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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Single Malt Whisky

Take a virtual tour of Pernod Ricard’s single malt distillery in China

Work has finished on Pernod Ricard’s single malt whisky distillery in China which cost $150m. Now you can have a tour of this spectacular new facility (virtually.) Hot on the…

Work has finished on Pernod Ricard’s single malt whisky distillery in China which cost $150m. Now you can have a tour of this spectacular new facility (virtually.)

Hot on the heels of Diageo’s announcement of its own Chinese whisky distillery, it seems that Pernod Ricard’s single malt whisky distillery in China is finished, after just over two years. Called The Chuan Malt Whisky Distillery, it’s in Emeishan in the Sichuan Province and shows a commitment of $150m by Pernod Ricard.

We are still waiting for final confirmation of technical details but from the virtual tour, you can see that it’s a spectacular facility in stone and concrete with more than a touch of Bond villain lair meets luxury spa about the place. You can take a tour here. There are eight stainless steel washbacks and two quite short stocky stills which appear to have come from Forsyths of Rothes with shell and tube condensers.

The Chuan Malt Whisky Distillery

Ah Mr Ricard, I’ve been expecting you

Not just a distillery but a cultural icon

But this isn’t just a distillery. Oh no. Designed by Chinese architectural firm Neri&Hu, according to the press release, it is meant to be a “cultural icon.” The name Chuan “is a matrimony of two exquisite characters steeped in the local terroir and culture, with the “rich and layered” meaning of 叠 (the) and “river” in 川 (chuan) from Sichuan”. So now you know. There will also be a permanent art programme including “an installation by Zhan Wang, one of China’s most celebrated contemporary artists.” The visitor centre will open in 2023 and Pernod Ricard aims to attract two million tourists in its first ten years open.

As you’d expect from a new distillery, there’s the usual sustainability stuff. It aims to be carbon neutral, taking most of its energy from renewable sources and 100% of the waste water will be recycled. The distillery itself apparently made use of recycled material in its construction. 

We don’t know whether any barrels have been filled yet but according to Philippe Guettat, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Asia “our mission is to bring to life the most iconic malt whisky made in China.” It seems it’s very much going to be in a Scotch malt whisky style as the master distiller Yang Tao is working with his counterparts in Scotland. What all this means for the original Scotch whisky in the Chinese market is anyone’s guess. 

You can take the virtual tour here.

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Top ten experimental cask-finished whiskies

Remember that time we made a list of some of our favourite strange and sensational cask-finished whisky? Well, we couldn’t fit everything we loved on one list. So we made another…

Remember that time we made a list of some of our favourite strange and sensational cask-finished whisky? Well, we couldn’t fit everything we loved on one list. So we made another one.

Innovation in whisky often leads to distilleries and bottlers taking already tremendously tasty spirit and finishing it in unusual, intriguing, and/or rarely-seen casks. And we all can’t help but be tempted by the promise of something new and different. What does a Marsala cask bring to the table? Or Scottish oak? The possibilities are endless.

So we’re back again to enjoy the spoils of those who dare to do it differently, celebrating some of the most unusual cask-finished whiskies around. Enjoy!

Our pick of experimental cask-finished whiskies

cask-finished whisky

Whisky Works King of Trees 10 Year Old

The Whisky Works range is an independent arm of Whyte & Mackay that gives blender and whisky maker Gregg Glass free rein to try all kinds of interesting things out, like finishing whisky in a cask made from native Scottish oak. That’s exactly what he did with King of Trees, taking a portion of the 10-year-old blended malt he made with Highland whiskies and popping it into the local oak to accentuate the whisky’s fresh orchard fruit character. The experiment obviously worked, because the brand says we’ll be seeing plenty more Scottish oak in the future…

What does it taste like?

White grapes, green apples, dark fruit compote and butterscotch, then sherbet lemons, golden barley, vanilla, and a flicker of nutmeg.

cask-finished whisky

Langatun Marsala Cask Finish

Swiss whisky giant Langatun knows how to make booze that catches your eye and is no stranger to using an array of different cask profiles to finish its single malt. This particularly enticing dram first spent eight years maturing in a Chardonnay wine cask, which is intriguing enough, before finishing up for 10 months in a French oak Marsala-fortified wine cask. We’re talking double grapey cask goodness, folks. Expect a wonderfully fruity, nutty character, with a glorious lingering finish.

What does it taste like?

Fragrant oak, warming pepper spice, and fermented fruits with sweet notes of toasted almonds, tobacco, and burnt marzipan.

cask-finished whisky

Balmenach 18 Year Old Moscatel Cask Finish (Darkness)

Taking the finest Scotch whisky and pairing it with exquisite quality sherry casks is pretty much the whole point of Darkness whisky. But there’s no reason why the brand should only play with the classic sherry varieties, like Oloroso. In this case, a single malt from the Balmenach Distillery was housed for a stint of its 18-year-maturation in a Moscatel sherry octave cask. Octaves are much smaller than your standard cask, which means there’s a greater surface area to volume ratio, leading to more interaction between the wood and the whisky. The sherry influence isn’t shy in this one.

