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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Single Malt Whisky

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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Five minutes with… Dr Kirstie McCallum, head of whisky creation at Glen Moray

At the end of October, Glen Moray announced industry legend Dr Kirstie McCallum as its head of whisky creation – a brand new role that encompasses the Speyside distillery’s production operation…

At the end of October, Glen Moray announced industry legend Dr Kirstie McCallum as its head of whisky creation – a brand new role that encompasses the Speyside distillery’s production operation and its vast existing stocks. We caught up with Dr McCallum as she acquaints herself with an eye-watering number of casks..

As a senior blender at Distell International, for the last three years McCallum has been responsible for Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory as well as the company’s blended whiskies (think Three Ships, Scottish Leader, Black Bottle…). A cracking CV, you’ll agree. Her new role sees her take the reins from master distiller Graham Coull, who oversaw the expansion of the distillery in 2012.

The appointment is huge news for the Elgin-based distillery, which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017, and the team are understandably stoked. “We are very much looking forward to this next chapter in the long history of Glen Moray and look forward to learning from Kirstie’s extensive knowledge and experience across a wide spectrum of the industry,” Glen Turner general manager, Ian McLaren, said in a press release.

Glen Turner isn’t a typo, by the way. It’s the operations company for the wider La Martiniquaise-Bardinet whisky portfolio – Glen Moray’s parent company – located in Bathgate near Edinburgh. In fact, as part of her new role, McCallum is at the helm of their blended whisky portfolio, which includes Cutty Sark, Label 5 and Sir Edward’s. Here’s what she’s been up to so far…

Glen Moray

Perks of the the job

MoM: Huge congrats on the role, Kirstie! Tell us, where did it all start for you – how long have you been distilling and blending, and what made you choose it as a career?

Kirstie McCallum: Coming up to 20 years now, I’m a chemist by qualification and when I left university I was offered a temporary position in a distillery. I fell in love with the industry and I’ve not left since.

MoM: We can understand why – working in whisky sounds like the dream! What’s your favourite part of the job?

KMcC: It has to be the creating process. Blending is my main love, looking at different casks, different flavours, putting things together. You know the character you’re looking for, and you have an idea of what your inventory is, so it’s about deciding what to use out of those stocks to get there. And when you get something that tastes absolutely amazing and you go about sharing it with everybody. I like the fact that what you produce goes out [into the world], people drink it and they can tell you what they think of it. 

MoM: You’ve taken on the newly-created role of head of whisky creation. What does that mean on a day-to-day basis?

KMcC: Right now I’m going through the inventory to see what treats we have in cask – what kinds of whiskies, what the characters are, looking at how we could go forward, different editions, bits and pieces like that. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop running around taking samples and trying things. 

Kirstie McCallum

Kirstie McCallum tasting casks, only another 729,999 to go

Mom: Glen Moray has released some interesting cask finishes in the past – what can you tell us about the inventory?

KMcC: We’re very fortunate that we have got a lot of good wood, and a lot of good casks maturing in the warehouses. I’m pretty sure there’s more than 30,000 [casks] up at Glen Moray, and at Bathgate we’ve got over 700,000, so there’s a lot. Graham has done a lot of experimental casks in the past which are sitting there just waiting to be found, and we’ve got some absolutely beautiful bourbon and sherry casks too. 

MoM: Graham was Glen Moray’s master distiller for 14 years, which is a long time to be laying down liquid. How do you hope to put your own stamp on production?

KMcC: I’ve got a few ideas, but I should probably talk to Glen Moray about them first!

MoM: The suspense! We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, what’s on the agenda for 2020 – what projects are you working towards?

KMcC: We’re working on quite a few things at the moment – different expressions for Glen Moray, but also looking at what we can do with all the brands. How we can extend them and make them bigger and better.

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The Rosebank revival begins 

Yesterday was an important day in Scotch whisky history as work officially began on rebuilding legendary ghost distillery Rosebank by owners Ian Macleod distillers. We have the full story. The…

Yesterday was an important day in Scotch whisky history as work officially began on rebuilding legendary ghost distillery Rosebank by owners Ian Macleod distillers. We have the full story.

The last time the spirit flowed at Rosebank was back in 1993. Once known as the King of the Lowlands, the distillery was mothballed by owners UDV (forerunner of Diageo) and the maltings were converted into a Beefeater restaurant. Now, new owners Ian Macleod Distillers have officially begun work on bringing this ghost distillery back to life.

The firm acquired the brand and all the remaining stock in 2017, and obtained planning permission to rebuild in January of this year. It’s not just a question of refurbishing the old distillery as there’s very little left to work with; most of the equipment including the stills and the mash tun was stolen in 2008. In order to recreate the style of the original, there will be three stills for triple distillation and worm-tub condensers. These will be housed in a modern glass-fronted building with a visitor centre, tasting room, shop and warehouse (see artist’s impression in header). Located in Falkirk between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Rosebank likely to be a major tourist attraction with 50,000 visitors a year expected. Among all the modernity, it’s good to hear that the famous 108 foot chimney will be preserved. 

Rosebank chimney

The famous chimney at Rosebank

Mike Younger, finance director of Ian Macleod Distillers, commented: “This ground-break is an iconic milestone, it marks the start of a new and exciting chapter for both Rosebank and Ian Macleod Distillers. Our vision was to bring this quintessential Lowland single malt back to life and ensure it could live on for generations to come. A dream that is now very much underway. More than ever, there is a real want for a Rosebank revival. It has now become somewhat of a collectors’ item, with bottles of 12 Year Old selling at auction for £350 plus, so there will be a lot of people excited to hear that work is officially underway. We have quite the road ahead and look forward to sharing our journey with you all.”

Work is expected to be completed by summer 2021 when the distillery will open its doors and start producing new make. Meanwhile, if you want a bottle of Rosebank our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have a couple of bottlings (here and here) you might be interested in. Sadly, they are not cheap. 

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The rise of cask whisky investment

Curious about cask whisky investment? Don’t get your assets in a twist. No matter whether you’re sourcing direct from distillery or exploring your options through a third party, here’s everything…

Curious about cask whisky investment? Don’t get your assets in a twist. No matter whether you’re sourcing direct from distillery or exploring your options through a third party, here’s everything you need to know about buying booze by the barrel…

Owning a maturing cask of whisky might be every dram lover’s dream, but it can also be a sound investment for the future – with none of the insidious money-grabbing associated with bottle flipping. No matter whether you opt for a quarter-cask or a full-blown butt, the contents should appreciate in value over time. That’s in the current climate, this is dependent on those fickle financial markets. 

