightcap!

Macallan60old

Some very rare Macallans like those in the Vietnamese collection

Whisky collection smashes record with £10m valuation

How much is your whisky collection worth? A few hundred quid? Maybe into the thousands? This week, Guinness World Records confirmed a Vietnamese collector was the delighted owner of the most valuable whisky collection in the world – weighing in at a mighty £10,770,635! The haul belongs to Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan of Ho Chi Minh City, and it was valued by the team at Rare Whisky 101. They reckon the figure could top £13,032,468, when you add on the 21% buyers’ premium if it was sold through a UK auctioneer. The collection features 535 bottles, including the only known complete Macallan Fine & Rare set, complete with three 1926 bottlings. Only forty were ever released! There are also 12 bottles of the oldest and most expensive Bowmore ever released (it fetched £300,000 at auction recently), and one of only 24 bottles of the 1919 vintage Springbank. Phew. Mr Viet has been building his collection for over 20 years. “For me, whisky collecting has been my life’s passion,” he says. “Every spare I moment I get, I’m searching auction sites and trading websites to find famous and rare whiskies from around the world. Clearly this requires a lot of patience and no shortage of tenacity, but I’m proud of my efforts. As for my collection, I have no intention of selling any of it. Not one bottle. In fact, I’ll continue to hunt for more old and rare bottles and add to and enrich it.” Wowzers!

Warehouse X Experiment 2 Barrels resize

“Careful Jed, it’s one of those experiential casks!”

Buffalo Trace Distillery completes second Warehouse X experiment

Cask ageing is still a perplexing business, but the team at the Buffalo Trace Distillery is attempting to break the process down using the specially-designed and mysteriously-monikered Warehouse X. The second experiment at the facility, which began in 2016, has just been completed. It focused on how temperature affects the ageing process. The warehouse’s four chambers were used to determine how barrel activity correlates with temperature changes, keeping two chambers constant and varying the other two chambers and leaving the breezeway unchanged. Buffalo Trace tracked temperature fluctuations, monitored barrel pressures and collected a total of 9.1 million data points. As a result, the distillery was able to confirm how temperature affects pressure, colour and flavour over a period of three years. After leaving Warehouse X, the barrels were rolled into a traditional warehouse to continue ageing, as was done with the first experiment. Built in 2013, Warehouse X was created to study the many variables that affect the bourbon maturation process, and Buffalo Trace is now almost a third of the way through a 20-year project to monitor numerous atmospheric elements, including natural light, temperature, humidity and air flow. The first experiment, which ended in 2016, focused on natural light. The next two-year experiment will begin soon to expand on the most recent findings, focusing on how temperature swings affect whiskey activity in the barrel. We’re intrigued to see what they find.

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

The Balvenie unveils final DCS Compendium instalment

In brilliant but bittersweet news, Chapter Five of The Balvenie DCS Compendium has been unveiled. Why bittersweet? Because it’s the last of the series, so for one final time we all have the opportunity to gaze longingly at five unique and intriguing single-cask Balvenie expressions that none of us will ever taste. Titled ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence’, the rare vintages were selected by David C. Stewart MBE (hence DCS) for their significance to his career. Aged between 16 and 56 years, the selection includes The Balvenie’s oldest-ever bottling, the fragrant and sweet 1962 expression taken from a European oak oloroso hogshead, which commemorates Stewart’s very first year at the distillery. The longest-serving malt master in the whisky industry, who started the role back in 1974, commented on Chapter Five: “It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types. You need confidence to select casks and know which are likely to achieve greatness. Working for a family company, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to make stock decisions based on my preference and vision, with the free rein to pick casks and hold on to whisky, not always knowing what I’m going to do with it, for no other reason than thinking one day it will be extraordinary. For me, this is indulgence in its truest form.” As with past Chapters, Chapter Five is presented in a handcrafted, individually-numbered frame, with just 50 sets available worldwide. It also features The Balvenie DCS Compendium book depicting rare archive imagery from the distillery, along with information on each of the five chapters, which documents Stewart’s thought process in curating the Compendium. The Balvenie is also planning a series of celebratory events throughout 2020 to mark the completion of the project.