What it tastes like: Wonderfully chocolatey, with lighter hints of zesty orange, vanilla, biscuit, and festive spices leading to a hint of mulled wine, with the malty notes once again keeping it grounded.

cask-finished whisky

James E. Pepper 4 Year Old – Ale Cask Finish (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Distilled by the fabulous James E. Pepper and bottled by our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company, this is a rye whiskey that spent some time in barrels that used to hold delicious ale. The relationship between beer and whiskey means this pairing is becoming increasingly common (just ask Jamesons), but since Grant’s Ale Cask Finish has been discontinued, your options, for now, are still rather limited. Particularly if you’re a rye whiskey fan. Fortunately, this bottling is absolutely cracking. Although, there isn’t much of it left either…

What does it taste like?

Fudge, toasted barley. floral honey, malty vanilla notes, dense brown sugar, buttery corn, sawdust, oak spice, orange zest, and black peppercorn.

cask-finished whisky

Chivas Regal Mizunara

A special edition of Chivas Regal blended Scotch whisky originally released for the Japanese market, it’s only in recent years we’ve all been able to enjoy this beauty. A good thing too, as part of the blend was matured in Mizunara oak casks, a rare breed that grows incredibly slowly and imparts unique aromas. You would usually expect to pay a pretty penny to enjoy whisky associated with this mysterious, magical wood, making this expression something of a bargain too.

What it tastes like: White peach, toffee-coated pears, vanilla-rich cream, with a hint of aniseed hiding within.

cask-finished whisky

Kinahan’s The Kasc Project

Innovative stuff from Ireland, Kinahan’s The Kasc Project is essentially a complex blend marrying all different types of cask. You see, each cask (kasc?) has been constructed from a different type of wood, including Portuguese, American, French and Hungarian oak, as well as chestnut. If you’d like a chance to see what impact using casks from different regions has on whiskey, then this is the dram for you.

What it tastes like: Juicy autumnal fruit, rich caramel, charred oak, fruit and nut chocolate and Christmassy notes of nutmeg and clove, orange oil and brown sugar with barbecued mango, and more caramelised tropical fruit with a scattering of vanilla pod underneath.

cask-finished whisky

Tomatin 12 Year Old 2008 Monbazillac Cask Finish – French Collection

Ever had whisky finished in casks that previously held Monbazillac? For most people, the answer would be no. Luckily, Tomatin’s French Collection, which was launched in mid-2021 and explores a variety of cask finishes featuring French wines and spirits, has given you the chance to see what effect this type of sweet wine produced in south west France has on Tomatin’s high-toned and fruity spirit.

What does it taste like?

Honeycomb and banana fritters, with apricot green apple, candied grape, peanut brittle, cinnamon, and toasty oak develop.

cask-finished whisky

The Matsui Sakura Cask

Ok, full disclosure: this single malt Japanese whisky from the Kurayoshi Distillery wasn’t actually finished in an exciting cask. Instead, it spent its full maturation in Sakura, or cherry wood, casks. Which is cool, right? It seemed deserving of a spot regardless. So here it is. What a pretty bottle, too.

What it tastes like: Almond, faint hints of fresh orange and melon, vanilla sponge cake, baking spices, and a light whiff of spring blossom later on.

cask-finished whisky

GlenAllachie 8 Year Old Koval Rye Quarter Cask Wood Finish

GlenAllachie Distillery has one of the most diverse and interesting wood programmes so it’s no surprise to see it do something as experimental as this expression. Master distiller Billy Walker popped an 8-year-old single malt initially aged in American oak barrels in small quarter casks that previously held Koval Rye. The small casks have an intense influence that imparts a host of rich, sweet, and earthy spices from the rye.

What does it taste like?

Nutmeg and cinnamon offer up warming, oaky elements, while honeycomb, melted chocolate, orange, runny honey, and cooked apple give it some balancing sweetness.

cask-finished whisky

26 Year Old Whisky – Maple Syrup Cask Finish (Defilement)

What we have here is a 26-year-old whisky, which was given a finishing period in a Pedro Ximénez sherry octave cask that previously held maple syrup, released as part of the Defilement range. This is experimental and controversial booze at its finest, with the resulting spirit proving so wacky we can’t tell you where this whisky is from. Only that the country of origin is strict about casks. So, yeah. You know where it’s from.

What it tastes like: Freshly picked pears, buttered apples, runny caramel, cigar box, earthy peat, charred oak, heather, vanilla, fresh cantaloupe, ginger, and just a pinch of sea salt.

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Top ten bottles from independent distilleries

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our…

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our top ten bottles from independent distilleries.

It’s not easy being an indie in a drinks industry dominated by giants like Diageo, Pernod Ricard or Beam Suntory. These behemoths have marketing budgets bigger than some countries. How do you compete with that? Then there’s always the possibility that one of the big boys will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Pernod Ricard, in particular, seems to be constantly snapping up craft gin distilleries.

Yet, we’re glad that so many independent distillers are not only surviving but thriving. They are able to react more quickly than the giants, be more individual, or just do things as they’ve always done without having to worry about shareholders.

An independent could be a hungry start-up bursting with innovation, or a family business that’s been honing its craft for generations. Either way, you’re getting something a bit different when you go independent. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites from the world of whisky, gin, rum, Cognac and Tequila. Let’s raise a glass to the small fish of the drinks industry!

Top ten bottles from independent distilleries


Edradour 10 Year Old 

Edradour is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and at the heart of the range, this 10 year old Eastern Highlander is a highly distinctive single malt, a decidedly rum-like dram with a thick mouthfeel. The distillery’s methods of production remain virtually unchanged in the last 150 years, and we can see why. If it ain’t broke and all that. This single malt’s decade of ageing was spent in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks. This is one sherry monster and we love it.