“The reason people invest in whisky is because you get a personal touch,” explains Elliot Wynn-Higgins, cask custodian at Lindores Abbey Distillery in Scotland. “You don’t tend to get the same welcome from banks or investment advisors. Whisky is a fun investment, it’s not an ISA that sweats cash – it’s a journey in spirits maturation and an ongoing project. You can even taste it.” 

The stills at Lindores Abbey

The stills at Lindores Abbey

Interest rate averages for whisky, he continues, can be higher than gold and vintage sports cars, with an average of around 6% return every year. But dollar signs aside, there are a number of motivations to invest, whether it’s marking an important milestone like a wedding or a newborn, creating your own independent whisky bottling, or fulfilling a lifelong dream to participate in whisky-making history.

After all, maturing whisky evolves in a way that a bottle of whisky just won’t. Each cask is patently unique – even when two identical casks are filled at the same time with the same spirit, they’ll taste different. It’s a limited commodity, observes Simon Aron, co-founder of Cask Trade, “if a particular cask yields 250 bottles, after they’re gone, they’re gone, that’s it. There will never be another cask like it.” 

So with that in mind, what should a would-be investor bear in mind? “Buying at the lowest price you can is obviously the smartest, but make sure that it’s a branded facility,” says Whiskey & Wealth Club co-founder Jay Bradley. “It’s quite easy to buy whisky in Scotland and Ireland from a commercial facility – you can buy it at a decent enough price, and that’s great for blending and whatnot.” 

If if it’s return on investment you’re chasing, he says, stick with known brands. “For example, a five-year-old Macallan cask is worth more than five-year-old cask of no-name whiskey. Making sure it’s a solid distillery with a good master distiller behind it is very important as well – the more they build their brand, the more the cask of whisky will go up in value.”

Jay Bradley from Whisky and Wealth

Jay Bradley from Whisky and Wealth

And make sure you do your maths, first. “Look at your budget and your targets,” suggests Aron, who says the youngest whisky on Cask Trade’s list is three years old and comes in at £1,500, while the oldest, at the ripe old age of 50, is north of £300,000. “The budget would be personal to that individual and the target would be: do you want to see a return in three years, five years, 10 years? Do you want to buy one cask and sit on it, or would you rather a portfolio of different ages? Do you want a portfolio where you can cash in at different dates?”

Just as there are a few reasons to consider trading your hard-earned cash for amber nectar, there are several means to go about doing so. Before you commit, remember to ask about any extra costs associated with warehouse storage, insurance and bottling, including HMRC duty and VAT. Here, we run through your options…

From a distillery

Plenty of distilleries now offer their own private cask purchase programmes. The benefits are two-fold: buyers have the chance to own a piece of whisky history, while distilleries receive a cash injection – often, in the case of younger producers, precisely when their overheads are steepest and they perhaps. need it the most. 

“As a potential buyers comes to me, I suss out why they want to buy a cask,” says Wynn-Higgins. “From there, I help them select the perfect cask with their budget in mind, and they come along to fill it with me where they can. Casks typically aren’t cheap things to buy, so when we make a sale of a cask it helps us out financially very strongly. It also helps us build great customer rapport from a very early stage.” 

While the small-print surrounding your purchase will vary from producer to producer – “some distilleries won’t allow you to sell to private brokers, whereas some do,” he says – there are a few common rules. “Typically, you can’t take your cask home with you as it needs to mature in a bonded warehouse. Unless you have a rather large shed in your garden.”

Cask Trade 4

Whisky slowly maturing, with any luck, becoming more valuable

From a broker

Cask brokerage company Rare Whisky 101 essentially acts as the middle-man that links serious cask buyers with genuine cask sellers. The team screens potential interested parties to make sure they have sufficient funds to complete the acquisition process and take a 100ml sample from each cask to assess the quality according to a ten-point rating scale – providing reassurance for both the buyer and the seller. After all, maturing whisky has a time limit. For sellers, particularly those new to the world of whisky investment, prospective buyers can be hard to find.

“Many people would assume that as long as their whisky is stored in cask in a bonded warehouse, no harm can come to it,” says RW101 co-founder, David Robertson. “However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is most definitely a finite time in which to sell a cask. We recently saw a 50-year-old cask that had dropped below the legal minimum of 40% alcohol to 28% and was subsequently deemed worthless. I’d encourage any owners, even if they don’t want to sell, to get their casks regauged and sampled. Casks can also leak and become overly-woody so cask owners should ensure that their casks are checked annually.”

From an alternative investment company

Whiskey & Wealth Club (WWC) sources Irish whiskey and Scotch for investors. The distilleries sell casks of their new make spirit – usually bulk in the form of six 200-litre palates – to private investors through WWC, which stores them in a government bonded warehouse, typically for between three and five years. Investors then decide whether to bottle for themselves, sell for a profit through WWC, or allow the contents to continue maturing. 

“We’re bridging the gap financially between a distillery and a whiskey brand that wants to buy mature stock,” explains WWC co-founder and CEO Scott Sciberras. “From the distillery’s point of view, producing whisky is a very expensive business, and you don’t see a return for years down the track. And from a whisky brand’s point of view, they want to buy mature stock to bottle and sell straight away.”

With WWC’s format, everyone’s a winner. “Rather than either one of them tying the money up for maturation period, private investors bridge the gap,” Scott says. “We purchase it by litres of pure alcohol, which gives us volume to sell to our clients without the overheads of running the distillery – so we can sell it for a far cheaper price. If we purchase 20% of a distillery’s fresh new make, it gives them enough working capital to run their stills.”

Macallan cask, probably worth a bit

From a dedicated marketplace 

Put simply, Cask Trade is a marketplace for trading whisky casks. Unlike a broker, it only sells whisky casks it owns, and only whole casks – no fractional sales. “We buy casks from all sorts of different places, so distilleries, warehouses, blenders, independent bottlers, investors; casks are moving around constantly between all of those groups,” Aron explains. “Some of the distilleries will never come up for sale because they don’t sell, full stop. Everything goes into production. But most distilleries are moving stock around Scotland all the time.”

The casks are held in HMRC-bonded warehouses, which are regularly visited by Cask Trade whisky masters. The business offers regular sampling and re-gauging of casks, re-racking, estimates of bottles and strength in cask, the financial modelling of bottling, costings for bottling, labelling and shipping, and will arrange for buyers to receive samples of their whiskies and visit their barrel(s) in person. It also guarantees to buy the cask back from its clients should they decide to sell it.

“If you’re got a bottle in your hand,  it’s sealed with a cork, all the information is on the label, it’s pretty much a done deal,” says Aron. “With a cask, it’s a moving target. It needs to be checked, sampled and looked after by a safe set of hands. Because there’s no label on a cask, you need to give the details – so people can understand how many bottles it would give at 12 years, how many at 15 years, how it’s expected to taste depending on the cask type, examples of bottles that have been sold in the past. It’s much more of a journey, like buying a classic car. You need to know when it was made, how it was made, who looked after it, how it was looked after and whether it still runs well.”