£2500 and you have to bottle it yourself.

Bottle your own 40-year-old at Aberfeldy Distillery

Heading up to the charming Aberfeldy Distillery? You can now hand-bottle the delightful Aberfeldy 40 Years Old! Directly from the cask. In the warehouse. Yes, that’s the oldest whisky the Highland whisky-makers have released to date. If that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. In total, three single cask editions will be launched, all of which were first filled on 22nd August 1978 and matured in American oak, ex-bourbon hogsheads. “To find one cask at this venerable age, is extraordinary but to find three, is exceptional. Just think of the four decades of history these casks have slumbered through,” said malt master Stephanie Macleod. “The single cask is something that we at Aberfeldy bottle rarely – to have the honour of filling your very own bottle of our oldest and most exclusive whisky yet, is a truly special opportunity. The golden hallmarks of the distillery are evident; beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by these 40-year-old bottlings.” The whisky will be on sale for £2,500 a bottle, exclusively from the Aberfeldy Distillery.

Just some of the mouth-watering rums drunk on World Foursquare Day at Trailer Happiness in London

Barbados distillery honoured with inaugural World Foursquare Day

Rum lovers of London descended on Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill last Sunday (17 November) for the inaugural World Foursquare Day. The day was the idea of Facebook group Foursquare Rum Appreciation Society to celebrate the much-loved Barbados distillery. According to Foursquare brand ambassador Peter Holland, they chose 17 November because it “was the day that Foursquare Distillery and Heritage Park was officially opened by Sir David Seale [father of the owner, Richard], and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mr. Owen S. Arthur in 1996.” Holland organised the London event; there were rum cocktails, bottles from Holland’s own collection (including the ultra-rare Foursquare Triptych), and even a surprise appearance from the Seales themselves. There was also a well-attended event in Milton Keynes. Holland told us: “Next year, I think we will look to grow the event, and, perhaps in conjunction with the UK importers, see if we can get a few more bars involved across the UK. Increase the celebration, but try not to make it crass and commercial.” So put 17 November 2020 in your diary now.

Annabel Meikle, one of the judges at the Spirit of Speyside Awards

Top whiskies shortlisted for Spirit of Speyside Awards

Awards and whisky go together like bread and butter, and Speyside is about to get its fair share! Eight Speyside single malts have been shortlisted as finalists in the international Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards. The initial judging process took place earlier this month in the heart of Speyside (well, where else could it be?), where a panel of leading whisky experts carried out a blind tasting of 41 entries. A tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. However, it’s not the experts who get the final say. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards are the only industry awards in the world to give consumers the final vote. Over the next six months, the two finalists in each category will be put forward for judging by whisky drinkers all over the place, from the UK and Europe to India and Canada. Spanning four categories, this year’s finalists are Aberlour 10 Year Old and Cardhu 12 Year Old, Benromach 15 Year Old and Glenallachie 15 Year Old, Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old and Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, and finally Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition and Cardhu Amber Rock. “It was almost impossible to pick just two finalists in each Awards category this year – the standard of whisky produced here in Speyside by our local craftsmen and women is truly exceptional,” said James Campbell, Chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “We’re very much looking forward to opening up the judging to consumers over the next six months before celebrating the winners at what we believe is the finest whisky festival in the world.” You’ll have to wait a few months for the results, as the category winners will be announced at the opening of the 2020 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in late April.