Drumshanbo Single Pot Still

The single malt still is Ireland’s great gift to the whiskey world. Until recently, if you wanted some of that creamy magic, there was only one game in town, Irish Distillers. Now though, independent distillers are beginning to release spirits like this splendid one from Drumshanbo. The mash bill is a mixture of malted and unmalted barley with 5% Barra oats. It’s triple distilled before being matured in a combination of Kentucky bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, making for a glorious balance of cream and spice.

Wilderness Trail Bourbon

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

Many small American whiskey brands buy in spirits from larger distillers. Wilderness Trail, however, did things the hard way when the founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist (great name) built their own distillery at Danville, Kentucky in 2013. This Single Barrel release is made from a mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% malted barley, aged in toasted and charred barrels. It’s also bottled in bond, meaning that, as laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, it must be aged between five and six years and bottled under the supervision of the U.S. Government at 100 proof, or 50% ABV in British English.

Hayman's London Dry Gin & Tonic

Hayman’s London Dry Gin

The Hayman family are descended from James Burrough, the founder of Beefeater Gin. They have been distilling for five generations but it’s only in recent years that the family name has appeared on bottles. These days, their gin is produced in Balham in South London (following the Hayman’s base of operations moving from Essex in 2018), only four miles from where the company was founded by Burroughs. This classic London Dry Gin is produced to a family recipe which is over 150 years old but the company also makes innovative products like the fiendishly clever Small Gin.


Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin

Mason’s is back from the brink. In April 2019, the distillery burnt to the ground in a freak fire. It was utterly destroyed. But founders Catherine and Carl Mason did not give up. They had their gin made at another distillery before rebuilding and reopening in 2020 (read more about the story here). Their distinctive London Dry Gin uses Harrogate spring water along with juniper, a proportion of which is from their own bushes, and a combination of secret botanicals including citrus, fennel and cardamom. Produced in small batches, each bottle has hand written batch and bottle numbers.

Botanivore Gin

St. George Botanivore Gin 

As you might be able to tell from our visit in 2019, we’re pretty keen on everything from California distilling pioneers St. George. The team makes whiskey, vodka, various types of gin, liqueurs, eaux-de-vie and more. But we can only pick one thing so we’ve gone for the Botanivore Gin. It’s made with 19 different botanicals, including angelica root, bay laurel, coriander, Seville orange peel, star anise and juniper berries, among others. It’s like a greenhouse in a bottle.  This would make a superb Martini with just a splash of vermouth and a green olive.

O Reizinho Rum

O Reizinho 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) 

This has proved a hit with customers and staff alike. It’s a rum from the Portuguese island of Madeira, located off the coast of West Africa, made by O Reizinho and bottled by our very own That Boutique-y Rum Company. The distillery uses fresh sugar cane rather than molasses so expect lots of vegetal funkiness with green banana, olive and red chilli, tamed somewhat by three years in oak barrels bringing toffee, vanilla and peanuts to the party. And what a party it is! This is now the second batch; only 1936 50cl bottles were filled at 52.6% ABV. 

Scratch Patience Rum

Scratch Patience Rum

British rum, distilled in Hertfordshire by one man spirits maverick Doug Miller. Read more about him here. A great deal of patience has gone into this one. The rum is double distilled, spending time in whisky casks between distillations, before further maturation in ex-bourbon and new oak casks. Finally, the matured rums are blended for perfect balance and bottled in small batches. Wonderful stuff, expect flavours of toffee and butter fudge, tropical hints of banana with rich, oaky vanilla, combined with dried fruits and soft wood spice prickle. It just goes to show that patience does pay off!

Frapin 1270

Frapin 1270 Cognac 

Whereas most Cognac is made from bought-in grapes, wine or eau-de-vie, Frapin only uses fruit from the family’s estates in the Grand Champagne region. They ferment and distill everything themselves too. After distillation, 1270 was matured for six months in new oak barrels and then moved to older casks for extended ageing. The name is something of a tribute to the long history of Frapin. A refined and fruity Cognac that was created by Frapin to work as an aperitif, served over ice, or as a base for cocktails. 

Tequila Fortaleza

Fortaleza Tequila Reposado 

The brand Fortaleza was launched comparatively recently, back in 2005, but Guillermo Sauza’s family have been making Tequila for five generations. Apparently his ancestor, Don Cenobio, was the first person to export “mezcal de tequila” to the United States, shorten the name to simply ‘Tequila’, use steam to cook the agave rather than an earthen pit, and specify blue agave as the best to use. Quite a legacy! This reposado bottling spends a short time in ex-bourbon barrels where it takes on popcorn, caramel and wood spice to go alongside those fruity, herbal agave flavours. 

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Ten great British booze destinations 

As most of us won’t be going far this summer, we’ve picked some great British booze destinations around the country for you to visit. From vineyards to gin distilleries, these…

As most of us won’t be going far this summer, we’ve picked some great British booze destinations around the country for you to visit. From vineyards to gin distilleries, these are some of our favourite places to enjoy whether the sun comes out or not. 