Cask Trade 1

Testing whisky at Cask Trade

Through an auction website

As of last month, Cask Trade launched an auction website aimed at private buyers and sellers. With casks going under the hammer four times a year, auctionyourcask.com will help private owners sell their casks to independent bottlers and investors from across the globe. 

There’s a stringent application process for sellers, and all casks are regauged ready for auction with a full 700ml drawn, so bidders can try before they buy. Since there’s no commission fee, Cask Trade sellers take the full hammer price home, bar the price of the reguage. Win-win.

“It gives bottlers and other buyers the chance to get a cask that has been sitting with an investor privately somewhere,” explains Aron. “From there, they can either take it on a journey for a few more years or bottle it. It’s like wanting to buy a Tiffany bracelet from an old catalogue in the 1930s. You just won’t be able to buy it unless you find it auction – otherwise it’s going to sit in someone’s jewellery box in their house forever and ever.”

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Five minutes with… Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker at The Macallan

Overseeing the production of the industry’s most sought-after Scotch whisky may be a gargantuan undertaking, but with 18 years’ experience under her belt, The Macallan’s master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell…

Overseeing the production of the industry’s most sought-after Scotch whisky may be a gargantuan undertaking, but with 18 years’ experience under her belt, The Macallan’s master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell is more than up to the task. Here, we chat about the evolution of the newly-strengthened whisky mastery team… 

Hailing from Thurso in the windswept Highlands, Campbell’s career started in 2001 with a degree in food science and a job in a new make spirits laboratory. Fast forward almost two decades, and she’s only gone and made history as the first female Macallan master whisky maker in the brand’s 200-year history*. Surely a contender for the world’s best job.

Having worked on the likes of Cutty Sark, Naked Grouse, The Famous Grouse and The Glenrothes at parent company Edrington, Campbell has become the newest addition to The Macallan’s six-strong whisky mastery team, made up of: Stuart MacPherson, master of wood; Sarah Burgess, lead whisky maker; Polly Logan, whisky maker; Steven Bremner, whisky maker; and Russell Greig, sample room assistant.

Here, we caught up with Campbell to chat through her new role – and find out a little more about how she enjoys one of the world’s best-loved Scotch whiskies…

Macallan whisky mastery team

Not a cutting electronic group from Zurich, it’s The Macallan whisky mastery team

MoM: Huge congratulations on the new role, Kirsteen! Could you tell us a little bit about when and where your love of Scotch whisky first began? 

Campbell: My career began with a scientific background, I studied food science at Glasgow Caledonian University and, following a bit of travel, started working within a lab at a distillery –  that’s when I first began to appreciate all the complexities in Scotch whisky. I started to do a bit of sensory work as well which fascinated me, so it was really from that point onwards that my love began. From there on I moved into research at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Edinburgh, delving more into the science behind flavour and gravitating more and more towards the sensory side of things. Then a role came up at Edrington – it was titled whisky quality technologist which essentially was a trainee blender, so I applied for that. I was successful and joined Edrington in 2007, and that’s where my role really became about blending and flavour. I’ve just had my 12 year anniversary with Edrington. I can’t quite believe it, it’s gone by in a blink.

The Macallan is one of the most revered whisky brands in the world. From a flavour perspective, what do you think makes the whisky so beloved among fans?

It’s definitely about our exceptional oak casks. We’ve a very rigorous cask policy and even have our own master of wood, Stuart McPherson. It’s just such an important factor of Macallan – so much of the flavour of Scotch whisky comes from oak casks, so we pay huge attention to that and place huge emphasis on it. But of course we look at quality throughout every stage of the process from the new make spirit to the casks we’re bringing in. Throughout the maturation period we’re checking on the whisky to make sure it’s developing in the way that we want it to. In the sample room we check the quality of every single cask that goes into every single batch of Macallan, so we’re moving thousands of samples. Attention to detail is really important in terms of the final quality of the whiskies and our sherry casks which deliver that rich, distinguishing flavour of the entire Macallan portfolio.

Kirsteen Campbell

Campbell in front of Macallan’s space age Speyside HQ

Could you talk a little bit about the various roles within the Whisky Mastery Team and how each relates to the liquid in the bottle?

It’s very much a team approach, we’re very collaborative with each other. I’m based in Glasgow so I spend my time between our headquarters, our bottling plant and The Macallan estate. Up there we have a team of four – Sarah Burgess is the lead whisky maker, there’s also Polly Logan, Steven Bremner and Russell Greig. Between us we look specifically at the quality of the liquid while Stuart McPherson looks after the quality of our casks. We’ve got over 100 years in the industry between us – Stuart’s working in the industry for 40 years, Sarah’s 28, I’m 18, Paulie’s 15 so between us we have a breadth of experience. We work very much as a team and bring our individual experiences together to make Macallan the best it possibly can be.

The art and science of whisky making is a huge focus for The Macallan. Which aspect of the whisky-making process do you personally find the most compelling – the arty, creative side or the really technical lab-based stuff?

It’s a very interesting one for me because I am quite split on it. There’s definitely a technical, logical side to the role, you’re working with numbers a lot and liaise closely with the team in Glasgow who are more scientific, so I get involved in some of their research. Then the other side, which I do also equally enjoy, is the arty side of things, and that really comes into play for new product development (NPD) in particular. It’s really fun to get involved in creating something completely new. Some people [in the whisky mastery team] are more creative while others are more technical and that overall balance works really well.

Macallan

Some seriously fancy Macallan

Could you talk about the research and development process at the distillery – for example, does your team work closely with other departments, or as a team are you quite independent in creating new bottlings?

All aspects of our roles require collaboration and NPD is one of those. We work very closely with the marketing and packaging teams on that, it’s not something that you can do in isolation and when a new product comes out there’s a huge range of people who have been involved in that process. Everything has to come together to make a successful product – from our perspective it’s the liquid, but you also need the background story and a great pack. We’re meeting with people throughout the company on a regular basis.

When you’re winding down at home, what’s your go-to Macallan expression?

That’s a tough choice because we have a wonderful portfolio of whiskies. For me, I do enjoy Double Cask, I have to say. I love that balance of the American oak sherry – the lovely sweet, vanilla, citrus notes – balanced perfectly with rich dried fruits and spicy character from the European oak casks. It’s a beautiful marriage of the two different cask types that we use.

