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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Single Malt Whisky

New Arrival of the Week: Bruichladdich 28 Year Old

This week’s New Arrival is a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing and filled in the early ‘90s when the future of the distillery looked far from certain.  Islay…

This week’s New Arrival is a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing and filled in the early ‘90s when the future of the distillery looked far from certain. 

Islay had a rough time in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A downturn in the Scotch whisky industry meant that there wasn’t such a demand for malts, especially such distinct ones. Port Ellen closed 1983 and was partly demolished. Others escaped a similar fate only by a whisker, distilleries like Ardbeg and the one we’re looking at today, Bruichladdich.

The distillery dates back to 1881 when it was founded by three brothers: Robert, William and John Harvey. It was a purpose-built distillery, state of the art for the time. As is the way with Scotch whisky distilleries, except Glenfarclas, it changed hands a number of times before settling down with Invergordon Distillers (now part of Whyte & Mackay) from the 1960s until the ‘90s. Bruichladdich was largely used in blends. At some point in the ‘60s peat was abandoned and the maltings fired by coal instead. So, unlike its neighbours, most Bruichladdich is unpeated. It’s not your typical Islay single malt.


The Bruichladdich Distillery today

After some uncertain years, the distillery finally closed in 1994 and was mothballed. That may have been it but a London wine merchant called Mark Reynier was an enormous fan, selling quantities through his business and was heartbroken at his favourite distillery’s closure. As you do, he decided that he was going to buy it. After being rebuffed by the distillery’s owners for many years, he put together a consortium who finally managed to purchase Bruichladdich in 2000. He had two strokes of luck in bringing the name back from the dead. Firstly, the distillery was largely intact and was able to get the original equipment, including a 19th-century cast-iron mash tun, six Oregon pine washbacks and four swan-necked stills, working again. Secondly, Islay whisky hero Jim McEwan was retiring from Bowmore at about the same time and rather than settle into a life of golf and Saga holidays, was looking for a new challenge. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. McEwan’s role in the Bruichladdich revival is portrayed in the film The Golden Dram.

Bruichladdich began working again in 2001 and since then has become famous for doing things a little bit differently. The packaging to start with, you’ll find no tartan or Monarchs of the Glen here. The team has stayed true to the elegant Bruichladdich style with unpeated whisky but they also make the heavily-peated Port Charlotte and the oh-my-god-it’s-so-peaty Octomore (named after a local spring). There’s also an excellent Botanist gin made using a Lomond still which appeared in 2010. All the whiskies are created from Scottish barley and there have been releases made with a rare archaic cereal called bere. If you want to talk about terroir in whisky, it’s a good place to start.

Talking of terroir, Reynier’s latest venture is the Waterford Distillery in Ireland making true single estate whiskey, as well as Renegade rum looking to do a similar thing on the island of Grenada. Bruichladdich was bought by Remy Cointreau in 2012 but seems to have kept what made the distillery special. 

One for your whisky library.

But all this in the future when our New Arrival was distilled. In 1991, it was filled into a refill hogshead (cask number 16883 to be exact) and there it lay for 28 years before being bottled (at cask strength 50.7% ABV with no chill filtering) by Hunter Laing, the Glasgow-based independent bottler who last year moved into distilling with Ardnahoe on Islay. This expression is part of its ‘First Editions’ range, about which the company said: 

“As the name may suggest, each cask is carefully selected to evoke the qualities of a rare literary volume – those of character and collectability. Colour-coding on the labels denotes the particular regions the whiskies themselves are from and each bottle is individually numbered and presented in a gift tube. A ‘First Editions’ bottling without doubt makes a valuable addition to anyone’s whisky library.”

But don’t just leave it on the shelf in your whisky library, you can also drink it. Only 295 bottles have been filled. It’s a slice of history that’s unlikely to hang around. 

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Grassy malt with honeyed cereal, sea breeze and melted butter.

Palate: Spicier than the nose suggests, with cinnamon, nutmeg and toasted oak. Lots of apricot, pear and apple following on.

Finish: Layers of toffee, oat, lemon and black pepper.

Bruichladdich 28 Year Old 1991 (cask 16883) – The First Editions (Hunter Laing) is available now.





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Master of Malt tastes… The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

The Dalmore has launched a 51 Year Old expression and we were lucky enough to be one of the first to taste it. No, really. Here’s what we thought. Any…

The Dalmore has launched a 51 Year Old expression and we were lucky enough to be one of the first to taste it. No, really. Here’s what we thought.

Any Scotch whisky lover will tell you The Dalmore is no stranger to extravagant expressions. Bottlings such as The Dalmore L’Anima Aged 49 Years, The Dalmore 60 Year Old and The Dalmore 45 Year Old have cemented this reputation. It’s not surprising then that the Highland distillery’s first major release of 2020 is a whisky fit to join this illustrious list: The Dalmore Aged 51 Years. 