Fairy lights from Robert Dyas at The Macallan

The Macallan Distillery goes festive

The team at the Macallan are pulling out all the stops to turn the award-winning distillery into a festive wonderland this Christmas. As you’d expect from such a luxury brand, this will be a little more lavish than neon Santas, plastic holly, and M&S mince pies. Instead, the decorations have been inspired by the character of the single malt with golden acorns, dried berries and a palette of sienna, gold, copper and black, colours traditionally associated with The Macallan”, no less. At the centre will be a “towering” 15 ft Christmas tree. But that’s not all. There will also be a special Christmas menu in the restaurant, seasonal Macallan cocktails like the Speyside Flip and the Clootie to be sipped, and a special after-hours dinner on Thursday 5 December. Stuart Cassells, general manager, commented: “We are incredibly proud of the success our new distillery experience has enjoyed since opening 18 months ago. But we want to be more than a fantastic visitor attraction. Our ambition is to become a key Speyside destination, a place where people from the local community and further afield want to return to again and again. We’re extremely excited about the exclusive experiences we are offering, from unique gifting options to our new brasserie and bar menus. We hope to attract visitors old and new and look forward to providing a warm welcome to The Macallan Estate this festive season.” Sounds magnificent, though we’d have been just as happy with M&S mince pies as long as there was some Macallan to wash them down with. Don’t tell #WhiskySanta…

Remember kids, don’t drink and vote

Free drink if you register to vote

Here’s a good way to combat voter apathy (and we are being asked to vote a lot more than normal). A free drink when you vote. Brilliant! Why did no one think of this before? Well, of course they did. In elections past, unscrupulous politicians would ply the electorate with booze to get them to vote the ‘right’ way. But this new initiative from the Lollipop group of venues around London, is not trying to corrupt, just get people to vote. Simply turn up at a Lollipop bar, like Journey on the King’s Road or Dear Sunny in Hackney, prove that you have registered to vote before 26 November (the closing date), and a free drink will be yours (full details and list of venues here).  Founder Seb Lyall had this to say: “We know how important it is for people of all ages and backgrounds to get out there and vote on December 12. These elections will have a significant impact on our industry and we want as wide a group of voices to be heard as possible.” Make sure, however, that you vote sober, or you never know who we might end up with.

We could be saying, ‘goodbye Joe to baijiu” (sorry)

Are we heading for a baijiu shortage?

Kweichow Moutai is one of the biggest baijiu brands on the planet – and this week, at its overseas distributors conference, the company suggested that the Chinese spirit is gaining such a following internationally that stock shortages are becoming a reality for the first time. “It’s one of the most significant changes we have seen in overseas markets since Moutai rebounded in the domestic market in 2016,” said Moutai Group chairman and party committee secretary Li Baofang. Baijiu is the most consumed spirit category in the world, although the vast, vast majority is drunk in China. This looks to be slowly shifting though – and from 2017-18, we saw a 650% uptick in sales here at MoM Towers, albeit from a teeny base. Keep an eye out for more baijiu in 2020 – if international supply can keep up with demand!

Don’t worry, be happy

And Finally… Worrying about your hangover ‘makes it worse’

We’re all about responsible drinking here at MoM Towers. Remember – sip, don’t gulp! But sometimes, a little overindulgence can happen. And new research from the University of Salford this week appears to confirm something we’ve had a little inkling about: worrying about a hangover makes it worse. It’s all linked to whether someone is likely to “catastrophise pain” or not. What’s that, we asked. Apparently it’s when you worry too much about the threat of pain, which makes you feel like you can’t manage it, and then dwell on how much something hurts. 86 people ages from 18 to 46 were quizzed about a recent time they’d had a drink (more gulping than sipping. Just don’t). The results showed a “significant relationship” between all that catastrophising and the severity of the hangover. Turns out there are actual dehydrated-related symptoms, but also stress-related ones, too – and the stress ones were more likely to get on that catastrophising. “These findings suggest the importance of cognitive coping strategies in how people experience hangovers after drinking alcohol,” said lead researcher, Sam Royle. “This may have implications in understanding behavioural responses to hangovers, and also for addiction research.” Good work, Sam. But the best way to avoid that hangover? Keep the booze consumption sensible in the first place! 

And with that in mind… Happy weekend, folks!

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