Last week we showed you how you can go on holiday without leaving the comfort of your own home. Today we’ve picked some of our favourite drinks destinations around Britain, from ancient breweries to modern vineyards, and not forgetting the wealth of distilleries found all over the country. There’s something here for everyone. 

Great British booze destinations

Somerset Cider Brandy Company

Burrow Hill Cider, Somerset

Anyone who has been to the Glastonbury festival will have tried Burrow Hill’s delicious produce at the famous Cider Bus. At his farm in Somerset, cider master Julian Temperley (above) produces a broad range of traditional West Country ciders ranging from delicious summer sippers to complex bottle-fermented products made from single apple varieties. But that’s not all, he’s also the man behind the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, making, since 1989, England’s answer to Calvados. Truly this place is a booze wonderland. 

Hush Heath estate, Kent

Hush Heath Estate, Kent

Hush Heath has to be one of the most gorgeous vineyards in England, set among the rolling Kent hills. Here the father and son wine making team of Owen and Fergus Elias make a superb selection of wines under the Balfour label. They are justly famous for their sparkling wines, particularly, the rose but the still wines are coming on strongly with some increasingly good Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. Take a walk in the vineyards and then soak up that view from the terrace with a few glasses of wine and some food. 


Tillingham vineyard, East Sussex

I’ve learned from bitter experience that children find wine tasting very boring which is why I’ve picked this place. While you taste and practise your best wine speak, they can eat pizza and run around. There are rooms and bell tents to sleep in in the summer. It’s run by a maverick called Ben Walgate (seated above) who makes delicious idiosyncratic wine and cider using Georgian amphora and the like. There’s a real sense of fun about Tillingham.

Chase Distillery in Herefordshire

Chase Distillery, Herefordshire

The Chase family is all about potatoes. First it was crisp, Tyrell’s. Then they sold that business to do something a bit different, make vodka. And they turned out to be rather good at it winning awards left, right and centre. The distillery, set in the heart of Herefordshire cider country, now produces a range of spirits including gin, apple brandy and liqueurs. The distillery itself with its huge column still (once the tallest in Europe) at the centre looks spectacular and it’s worth a visit even if you’re not a booze nerd.

The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria

The Lakes Distillery, Cumbria

One of the perennial questions for tourists in England is what to do when it’s raining in the Lake District, which is often. Well, instead of sitting in a tea room reading Wordsworth, you should instead visit the Lakes Distillery, makers of first class single malt whisky. It’s really set-up for tourism with a fine restaurant and cafe on the site. Take a guided tour and then sample some of the sherry-cask whiskies created by ex-Macallan whisky maker Dhaval Gandhi. You won’t want the rain to stop. 

Shepherd Neame Faversham in Kent

Shepherd Neame Brewery, Kent

There’s something magical about towns like Faversham in Kent that are dominated by a large family brewer. The sprawling Shepherd Neame site sits in the centre of this beautiful medieval market town and permeates the whole place with the sweet smell of malted barley. The company dates back to the 17th century and is still in family hands.It’s the home of perhaps Kent’s most famous beer, Spitfire, as well as great strong beers like Bishop’s Finger and 1698.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

Adnams Brewery and Distillery, Suffolk

Another two for the price of one visit here as Adnams not only produces a delicious selection of Suffolk ales, but there’s also a distillery. The company was a pioneer of English whisky when it began distilling in 2010, so they have some properly mature whisky now for you to sample. Our favourite is probably the malted rye. Adnams also has a wine merchant arms, so they’ve got the booze business pretty well covered. It all takes place in Southwold, one of the prettiest seaside towns in the country so we’d recommend staying for a couple of days. In a pub owned by Adnams, naturally. 

Haymans Gin

Hayman’s Gin, London 

If you love gin then you have to visit Hayman Distillers in south London. The family has been distilling for generations, they are descended from James Burrough who created Beefeater gin, but the name Hayman’s only appeared on a bottle in 2004. Then in 2018, they opened this gin palace in Balham to produce a range of true London dry gins. Visitors can learn about the history of distilling in the capital,  admire the gleaming stills, and find out how gin is made. Or if that sounds a bit too strenuous, you can just enjoy the best gin and tonic in London at the bar.

Glenfarclas Distillery, mountain background

Glenfarclas Distillery, Speyside

Whisky fans are spoiled for choice in Speyside, the home of Glenlivet, Macallan and Balvenie, but there’s something particularly special about Glenfarclas. It might be because it’s one of the very few single malt whisky producers that is family owned, by the Grant family since the 19th century. Or it might be because the old ways are preserved here, like direct-fired stills, long-ageing in sherry casks and damp earth-floored warehouses, not because they look picturesque but because they make whisky with character. 

Ramsbury Distillery/ Brewery in Wiltshire

Ramsbury Estate, Wiltshire 

The Ramsbury Estate is a mecca for food and drink lovers. Covering nearly 20,000 acres of beautiful Wiltshire countryside, the farm raises cattle, pigs and deer, and grows wheat, barley, rapeseed, and other crops. Best of all, you can visit the on-site brewery and distillery which makes first-rate gin, vodka, and beer all made from scratch (no bought in grain alcohol here) largely using estate-grown produce. Nothing is wasted: leftovers from gin distillation are even used to cure venison to make charcuterie!

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Top ten whiskies for 2021

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can…

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can be overwhelming. Here are our top ten whiskeys/ whiskies for 2021. 