*Well, almost – the brand celebrates its bicentenary in 2024.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Old Fashioned

It’s Old Fashioned Week! Time to dust off those plus fours, oil the old penny farthing and start getting excited about the new Sherlock Holmes story that’s being serialised in…

It’s Old Fashioned Week! Time to dust off those plus fours, oil the old penny farthing and start getting excited about the new Sherlock Holmes story that’s being serialised in the Strand magazine. Or you could just make an Old Fashioned cocktail. 

Why is an Old Fashioned called an Old Fashioned? Well, once upon a time, a cocktail wasn’t a general term for a mixed drink, it was a combination of a spirit (usually whiskey), sugar, ice and bitters. But in the 1850s and 60s, new fangled European concoctions like vermouth arrived in America and the term cocktail expanded to include drinks made with vermouth: proto-Manhattans, Brooklyns and Martinis. Hence, if you wanted an old timey cocktail, you asked for an Old Fashioned.

The Cocktail Book (published in 1900) lists cocktails, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, made with Cognac, rum, gin, and Scotch whisky but until quite recently the Old Fashioned was synonymous with American whiskey. Bourbon is the classic choice and this Old Fashioned Week (1-10 November), Woodford Reserve is putting on a series of events where top London bars like Swift, Homeboy, Murder Inc, Discount Suit Co. and Three Sheets are offering their takes on the bourbon Old Fashioned. 

We are, however, rediscovering how good this drink can be made with other spirits like aged Tequila, Jamaican rum or single malt Scotch. This week, therefore, I’m using a Speyside whisky, Glen Moray Classic Port Cask Finish. Something that might annoy the malt purists but the Old Fashioned is such a good drink because it highlights rather than masks the flavour of the base spirit. So much so that Glen Moray has really got behind the whole thing and released a series of Old Fashioned recipes produced by those diffident drinks enthusiasts Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley from World’s Best Spirits. These include a particularly nice one made with marmalade instead of sugar syrup. In fact, playing with the sweetening agent you can have a lot of fun. Other great sugary switcharoos include the syrup from maraschino cherries, honey or Pedro Ximenez sherry.

Glen Moray

The Old Fashioned is so adaptable that you can even put a burning sprig in it

But if you’re sticking with pure sugar, the big question when making your Old Fashioned is whether to use granulated sugar and spend ages stirring, or just use sugar syrup. If I was a professional bartender, I’d go for syrup every time. Time is money after all. But at home, I like the ritual of using sugar, preferably brown, and stirring for a good two minutes. It’s therapeutic. 

Finally the bitters. Angostura is a great all rounder, but fruity and chocolate bitters can be fun, accentuating flavours in the whisky (or whatever you are using). Cherry bitters are a great foil to the Glen Moray Port Cask Finish bringing out the red fruit but the distillery has also come up with its own bitters which are only available to bartenders. 

This spirit of constant experimentation is what makes the Old Fashioned perhaps the most satisfying cocktail to make at home. Choose your spirit, and then play around with different sweeteners and bitters, and you can’t go wrong. Well, you can but mistakes are easily rectified. So, find a nice heavy glass, get out your sturdiest spoon and let’s make a cocktail the old-fashioned way.

50ml Glen Moray Classic Port Cask Finish 
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
2 teaspoons hot water
1 dash Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters

In a tumbler add the sugar, bitters and hot water. Stir vigorously until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add half the whisky, keep stirring until there is no graininess left. Now add three or four big cubes of ice and stir. Finally, add the rest of the whisky, stir some more and serve with a maraschino cherry. 

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Ronnie Lee – the man who mends mills

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt. What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about…

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt.

What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about the first thing you see on any distillery tour but, once you’ve heard the guide’s regulation story about their age and how they outlived the company who made them, you move on.  

It’s a shame. Painted, usually, in that distinctive shade of dark red, sturdy, planted four-square in the mill room, ready to receive another load of malt, these quiet occupants of an unobtrusive corner of the distillery just do their job in a modest and under-stated way.  A malt mill would never shout or draw attention to itself you feel, happy to do an honest day’s work and then await the next consignment to be turned into grist.

But if you take a second, harder look you might see a simple plaque discreetly fixed to the side with the legend RONNIE LEE, MILLWRIGHT and a telephone number.  One day I couldn’t bear it any longer; I was puzzled and intrigued; I had to ask: “Who is this bloke Ronnie Lee?” 

R. Boby

Plate from an old Boby mill

“I have no idea,” was my host’s honest, if unhelpful reply (but then he was a marketing type). I began asking production folks – real whisky people. To a man, they smiled.  “Ronnie Lee,” they said. “You must know Ronnie Lee.” Embarrassingly, I didn’t and the more I learned the worse I felt. So, I set to tracking him down because everyone told me that, though he wasn’t their employee, Ronnie Lee was a vital part of their team. From Diageo to Kilchoman, Chivas Brothers to Rosebank, he keeps the mills running. Without his unique service those antique rollers might seize up and fail, whisky could not be produced – indeed, a great national disaster would befall Scotland.

So I called the number and found myself on an industrial unit alongside a chicken farm in Chepstow – about as far from the glamorous world of luxury seen in whisky’s current imagery as may be imagined. This is where old-school engineer Ronnie and his two sons are based and where the world comes when a mill – possibly more than one hundred years old – needs some TLC. 

These fine pieces of machinery, be they the familiar Porteus design or that of their less well-known rival Boby, were built to last.  Their solid construction and simple, yet well-proven design has stood the test of time and, entirely fortuitously, speak to our present-day concerns about sustainability and the responsible use of resources.

A beautifully-restored Porteus

A beautifully-restored Porteus mill

But how long can they continue to run? The answer may well surprise you. I was certainly taken aback when Ronnie proudly shared with me his latest project: the restoration of a Boby mill, found in an Australian brewery and saved from scrap, that he believes was manufactured around 1855-60.

It may well be the oldest surviving example of a malt mill anywhere in the world and, following 80-100 hours of skilled and experienced cleaning and restoration, it will certainly work again and looks good for another 150 years of service (though, strictly speaking, non-commercial use as it lacks the anti-explosion guard fitted to later models).  Perhaps it will become a display piece, tribute to some far-sighted Victorian engineers as Robert Boby Ltd of Bury St Edmunds.

And how has it happened that Ronnie has found himself in this highly specialised niche? He grew up near his present Chepstow home and, after school, was apprenticed to the motor trade, quickly passing through a dozen or more jobs before embracing self-employment.  Back in 1995 he was contracting to Buhler, a Swiss mill manufacturer, installing their larger systems in flour mills (there aren’t many in distilleries, though you can see a mighty example at Glenfarclas). 

Ronnie Lee with an old Boby mill

The man himself with an old Boby mill

By this time, Boby was being closed down and the old Porteus company was owned by Briggs of Burton (a name you’ll find on mashtuns and other larger pieces of brewery and distillery equipment). But the heyday of the Porteus mill was the 1960s and by 1972/73 manufacturing had ceased. Maintenance and spare parts became more and more of a problem and eventually Briggs were unable to support what was by now, for them, an obsolete product. 