A launch event to taste and talk all about it took place at the Hotel Café Royal in Piccadilly, London this week, where master distiller Richard Paterson was on dapper and dandy form as usual to present his latest source of pride. It was all very exciting, as I’m sure you don’t need telling. This would be my only opportunity to sample The Dalmore Aged 51 Years as only 51 bottles (neat) will go on sale and the pleasure of its company in the future would set me back £55,000. As you would expect for a whisky of this type, there’s a glossy hand-crafted presentation case (black sycamore wood, don’t you know) which houses the crystal decanter and stopper. But, in the immortal words of Shania Twain, that don’t impress me much. Even if the 12-point ‘Royal’ stag is looking particularly resplendent in sterling silver.

The whisky itself is far more compelling. Bottled at a natural cask strength of 40% ABV and presented without any additional colouring, it was initially matured in ex-bourbon casks before it was distributed between Port Colheita 1938 casks, Matusalem sherry casks and first-fill bourbon casks. The spirit was then reunited in bourbon barrels for a final flourish. The press release notes that this demonstrates “how deeply The Dalmore treasures the sanctity of the cask”. 

The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

The Dalmore’s Richard Paterson with his latest source of pride

The official quote from Paterson in the marketing bumf drove this point home further. “The Dalmore 51 Year Old is a noble single malt of rare profundity and it has been my pleasure to closely follow its maturation over five decades. I am always looking towards the future and I carefully consider how each distillation will evolve, moving our spirits to new wood to transform their conclusion. The Dalmore 51 Year Old is a fine example of this.” At the event Paterson reiterated this, explaining that long maturation and cask innovation has been part of The Dalmore DNA since the Mackenzie brothers owned the distillery.

The fact that The Dalmore’s stringent wood policy across its thousands of casks and the guiding principle that the ‘cask is king’ took centre stage was particularly interesting. The classic issue with whisky matured for this long is that the profile becomes too woody. As I made my way to the event the question of how you successfully mature a whisky for 51 years was on my mind. In this case, Paterson clearly feels the answer lay in utilising multiple casks. He made a point early on at the event to say that by “using the right cask you rejuvenate the whisky, then it goes over like silk”.

In a presentation before dinner, Paterson told stories about the distillery and its history, but it wasn’t long before casks became the focus of the conversation. Paterson describes the maturation process of The Dalmore Aged 51 Years like a journey, one that begins in ex-bourbon casks that “provide the base of the whisky and allows it to settle down”. He then explained that in order to make something special he used Port Colheita 1938 casks for four years. “This took that American white oak and gave it body and character with those plummy notes you get with this style of the Port wine”. The spirit was then added to exclusive 30-year-old Matusalem sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass for five years, which Paterson explains was to bring notes of “old English marmalade, grapes, sultanas and Christmas cake. This, mixed together with that Port wine, comes together in a perfect assemblage”. 

The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

The Dalmore distillery

We were then invited to taste The Dalmore Aged 51 Years, I didn’t need telling twice. I was conscious that your perception of a whisky can be influenced by the setting, so I took a portion of my designated glass away to taste at home in order to compare and contrast my thoughts. You’ll be pleased to know what across both sets of notes, there’s hardly a mention of woodiness. Instead, my two separate tasting notes both concluded that this was a complex dram. In fact, I thought The Dalmore Aged 51 Years was utterly sublime.

The vibrancy of the fruit is striking, as is the heaps of flavour despite the low strength. It’s chock-full of Dalmore distillery character and each cask plays its part without every truly veering into dangerously tannic territory. Paterson described it as a whisky “that deserves every splendour, it’s something very different and something unique”. I’d add that it’s very, very delicious. For more detail, the customary MoM tasting note is below.


The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

The Dalmore Aged 51 Years Tasting Note:

Nose: Homemade blackberry compote, lime marmalade, roasted espresso beans and a litany of dried fruit – dates, figs and sultanas – drenched in spiced molasses lead. Elements of dusty oak furniture, soft toffee pennies and vanilla cream develop among touches of golden tobacco, chocolate orange, Turkish delight and diced almonds. As the nose progresses notes of Conference pears, stewed plums and rich dark chocolate make their mark as lemon meringue, Bakewell tart (with the cherry), honey roasted peanuts and Bassett Allsorts emerge in the backdrop. 

Palate: A faint rasp of woody tannins quickly make way for bold notes of sticky Jamaican ginger cake, stewed dried fruits, Madagascan vanilla and Manuka honey spread liberally on wholemeal toast. A tart hint of Morello cherry compliments the sweeter elements of damson plums, muscovado sugar, thick-cut orange marmalade and syrup sponge. A dash of festive cinnamon emerges in the mid-palate among complex notes of roasted pineapple, balsamic vinegar, liquorice lace, cacao, earthy red chilli and a hint of cinder toffee.

Finish: Long, resinous and full of dark fruits. There’s also a hint of floral perfume and soft caramel notes.