There are so many choices now when it comes to whisky. It can be a bit much, especially as there are so many new countries all producing delicious whisky. But for this round-up, we’ve stuck with the old gang, America, Ireland and, of course, Scotland, to pick some of our favourite bottlings, both old classics and newer releases.

Even from these three countries, the variety is wonderful. We’ve got single pot stills, single malts, rye, bourbon, a blended grain and a blended whisky. And none of them will break the bank. So, without further ado here are out top ten whiskies or should that be top ten whiskeys? Now that an end seems to be in sight to the long-running tariff dispute, perhaps the Scots, Irish and American can sit down and just agree how to spell whisk(e)y. Even if its just for typographical neatness.

That was a bit of a sidetrack. Sorry. Here they are:

Top ten Whiskies for 2021

American whiskies for under £50

Maker’s Mark 46

The classic Maker’s Mark is an all-time favourite for any sound-of-mind bourbon lover, but today we thought we’d draw your attention to the brand’s first line extension since the ’50s. Maker’s 46 is essentially the original bumped up a notch, with a bolder, spicier profile that was attained by inserting seared French oak staves into the barrels (with the stave profile “number 46” – thus the name). We can confirm it worked a treat.

What does it taste like?

Dense vanilla, toasted brown sugar atop apple pie, gingersnaps, cinnamon sticks, caramelised nuts, cask char, earthy cigar box, a touch of maple syrup, forest floor richness and chocolate sweetness.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!


Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey

Rye whiskey was a giant of the American drinks industry that was devastated by Prohibition, but thankfully things are changing and Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse is one of the leading brands of this welcome rye renaissance. Possessing plenty of that classic spicy, chewy and full-bodied Pennsylvanian rye style, Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey is a bartender’s favourite for good reason.

What does it taste like?

Dried fruits, soft spices, cocoa, butterscotch, marmalade, cinnamon and caramel.

autumn sippers

Redbreast 12 Year Old

One of the finest single pot still Irish whiskies ever created, what’s not love about Redbreast 12 Year Old? The rich and rewarding dram was made from malted and unmalted barley, and then matured in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and Spanish oak Oloroso sherry butts. We can’t get enough of it.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, rich and oily, with notes of dried peels, ginger, linseed, cut fruits, marzipan and a hint of sherry. 

bargain Irish whiskey

Green Spot Single Pot Still 

Last year we announced the return of Blue Spot, now we’re showing some love to the best known of the range and a whiskey that has done so much to fly the flag for single pot still whiskey. We’re talking, of course, about the fabulous Green Spot, a whiskey that was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks to deliver a robust, fruity and rich profile. Savour this one.

What does it taste like?

Fresh green apple, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, potpourri and citrus.

Springtime treats for Mother's Day

Compass Box Hedonism

Smooth, creamy and really very tasty, Hedonism represents Compass Box trying to create a decedent dram, as the name suggests. It’s a blended grain whisky featuring liquid (depending on batch variation) from Cameronbridge, Carsebridge, Cambus, Invergordon, Port Dundas or Dumbarton that was matured in 100% first-fill American oak barrels or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. Equally delicious neat or in a multitude of classic cocktails, Hedonism is also amazing with a caramel-based dessert.

What does it taste like?:

Fraises des bois, sponge cake, red pepper, black cherry, milk chocolate, toasted oak and sweet spices with some cereal notes.

autumn sippers

Talisker 18 Year Old

There are few distilleries that can boast a range as good as Talisker and the 18 Year Old bottling is arguably its standout expression. Matured for nearly two decades in casks which previously held bourbon and sherry, this sweet and smoky malt has picked up multiple awards and won the plaudits of critics and fans alike.

What does it taste like?

Thick, rich and full-bodied with notes of spicy, peppery oak, espresso beans, wood smoke, allspice and there is a certain zesty character lurking somewhere.


Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

Balvenie is Glenffiddich’s shy sibling. While its brother is a global celebrity, Balvenie just gets on quietly turning out some of the best whiskies in Speyside. The DoubleWood is a long time favourite of ours matured first in refill American oak casks before it was treated to a finish in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts for an additional nine months.

What does it taste like?

Perfect blend of bourbon and sherry. Vanilla and nutmeg notes mingle with dried fruit and nuts. A classic. 

Master of Malt Day 2020

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

An Islay single malt from an undisclosed distillery. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 


Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

Once just known as Highland Park 12 Year Old, now it’s called Viking Honour. Fearsome! The whisky, happily, is the same as it ever was with that classic honey, floral and wood smoke profile. The Orkney distillery does things the time-honoured ways with floor maltings, peat, sherry casks and cool climate maturation. If it ain’t broke and all that. 

What does it taste like?

Honey and floral notes abound on the nose with some wood smoke. On the palate it’s peppery with notes of orange and wood shavings. 

Check out these bargain blended Scotch whiskies!

Green Isle 

If you’re an Islay whisky fan and are on the lookout for something with a little more smoke and sea, we’ve got just the thing. From the makers of The Character of Islay Whisky Company, Green Isle is a blend with a core of Islay malt alongside some complementary Speyside malt and Lowland grain whiskies. This is an approachable blend that mixes tremendously and would serve as a great introduction to those who would like to explore the smoker side of Scotch.

What does it taste like? 

Softly toasted barley, warming oak, honey glazed apples and cut grass. Then, vanilla pod earthiness, coastal peat, pear drops, dry smoke, buttery biscuits and crushed peppercorns.