Ronnie was able to acquire the original Boby plans and drawings (he could build you one from scratch) and armed with these and Porteus’ withdrawal from the market, it was natural for him to step into this gap. His affinity with old machinery and his ability to coax new life from their aging cogs and gears has ensured his unique place in whisky. So, in a world which lauds distillery managers as rock stars, spare a thought and raise a glass to Ronnie Lee, the man who mends the mills and a true whisky hero.

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The Nightcap: 1 November

The Rock’s Tequila distillery, the arrival of Port season and bourbon-infused cheese, it’s all in this week’s Nightcap! This week, The Nightcap has been mostly powered by the leftover sweets…

The Rock’s Tequila distillery, the arrival of Port season and bourbon-infused cheese, it’s all in this week’s Nightcap!

This week, The Nightcap has been mostly powered by the leftover sweets that weren’t claimed by trick-or-treaters. Our fingers are propelled by chocolate and our brains are running on toffee, but our hearts… Our hearts are driven by the love of bringing you all the stories from the world of boozes which occurred this week. Plus lollipops. We knew there was a good reason to pick up significantly more sweeties than we could ever hand out.

If you push past the cobwebs in the haunted MoM Towers you may have glimpsed the terrifying amount of activity that occurred on the blood-curdling blog this week. Nate Brown returned to lambast the deification of bartenders before Adam rounded-up a smoky selection of spirits perfect for Bonfire Night. Annie then acquainted herself with Kinahan’s Kasc Project and Five Hundred Cuts Rum from BrewDog Distilling Company, while Henry also enjoyed a delightful rum from an unusual source as Hayman’s Merser & Co. Double Barrel rum was our New Arrival of the Week. Henry also marked the upcoming Día de Muertos (it’s tomorrow) by making The Red Devil our Cocktail of the Week.

But the frightening fun doesn’t stop there! It’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congratulations Dr Kirstie McCallum!

Dr Kirstie McCallum is Glen Moray’s new head of whisky creation

There’s a new sheriff in town at Speyside distillery Glen Moray. Dr Kirstie McCallum has been appointed head of whisky creation, a new role which will see her take responsibility for brands such as Cutty Sark, Sir Edward’s and Label 5 as well as Glen Moray. McCallum has big shoes to fill, as she will take over from Graham Coull who was master distiller for 14 years. In that time he oversaw the expansion of Glen Moray Distillery and developed several award-winning cask expressions, but he has since moved to pastures new, becoming the master distiller at Dingle Distillery in Ireland. This won’t phase the good doctor (McCallum has a PhD in analytical chemistry from Glasgow Caledonian University), however, as she boasts quite the résumé herself. Her last role was as senior blender at Distell International, where she worked in various roles for over 12 years and was responsible for single malts Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory as well as the company’s blended whiskies. “I am really excited about the opportunities this role will offer, working with world renowned brands such as Glen Moray, Label 5 and Cutty Sark and Sir Edward’s,” says McCallum. “There is a great opportunity to experiment with new cask types and to develop new expressions, using the expansive knowledge of other wine and spirit experts within the La Martiniquaise-Bardinet group.”

 

 

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The name is official: Ladies and gents, I proudly bring you, TEREMANA TEQUILA 🥃 TERA is meant to represent “Terre” which means of the earth and MANA is our powerful Polynesian spirit that guides us. Spirit of the earth. Our goal is to create a tequila that is the best of quality and taste, but done the right way – by hand. Small batch, hand crafted tequila from our Teremana blue agave, maturing in the highlands of Jalisco, for everyone to enjoy. After years of hard work, this blessing is truly a dream come true – but it’s just the beginning and there’s much work to be done. I’m committed with my team to bring you the best tequila, because quality and legacy are what matter most. From all of us here at Distilleria’ Teremana, we invite you to COME HAVE A DRINK. The tequila of the people. #TEREMANA #tequila #ItsAlmostReady #Q12020 @hhgarcia41 📸

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson reveals new Tequila distillery

It’s been an eerily long while since we’ve heard about a new celeb getting in on the Tequila madness. In all honesty, we were starting to get a little anxious. Luckily for us, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson calmed our worries by announcing his newest venture, Destileria Teremana! This hasn’t come completely out of the blue though, as back in March Johnson posted a little teaser on his Instagram. It was also on Instagram this week that he revealed his new distillery, Teremana, explaining that ‘Tere’ translates as ‘earth’, while ‘Mana’ means ‘spirit’. So there you have it, spirit of the earth! We’re no hashtag experts, but we’re pretty sure that ‘#Q12020’ means that hopefully we can expect to actually taste some spirit early next year. When we do though, we’ll make sure to have it… on the rock(s).

The Nightcap

It’s quite the array of Scotch

Hunter Laing releases retrotastic Old & Rare Heritage whiskies

Independent bottler Hunter Laing has been busy sniffing out some rare casks for a splendid new series of whiskies which are both old and rare. Each bottle comes from a single cask and is bottled at cask strength with no colouring or chill-filtration. The line-up is likely to get whisky enthusiasts swooning on the chaise lounge with such bottlings as a 30 year old Mortlach, a 37 year old Aultmore and a rare sighting of a Glen Elgin 44 year old. Smelling salts, please! The MD, Stewart Laing, said: “There are some whiskies which are so remarkable that they deserve a little extra recognition, and our heritage series was created to celebrate these incredible malts. My two sons and I have personally selected each of these whiskies from our finest and most prized stocks.” Son and export director Andrew Laing added: “2019 continues to be both a busy and exciting year for us at Hunter Laing & Co with the opening of our first distillery Ardnahoe, the launch of the Scarabus Islay single malt and entering the travel retail market with Scarabus and our Journey Series of blended malts.” While we are sure the contents will be tip-top, we are particularly taken with the look of the series with its squat green bottles and retro-tastic labels. Naturally, they will be arriving soon at MoM. Keep an eye on the New Arrivals page.

The Nightcap

The commemorative bottling will be released in time for 11th November

The English Whisky Company to launch Remembrance Sunday whisky

Some people drink to forget but now you can drink to remember with a special whisky to commemorate the dead of the First World War. It’s been released in time for Remembrance Sunday on the 11th November by the English Whisky Company. The label features the silhouette of a Tommy, the words ‘Lest We Forget’ and the St. George’s Cross, particularly appropriate as the St. George’s Distillery is the home of the English Whisky Company. Andrew Nelstrop, whose father founded the distillery in 2005, had this to say about the new release: “We are delighted to launch this special centenary whisky to mark such an important time in the history of this country. In 2014, we released a similar bottling to remember those that fell in World War 1 and it proved so popular that due to repeated requests for another batch, we felt it only fitting to launch one to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Treaty Of Versailles which formally ended WW1,” he adds. It will go on sale on 7th November with an RRP of £49.99.

The Nightcap

It’s Port season, don’t you know?

Taylor’s announces the arrival of the Port Season

You might think that a Port digital marketing campaign would be an oxymoron, like military intelligence, but perhaps we should not be surprised that Taylor’s, consistently one of the most forward-looking Port houses, has announced just such a thing. The campaign, created by Keko London who have worked with such swank merchants as Bentley and Bugatti, designates a season for port that begins when the clocks go back and goes on throughout the winter taking in Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year. Andrew Hawes from Taylor’s UK agents Mentzendorff writes: “There is no getting away from the fact that people like Port. The quality versus value equation has never been better and there are strong recognisable brands in the market that are consistently invested in. Taylor’s launching the new digital advertising campaign will support the brand’s very broad trade distribution at a time of the year when family and friends gather, and Port represents a warm and affordable luxury, often described as “the oil of good conversation”. The campaign which will feature on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube depicts a glamorous dinner party having a splendid time enjoying a drop of Port. We’d like to see that uncut version which shows what happens when someone inadvertently drops the B-word after a few too many glasses.

The Nightcap

So much lovely whiskey…

Over 9 million barrels of whiskey now maturing in Kentucky

Well, it’s only taken 86 years but it looks like Kentucky has finally recovered from Prohibition. Figures just released by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) show that last year more than 2.1 million barrels of whiskey were filled taking the total ageing to 9.1 million. That’s a lot of Mint Juleps. KDA president Eric Gregory commented: “This is a historic day that cements Kentucky’s rightful title as the one, true and authentic home for bourbon and distilled spirits.” Sounds like fighting talk! According to the KDA, Kentucky bourbon industry is worth $8.6 billion and generates more than 20,000 jobs. But it’s not all gravy in Kentucky, whiskey is a heavily taxed industry in the States with a levy on maturing stock and then there’s that pesky trade war with the EU. Gregory went on to say: “Kentucky Bourbon is collateral damage in a trade dispute that has nothing to do with us. While we remain hopeful for a resolution soon, the impact on our industry, our partners and our farm families is significant and growing.” The figures just released are the highest of the modern era beating a previous best of 8.7 million total barrels in 1968 and 1.9 million barrels filled in 1967. After that America went mad for white spirits in a big way and the bourbon market collapsed. But that couldn’t happen again, could it?

The Nightcap

BenRiach wants to bring its sensory palette to life through art

BenRiach to be turned into art

It was Elvis Costello who said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. Or maybe it was Frank Zappa. There is some debate. Whoever said it, we wonder what he would make of painting about whisky because this is exactly what’s going on at BenRiach. The Speyside distillery has commissioned Ellis O’ Connor, an artist from Dundee, to produce a three landscape paintings inspired by the three types of casks, bourbon, oloroso and virgin oak, used in the make-up of BenRiach 10 Year Old. The paintings will be displayed at London bar TT Liquor during Scotch Whisky Weekend in January 2020. Ellis O’Connor said: “Speyside is renowned for its big skies, fast-flowing river and of course, whisky, so when the opportunity arose to bring this climatic corner of Scotland to life on canvas on behalf of its most creative distillery, I jumped at the chance. BenRiach is packed full of innovation, experimental heritage and flavour and I wanted to depict that through the essence of its flagship whisky BenRiach Aged 10 Years and how it speaks to me through the colours and movement on the canvas. Each canvas will have a distinct colour that explores the flavour profile of the single malt and its cask journey.” Master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie added: “Partnering with this talented young Scottish artist is such a wonderful way to bring BenRiach’s flavour journey to life and we can’t wait to see Ellis’ creations on canvas.” We can’t wait to see the results.

The Nightcap

The Guinness Japanese Brew Series

Guinness launches the Japanese Brew Series

Ireland and Japan are joining forces through the form of a good old brew! Guinness has launched three limited edition Japanese-inspired brews in celebration of the Rugby World Cup (which is in Japan, just in case you’ve been living under a rock). Though Ireland is no longer in the tournament, we can still all get in the spirit with the Guinness Japanese Brew Series, boasting three new beers. There’s Ginger and Wasabi Stout, which is flavoured with ginger spice and dark chocolate, and weighs in at 6.2% ABV. Next, there’s the Yuzu Amber Ale, with a slightly lower strength of 4.8% ABV, where a base of Irish red ale is paired with yuzu fruit and hops. Last but not least there’s a (nearly) non-alcoholic stout, Stout of the Rising Sun, which at 0.5% ABV boasts notes of hojicha, a charcoal roasted green tea from Japan. “As Official Sponsors of Belief, Guinness is delighted with our new limited-edition Japanese Brew Series,” Peter Simpson, lead brewer at Guinness Open Gate Brewery said. “These three special beers are our latest innovation where experimentation with Japanese inspired tasting notes and an evolution of classic Irish recipes has created a unique celebration and union of culture and craft.” Where can you find these tasty brews? For those of you down south, the Yuzu Amber Ale is available at London’s Flat Iron Square for a limited time, so best get on down there, or pop over to Dublin for the rest!

The Nightcap

May Fair Bar will soon be alive with all kinds of wintry wonderment

Belvedere + Ice Winter pop-up to launch at May Fair Bar

We’re approaching that time of year, folks. You know, the one people call the ‘most wonderful’. And you know what that means, a whole host of festive and seasonal celebrations from various brands and establishments will start to pop-up all over the place. Like Belvedere + Ice, a 7-week pop-up at May Fair Bar that will attempt to bring some winter-based wonderment to the space with bespoke cocktails and pan-Asian small plates. Expect blue and white accented forestry and frosted detail all over May Fair Bar’s cosmopolitan interiors. The exclusive collaboration with Belvedere Vodka will last from Tuesday 12th November to Tuesday 31st December, and guests can anticipate brunch to bottle service, a soundtrack from May Fair Bar’s resident DJ’s playing late into the night and, on centre stage at the bar, Belvedere + Ice, a luxurious Champagne cocktail priced at £300 that features Richard Hennessy Cognac, Madagascan vanilla-infused Belvedere Unfiltered vodka, Dom Perignon Brut Vintage 2009 & gold leaf. Tis the season to be spendy, after all. Five other vodka-based cocktails will also be on offer between £14 and £18, including the Rosé Negroni, Old Fashioned Blanc, Jasmine & Fig Sour, Ice Melon Martini and The Socialite. You can find more information here.