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Ultra-rare Brora Triptych released as distillery reopens this May 

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are! The…

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are!

The whisky world pricked up its collective ears when it heard that Diageo was rebuilding the cult Brora and Port Ellen distilleries back in 2017. We’ve eagerly followed the progress since on the blog and this May, a year later than originally planned, Brora will once again be operational for the first time since 1983. Release the party poppers!

Brora Distillery

Brora is reborn! We can’t wait to visit

As you might expect, Diageo is celebrating in style with the launch of three extremely fancy bottlings, called Brora Triptych, which will be available mid-May to coincide with the opening of the distillery. Only 300 are available. The trio consists of:

Elusive Legacy 

At 48-years-old this is the oldest public release from Brora made up of casks from 1972. Very little whisky was produced at this time so this is doubly rare. The tasting note describes it as: “Warm chestnut in colour, there is a delicate aroma which blends wood spice with hints of peach tarte tatin, amidst a powerful rich maltiness”. Bottled at 42.8% ABV

Age of Peat 

A 43-year old-smoky expression made up of whiskies distilled in 1977. It represents a time between 1972 and 1980 when Brora switched to heavily-peated whiskies to meet soaring demand from blends. It’s described as: “Intensely deep and golden, this expression is elegant on the nose with creamy vanilla invigorated by freshly-cut green apples and hints of beeswax, before a long, sweet finish of peat -fired smokiness.” Bottled at 48.6% ABV.

Timeless Original 

A 38-year-old from 1982, the last full year of production, when Brora had returned to its traditional lightly-peated style. The tasting note says: “Glowing yellow gold in hue, sherberty lemon peel, and a touch of fresh green grass dance on the nose.” Bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Brora Triptych

Brora Triptych, note fancy packaging

Master blender Dr Craig Wilson commented: “These are some of our very last precious relics from a Brora of bygone age. Each one represents a moment in time at the distillery and tasting these superb whiskies is to be part of a special moment in history. When selecting the casks for these rare bottlings, we wanted to celebrate  those distinct characteristics that define Brora, and those that we seek to uphold as we begin a new chapter in its story.”

The distillery reopens in May

The three will be sold as a trio in some seriously fancy packaging with an equally hefty price tag of £30,000, and they’re only 50cl bottles. But that does include an invite to visit the distillery when it reopens and be shown around by master blender and Brora native Stewart Bowman who was heavily involved in the distillery rebirth. 

Stewart Bowman

Looking every inch the Scottish country gent, it’s Stewart Bowman

He comments: “The stories of Brora are woven into my own history and I am honoured to soon be able to share these stories with others. My father was an ‘old hand’ at the distillery, and I grew up in the village with the top of the distillery’s bell-tower visible from our kitchen window. In the years after Brora’s closure, I remember my father showing me the old cask ledgers and the records of those final casks distilled in 1983 and asking if Brora would return one day. It fills me with great pride that 38 years after the doors of Brora closed, more casks will now be filled, and we will be able to welcome people once again to this special place. It is our commitment that we will do justice to the Brora of old and hope to welcome visitors to our restored home as soon as that is possible. In the Brora Triptych, we aimed to celebrate the great whisky styles of the past for which Brora is known.”

We will be reporting (virtually, sadly) from the reopening of Brora in mid-May, and there will be further news coming on when and where you can get hold of these extremely rare whiskies. 

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

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

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

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

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

Bowmore ditillery from the air

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery

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

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

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

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

Tasting Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

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

Appearance: Deep amber 

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

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

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

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

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

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Master of Malt tastes… Masthouse Single Malt Whisky

Something very special has just arrived at MoM towers, the inaugural single malt whisky from the Copper Rivet distillery in Chatham. It’s called Masthouse and we were lucky enough to…

Something very special has just arrived at MoM towers, the inaugural single malt whisky from the Copper Rivet distillery in Chatham. It’s called Masthouse and we were lucky enough to be allowed a little taste. Here’s what we thought…

We visited the Copper Rivet distillery back in 2018 and were extremely impressed by the embryonic whiskies we tried. The quality of the new make was obvious as was knowledge, commitment and sheer enthusiasm of head distiller Abhi Banik. You wouldn’t even have to try his products to know that they were top notch. Though of course we did. The distillery has been selling a young aged malt spirit called Son of Gun as an aperitif for a couple of years alongside Dockyard Gin but now we’re very pleased to announce the arrival of the main course, Masthouse Single Malt Whisky. It’s not Kent’s first single malt, that honour goes to a release from Anno Distillers in Marden earlier this year, but it is the first to be made in any great quantity.

Abhi Banek (right) with his booze-making equipment

Copper Rivet opened in 2016, it is owned by the Russell family and housed in a beautiful Italianate former pump house in Chatham Docks. The team are mad on provenance and transparency so they have come up with their own version of the SWA rules called the Invicta charter. It’s quite long, you can read the whole thing here, but the main points are that grains have to come from within 50 miles of the distillery, all operations after malting but including fermentation must take place under one roof and it includes a system for labelling whisky that is clear to the consumer stating the grains and type of still used. Co-founder Stephen Russell explained: “This is our declaration of the high standards we apply to making whisky so that our customers can trust and appreciate the spirit. Every bottle clearly details the grain variety we use, the name of the field in which the grain was grown and the barrel numbers from which the spirit was taken.”

The charter is not something the Copper Rivet team expects other people to sign up to though it does outline a possible future for regulating the English whisky. Russell explained, however, that he wanted to keep the flexibility enjoyed by this young industry: “Among the most significant differences between Scotch and English whisky is that England’s whisky distillers are not bound to using only certain types of casks and stills. So we have a big opportunity to be creative and innovative in the way we bring flavour through.” The distillery has produced a video featuring Banek explaining things further.

So let’s get onto Masthouse, the inaugural single malt whisky. It’s a single harvest, 2016, single estate spirit; all the barley was grown on the Isle of Sheppey, about 15 miles from the distillery. The variety used is Belgravia. It’s malted off-site, then at the mashing stage, Banek wants a very clear wort. “A clear wort makes a fruitier spirit. With a cloudy wort you get lots of nutty flavours which I don’t want,” he told us when we visited. For fermentation, “we use two different yeasts, and use half the quantity you’re supposed to use so that we have a slow fermentation.” The wash was pot-distilled and matured in ex-bourbon and virgin American white oak barrels before bottling at 45% ABV with no filtering. There’s a full tasting note below but what is immediately apparent is the delightful fruitiness of that new make. It’s youthful but in no way overpowered by the wood. In fact, there is already quite a bit of complexity. As Russell put it: “With Masthouse whisky we aim to go over the top in our quest to produce a fascinating and elegant whisky which competes with the best from around the world on flavour and quality.” I think they have achieved their aim.

When we visited back in 2018, we also tasted some aged column malt and grain spirits of extremely high quality. These will be released within the next 12-24 months. At some point, when there is more aged stock we hope there might be a blended whisky and the Invicta charter does allow for the release of whiskies blended from more than one distillery, which is really exciting. 

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Apple and peachy fruit with cereal notes like malt and oats, with vanilla, cinnamon, marzipan, and a lift of lemon peel.

Palate: Creamy, with a full cereal texture, some peppery alcohol, you can feel the ABV. Smooth and round with porridge, chocolate digestive biscuits and that citrus peel note again.  

Finish: Vanilla comes through strongly with oatcakes and custard. 

Overall: Young but by no means raw or uncomplex. It’s smooth as hell and packed with flavour.

Copper Rivet Masthouse is available from Master of Malt while stocks last.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #4: Darkness 8 Year Old

Time to wind down the week with another delicious dram as we open door number four of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today, we have a delightfully…

Time to wind down the week with another delicious dram as we open door number four of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today, we have a delightfully sherried single malt…

We’re a sixth of the way through our calendar already! As always, the first week of advent is whizzing by. Today we have Darkness, a delicious sherried single malt and not the guys we hear every year blaring through the radio at a rather high pitch… Anyway, back to the whisky,  Darkness seems an apt inclusion this time of year, as daylight continues to lose ground as we head toward the winter solstice, and of course, Christmas, because this whisky boasts such an array of warming festive flavours. 

For those of you familiar with Darkness you may remember that it began life as a range of quality limited edition whiskies. Darkness 8 Year Old builds upon this quality, delivering a fantastically dark coloured, unapologetic sherried single malt, which, best of all, is a permanent expression. That rich sherry character is the result of octave sherry casks, which as their name suggests are an eighth of the size of a regular-sized cask.

We spoke to Darkness’ brand manager Jen Ghosh so she could explain more. 

Master of Malt: Where does the name Darkness come from? 

Jen Ghosh: The connotation of a whisky’s colour is a well-versed conversation. For some whiskies, darkness can be deceptive (thanks to the SWA sanctioned use of e150 caramel colouring) whilst truth can be found in the darkness of others. Our Darkness is a high definition sherried single malt; it’s non-chill filtered and a deep, rich, dark natural colour that is truly worthy of its name. 

MoM: Tell us why Darkness focuses on Octave Sherry casks. 

JG: Darkness has a long history, an obsession almost, of experimentation with octave cask maturation. Maturing in these smaller vessels meant more wood contact but also more evaporation and losses but we discovered the resulting intensity of flavour a fair trade-off for sacrificing 8% to the angel’s share. We believe there’s an unrivalled depth and richness to savour here that can only be achieved by the alchemy of oxygen and oak that occurs in the octave cask.

MoM: Darkness used to be limited edition, will we see those types of bottles again? 

JG: Yes, you can see them right now on Master of Malt. We’ve just released a new collection of limited editions. Some, like our two Ardbegs (one 14, one 24 year old) or our delicious youthful surprise Benriach 6-year-old, were instant sellouts. Every limited release has been carefully selected and achieved all we expected and hoped with the intense period of octave maturation.

MoM: What does 2021 hold for Darkness?

JG: We’ll be bringing drinkers on our maturation journey with us through unique tasting experiences, exploring the richness and depth of flavour that only the octave cask can provide. You can expect more limited editions, we’ve been giving our signature octave cask maturation to some delicious single malts – from the return of our sold-out-success Benriach and new bottlings on the horizon with an Irish single malt, Dalmore and more.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas song?

JG: Shakin’ Stevens is ageing well – Merry Christmas Everyone!

MoM: Santa or Father Christmas? 