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A fine addition to your cheeseboard

And Finally… Basil Hayden’s wins Christmas already with bourbon-infused cheese

Now it’s actually November it feels entirely appropriate to start mentioning Christmas. The dinner, the drams, the all-important cheeseboard. But it seems bourbon brand Basil Hayden’s has already made our festive dreams come true, ticking at least two of those three boxes of indulgence, hitting peak Christmas and winning our hearts and taste buds in the process. Behold: Pour Me a Slide bourbon-infused cheese! It’s been made in partnership with Utah-based creamery Beehive Cheese from semi-firm Jersey cow’s milk. The infusion is said to result in cheese that “tastes sweet with a hint of spice”, thanks to the high-rye profile of the whisky. Count us in. “Our goal is to craft cheeses that bring people together through their elevated, artisanal flavour,” said Pat Ford, co-founder of Beehive Cheese. “We’re excited to partner with Basil Hayden’s because the trademark spice of this bourbon adds a really unique flavour to the cheese that makes it perfect for a gathering or gifting.” Sadly it appears to be a US phenomenon, but if you’re listening, Team Basil: we need Pour Me a Slice this side of the pond, too! (All is not lost – Team MoM have sampled and can personally vouch for the deliciousness of Laphroaig cheese and Springbank cheese. No need for all-out dairy-based whisky panic.)

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The Nightcap: 25 October

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap! OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will…

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap!

OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will be the closest we get to an edition of The Nightcap falling on Halloween – next week Friday is the 1st of November, at which point we’ll have set aside our zombie costumes for another year and will be busy stockpiling sparklers and jacket potatoes in anticipation of Bonfire Night. With that in mind, you’re just going to have to put up with an early spooktacular here. Ahem. WoooOOOooo! It’s (almost) Halloween! The haunted ghouls of the underworld have crept into MoM Towers and they’re knocking over printers and… Oh, our hearts aren’t really in it. Let’s just get on with the booze news from the week that was.

It’s been a blog-maggedon kind of week here at MoM Towers. Firstly, congratulations are in order to the respective winners of the Lakes Distillery (#BagThisBundle) and Kingsbarns Distillery competitions! There was then some delightful video-based adventures with Ardbeg and Penderyn, while Adam also rounded-up some spooky spirits for Halloween. Then there was the exciting news that Douglas Laing had bought Strathearn Distillery as Annie talked Sullivans Cove with head distiller Patrick Maguire and rare pepper cordials with Monin and Alex Kratena. Henry had discussions of his own, from mezcal with Dr Iván Saldaña, to cocktails with Joe and Daniel Schofield, but still found time to make the intriguing Gin Rummy our New Arrival of the Week.

Phew! Now, to The Nightcap!

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£1,452,000. One bottle of whisky. £1,452,000. Wow.

Macallan and Brora break records at Sotheby’s in London

Hammers were banged, money was waved and records were broken at the latest wine and spirits auction at Sotheby’s in London this week. Some 460 bottles of rare Scotch from an American collector went under the hammer. The star was inevitably a Macallan, a 60 year old from 1926 which went for £1,452,000 ($1,873,951). Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s, said: “There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks a historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky.” According to Sotheby’s, the strongest interest came from Asian buyers. In total, the collection went for £7,635,619 ($9,854,530), out of which a whopping £3m ($4m) was accounted for by just four bottles of Macallan. But it wasn’t all about Macallan. Other exciting bottles included a 50 year old Springbank distilled in 1919 which went for £266,200 ($343,558); bottle number one of 54 year old Bowmore Crashing Waves went for £363,000 ($468,488); and a Dalmore Eos 59 year old, one of only 20 bottles, achieved £99,220 ($128,053). All this excitement makes the £54,450 ($70,273), a new record, paid for a bottle of Brora 40 year old seem like pocket change. Perhaps you could mix it with ginger beer.

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Balcones master distiller Jared Himstedt, who won’t be singing

Balcones teams up with Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for UK tour

We all know that whisky and music go together: from Keith Richards with his Jack Daniel’s to, erm, Billy Idol with Rebel Yell. Now Texas whisky pioneer Balcones will be bringing the spirit of the Lone Star state to Britain in more ways than one by sponsoring the tour of top Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson. Balcones and Dickenson have so much in common. Not only are they both from Waco, Texas but Dickenson and Balcones’ head distiller have almost the same first name, Jarrod and Jared. They’re made for each other. The tour titled Unplugged & Distilled will run from 22 November to 7 December 2019, and consist of Dickenson playing 13 acoustic dates around the country (details here). And while you listen, and perhaps dance, if you get the urge, you can sip delicious Balcones whisky. It’ll be just like being in Texas, except when you leave the gig, it’ll probably be cold and wet.

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Introducing: the Samurai Scientist!

New Boss Hog from WhistlePig finished in Japanese umeshu casks

A new Boss Hog from rye distiller WhistlePig is always something to be excited about but this latest edition sound particularly epic. It’s called the Samurai Scientist and it’s a sixteen-year-old whisky named after a chemist called Jōkichi Takamine who brought a Japanese form of alcohol production, koji, to American whiskey in the 19th century. The Samurai Scientist is a collaboration with a Japanese company, Kitaya who produce sake, shōchū and umeshu. It was created using koji fermentation (in Canada) and aged for 16 years before being finished in a cask that previously held an aged umeshu – a Japanese fruit liqueur. Pete Lynch, master blender, explained: “We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu. With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122 [60-61% ABV]”. Jeff Kozak, CEO of Whistlepig added: “Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was like-minded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents.” The Samurai Scientist complete with pewter samurai on the stopper should roaring into MoM towers sometime in December. Now we know what we’re going to ask #whiskysanta for.

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Is this the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum?

Burrell and Seale launch Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum

Two distilleries. Two different continents. Two key figures within the rum industry. That’s the story behind Equiano, which is believed to be the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and master distiller Richard Seale, Equiano is described as an “east and west” collaboration and is said to be the first rum crafted from liquid from two different distilleries based on two different continents. The name is a tribute to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer, abolitionist, traveller and freedom fighter, as it follows his journey, from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. It’s a blend of molasses rums from Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery that was aged for 10 years in a combination of French Limousin oak casks and ex-Cognac casks and Foursquare rum that was matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has no added sugar, spices or colourants, was bottled at 43% ABV and is said to deliver notes of dried fruits, sweet toffee, butterscotch, orange peel, vanilla, oak, anise, sweet pepper and buttered wood. “Equiano is a first for a centuries-old craft,” said Seale. “We have created an entirely unique blend through a collaboration between two rum distilleries on two different continents.” Burrell added: “Premium rum is on the rise, and more importantly the consumer that wants quality is demanding clarity, authenticity and intrinsic value in their rum. Equiano is a new style of rum; one that combines two rum cultures: African and the Caribbean.” A percentage of the profits from every bottle of Equiano sold will be donated to an equality-focused charity annually.