JG: Father Christmas brings cosy nights by the fire. Santa screams mess and mayhem. It will depend on how Christmas Eve goes!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #4: Darkness 8 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Candied orange peels, chocolate peanuts, cooking spice warmth and some dried cherry.

Palate: Amaretti biscuits, subtly toasty hints, powerful raisin and prune, just a touch of earthy oak lingers.

Finish: Slightly oily with a hint of smoke, though chocolatey hints persist.

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Master of Malt tastes… Glenfarclas 60 year old single cask

We got to have a taste of one of the most impressive and exciting whisky releases of the year. A 60-year-old single cask whisky from Glenfarclas Distillery. It’s every bit…

We got to have a taste of one of the most impressive and exciting whisky releases of the year. A 60-year-old single cask whisky from Glenfarclas Distillery. It’s every bit as good as it sounds. And we’re getting some.

The year 1959 did not start well for Glenfarclas. At 2 am on New Year’s Day workers at the distillery discovered that the stillman had forgotten to open a valve on the wash still. You see, he’d overindulged a tad in the festivities, and that error had catastrophic consequences. When the valve was finally opened, the heat and volume of liquid broke the spirit safe, and boiling alcohol escaped everywhere. 

Fire hoses stopped the alcohol igniting, thankfully, but most of the wash had to be replaced. The insurance company suggested that perhaps closing over the Christmas period in the future, before presumably asking themselves why they’d ever taken on a booze factory as a client. Glenfarclas took the advice and 1959 was the last time the Speysiders distilled and filled on Christmas Day. 

While 1959 didn’t kick-off in the finest of fashions, it was a record production year for Glenfarclas. A new farm steading was completed that summer and work began on a new stillhouse to increase the number of stills from two to four, effectively doubling production by 1961. Before that was completed, one particular batch of whisky was distilled and placed in a first-fill oloroso sherry hogshead on the 2nd of June 1959. It remained there in the brand’s dunnage warehouse until November 2019, when it was bottled at 40.9% ABV.

Glenfarclas 60 Year Old

Behold, Glenfarclas 60 Year Old!

That whisky is the Glenfarclas 60 Year Old I sampled on Friday in the presence of sales director George Grant and production manager Callum Fraser, who hosted a virtual tasting from Warehouse 1 at the distillery. Just 105 precious bottles of this UK exclusive (until it’s inevitably flipped all over the world) have been made available, although, as Grant pointed out, we’re “bloody lucky to get 105”. Each one is made from hand-blown Glencairn Crystal and the gift boxes are produced by NEJ Stevenson, so it’s got all the luxury trimmings you’d expect for a whisky of this age.

Expectation is part of the territory when you release a whisky that’s been aged for six decades. First comes the excitement. I had to check I hadn’t accidentally started daydreaming when I got the invitation through to this tasting. This is whisky from the last cask left from 1959, for goodness sake. Then comes the intrigue. What happens to Glenfarclas distillate after all that time in the cask? Has the cask overwhelmed the spirit or created something truly special? 

Usually, you’d also expect a dram to show how the production process changed over sixty years. With Glenfarclas, however, there’s less to learn, because it has a well-established reputation for doing things differently. It has been owned by the Grant family since 1865, with over six generations handling the reins, making it one of the few independent family firms left. It heats its stills using direct fire as it has always done, believing that it adds weight to the distillate, and works with just one cooper in Jerez, Miguel Martin, to source its ex-Oloroso butts and hogsheads, all made from European oak. The whisky is stored in traditional dunnage warehouses and is only ever released at natural colour, often with an age statement and little in the way of marketing.

Glenfarclas 60 Year Old

Glenfarclas is known for its no-nonsense approach and commitment to sherry casks

All this means that Glenfarclas fans know what to expect when they indulge in the brand’s whisky: elegant, refined and sherry-tastic tipples. When it came to this tasting, I was of a similar mind.

Happily, I wasn’t disappointed. This is a stonking good whisky. It’s got all of the presence, weight and complexity you’d expect for a dram this age, but with a delightful vibrancy. The cask oozes noble, sherried goodness throughout and there’s still plenty of hallmark Glenfarclas characteristics to savour. I could have spent a fortnight just nosing it. It’s a real shame to think there will be bottles of this not opened in the name of flipping and collecting. It deserves to be shared and savoured.

It’s on its way to MoM Towers so keep an eye out on the New Arrivals page. However, as you’ve probably guessed, a whisky of this status has a price tag to match, close £20,000. You might have to live vicariously through the tasting note with this one…

Glenfarclas 60 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Initially there’s Dundee cake, marmalade spread on soda bread, dark chocolate and dusty leather-bound books with a hint of sweet peat in the backdrop. Heaps of dried fruit as well as nectarines, blackcurrant coulis and apricot jam emerge, then thick molasses, drying Oloroso elements, sweet tobacco, clove, spent matches and warm gingerbread. 

Palate: Through a spark of woody tannins, some heathery smoke and a sight earthy funk comes some umami flavours of cured game, rancio, cigar ash and dried herbs which compliment citrus notes – lime peel and more marmalade – as well as red apples, Medjool dates, sour berries and an array of stewed black fruits. There’s an oily nuttiness present throughout along with ginger root, vintage cola, liquefied liquorice, bitter chocolate and a hint of Madeira cake.

Finish: Drying and bittersweet with tart dark fruit, marzipan, Earl Grey tea, menthol tobacco and just a hint of gingernut biscuits.

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