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It’s a blow for those who like to flip bottles like this on the auction market…

New Daftmill will only be available by the dram

Watching great whiskies disappear into collections or bounce around auction markets is something we’ve all become used to seeing. Lowland distillery Daftmill isn’t interested in taking part with its latest release, however. In an effort to side-step ‘bottle flippers’, it will offer Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 by the dram in select Scottish bars in collaboration with Berry Bros & Rudd. The duo has teamed up to sell the 2008 vintage single cask expression in 25ml measures for the price of £10 (US$13). It will be available at venues operated by Scottish chain The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland from the 1 November, including The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness). That’s right. Bottles will not be available to buy. Described as a first for the industry, the move was taken to ensure that the spirit can only be sampled by “genuine whisky lovers”. Bottles of the 2008 single cask released earlier this year sold out in minutes and then began appearing on auction sites at hugely inflated prices. “As much as we appreciate the high demand for our whisky, we’ve always distilled with the goal of it being opened and drunk by people that really enjoy a dram,” said Francis Cuthbert of Daftmill. “Releasing this single cask with The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland is a great way to ensure that every bottle we release will be opened and drunk over the next few months.” Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 is the first single cask to be released from this vintage. The whisky was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and selected by the bar chain to be bottled at a natural strength of 55.5% ABV.

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Brewdog is the latest brand to experiment with ‘botanical rum’

Brewdog launches Five Hundred Cuts botanical rum

To the Physic Garden in Chelsea for the launch of Brewdog’s new botanical rum, Five Hundred Cuts. And first off, who knew there was a walled botanical garden right in the heart of London? This sweet-smelling oasis was the perfect setting for the launch. There was even a ‘herbal storyteller’, Amanda Edmiston, on hand to give us an insight into the inspiration for the rum, an Aberdonian botanist called Elizabeth Blackwell. And what of the rum itself?  We’ll be running an interview with distillery Steven Kersley next week but here’s our first impressions: the rum is based on a high ester spirit distilled from Algerian molasses (the best according to Kersley) and flavoured by distillation and infusion with a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, orange peel, cloves and tonka beans before sweetening with muscovado sugar. The result (RRP £24) is quite remarkably aromatic and tasted excellent in a series of cocktails created by Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev but it also worked wonders sipped neat as a seasonal cold cure. It just breezes through that blocked nose.

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Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Patrón Tequila celebrates Día de Muertos

This November, Patrón Tequila will launch a series of events in celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The traditional Mexican celebration will be marked by immersive art exhibitions and bar takeovers all over Europe by Patrón Tequila. In London, a three-day immersive event will take place at the six-storey 19 Greek St in Soho from 1st to 3rd November 2019 featuring the works of Mexican artists Lourdes Villagomez and Lola Argemi. But if you want to kick off the celebrations earlier, Patrón will be offering themed cocktails within a colourful setting that evokes the key symbols of the Día de Muertos in a number of bars, such as The Den (100 Wardour Street), Swift, Hovarda, Thirst and Soho Residence in Soho, Raffles and Callooh Callay in Chelsea, the Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Bar in Knightsbridge, Eve Bar in Covent Garden, Red Rooster in Shoreditch, Playa in Marylebone and the London Cocktail Club in Oxford Circus. To all of our Mexican friends, we wish you a Feliz Día de los Muertos!

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It’s the oldest whisky ever released from the Campbeltown Distillery

Glen Scotia releases its oldest and rarest expression

Get ready for Glen Scotia’s oldest ever expression! The Campbeltown distillery has only gone and released a 45-year-old single malt. Distilled back in December 1973, it was aged in refill bourbon casks, where it rested until 2011. Then the liquid was transferred to first-fill bourbon casks until 2019, when it was bottled at 43.8% ABV. “Glen Scotia 45 year old is one of the most magnificent expressions to be produced by our Campbeltown distillery and we are excited that after 45 years we are now able to unveil it to the world,” said master distiller Michael Henry. “It embodies all of the unique elements which Glen Scotia is known for, delivering a long mouth-watering finish with notes of sea salt and lime citrus. On the palate, the liquid presents caramel sweetness at first, then juicy fruit with pineapple, mango and watermelon rounded by vanilla and honey.” Each bottle comes in a handmade British walnut case, with an engraved tile featuring the individual bottle number and tasting notes. If that wasn’t enough, inside the case you’ll find embossed leather lining. That all sounds pretty dandy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: only 150 bottles have been released worldwide, priced at £3,795. If you do fancy on getting your hands on one, then we recommend keeping a very, very close eye on your favourite online retailer…

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The ‘Kingdom of Light’ cocktail

Mr Fogg’s Winter Festival Of Lights lands in Covent Garden

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Tavern is a quintessentially British spot for a tipple or two in Covent Garden. However, the bar has teamed up with House of Suntory for the Winter Light Festival, a magical Japanese-inspired illuminated festival. It’s a sensory experience inspired by Japanese nature, a delight of sight, taste and sound, launched this week on 23 October. Of course, there are also Japanese-inspired cocktails, made with Roku gin, Haku vodka and Toki whisky. You’ll be met at the entrance to the tavern with a red torii gate framed with pink cherry blossom. There are two menus to choose from. The first you’ll find downstairs, inspired by different locations throughout Japan, with cocktails such as ‘Kyoto’, marrying Toki whisky, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale. If you follow the lantern trail upstairs you’ll find the second menu. This is no ordinary menu, with the cocktails listed on Roku bottles filled with fairy lights. The serves here are named after Japanese festivals such as ‘Kingdom of Light’, made with Roku gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, umeshu plum sake and rhubarb bitters. If you were umming and ahhing about going, we should probably let you know that the bar will even be streaming the Rugby World Cup straight from Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…

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Lidl wants to challenge your preconceptions

And finally. . . . wine tasting in the dark with Lidl

When conducting a wine tasting most professionals agree on what you need, wine, obviously, you can’t have a wine tasting without wine, clean glasses, white tablecloths and plenty of light so that you can appreciate the colour. Well, Lidl is throwing all this out the window with its new pop-up wine tasting tour. It begins in London on 8 November before continuing to Manchester and Glasgow. Tastings will be hosted by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield and take place in a Cellar Noir where wine will be served in the pitch black by waiters wearing night-vision goggles, and in a nightmarish-looking Discombobulation Chamber. The idea is to shake off people’s preconceptions about labels and wine colour, and trust in their senses of taste and smell. It all this sounds much too confusing for you, to finish up there’s Salle de Noel featuring Christmas trees, mince pies, a cheeseboard, and, most importantly, some light so you can see what you’re doing.

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