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Benriach: painting with whisky

While there are many parallels between the worlds of whisky-making and art, the two rarely meet in a literal, visual sense. And perhaps for good reason. Is it even possible…

While there are many parallels between the worlds of whisky-making and art, the two rarely meet in a literal, visual sense. And perhaps for good reason. Is it even possible to portray the essence of a whisky on canvas? MoM went to BenRiach’s ‘tasting by painting notes’ masterclass to find out…

Last summer, Scottish single malt BenRiach approached landscape artist Ellis O’Connor with a pretty unique challenge: create three pieces of art inspired by the three distinct cask types – bourbon cask, sherry and virgin oak – that make up BenRiach 10 Year Old. Being an oil painting maestro, O’Connor finessed the task; combining the “woodiness and drama” of the Scottish Highlands – BenRiach’s home – with the tasting notes and colours associated with each cask, as well as the colour palette found in the liquid. 

Bourbon cask

The Bourbon cask painting (obviously)

“I start the blank canvas with [a layer of] dried kelp and dried seaweed,” the artist, who hails from the Outer Hebridean Island of North Uis, explains. “There’s a lot of it where I live and it goes into a really lovely texture. For the bourbon cask, I worked a lot with the different notes – there’s a warm vanilla note in that cask that I really like, which you can see in the yellow colours coming through. It’s quite subtle, I didn’t want them to be too intense. It’s the mix of the dark drama of the Highlands with the palate shining through in the hues.”

The sherry cask painting (clearly)

Compare that to the sherry cask, which O’Connor found to be “a lot darker and spicier, with raisin and hazelnut notes, which I really liked. That one has a lot more red, almost ginger colours shining through. Again, they’re all quite subtle, but that’s how the whisky comes across – with lots of little notes that you can taste later on.”


The virgin oak painting (naturally)

This was the lightest, O’Connor says, with sweet, vanilla notes – almost like candy floss at times. Each painting is made up of four layers of oil paint, which allows her to bring through so many different hues. “The art is quite abstract, you can see lots of different things in it, and I’m passionate about that as an artist,” O’Connor says. “That’s what art is meant to be about.”

And the same can very much be said for whisky. Primarily, because our sense of smell is so personal. “We’ve all got a different olfactory epithelium – the 10 cm2 at the top of your nose – so we have different sensitivities,” explains  Dr Rachel Barrie, master blender at BenRiach. “My vanilla might be your coconut. Or, you know, my date might be your apricot.”

And so many other variables can impact the liquid – the cask it was aged in, the mood you’re in, etc – that there can be no ‘right’ way of enjoying it. “If you add a few drops of water, it will make a change,” says Dr Barrie. “Like the ever-changing nature of painting and layering, by adding water to the whisky, you are going to disrupt the composition in some way. Some aromas will leap out and some will hide away.”

Your surroundings make a difference, too. “The environmental influence is fascinating,” she continues. “When I go to Jerez, I actually find more of the sherry character in BenRiach 10 when I’m nosing it. When I go to Taiwan, it’s pineapple cake. It’s incredible. Whisky is arguably the most sensorial experience you can get in terms of the diversity of aromas and tastes.” 

Whisky + painting = fun

Then, there’s the link between aroma, memory, and emotion. “Our sense of smell is the most underused sense, but it has the strongest connection to our limbic system,” Dr Barrie adds. “It goes straight to the primitive part of your brain that is gut instinct. That’s the journey that you go on when you smell or taste any food or beverage.”

Crikey. There’s a lot going on. How the hell does she manage to cut through the noise and make whisky? “You have to know the spirit inside out – to really appreciate the spirit off the still first and foremost, and understand how that’s going to work in different cask types” Dr Barrie explains. “What are its different facets? For BenRiach it has a wonderful balance of fruit and malt.” From there, she says, it’s like painting, because you are relying on your senses and instinct to create. 

“I’m a scientist more than an artist, but I would say ‘the science is the art is the idea’,” she continues. “Science is a way of deeply understanding the character and how a liquid the whisky comes to be. It’s understanding the influence of the mineral-rich water in the springs beneath BenRiach. It’s understanding the influence of the atmosphere and the unique geography of the landscape. But it’s also exploring and creating with the paint pots that are the casks. In that way, I’m painting with flavour rather than with colour.”

After sampling each cask type for ourselves, the paintbrush was passed to MoM. We consulted our tasting notes. We sipped BenRiach 10. We even stared blankly into space for a short while. And 45 minutes later, this is the result. 

My effort, I call it WTF

Oh dear. In our defence, it looked far better after a few drams. Ignore the fact it’s garbage for a moment, if you can, and consider the bigger picture (pun intended). It’s about taking unique and personal sensory data – in this instance, taste and smell – and transforming it into something tangible. And that’s what art is. So, to answer our initial question: Is it possible to portray the essence of a whisky on canvas? Yes, very much so. With art, like with whisky-making, some people are more talented than others. But ultimately, it’s all subjective. 

Even so, we’ll stick with the day job.


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Greenwashing in Scotch whisky

We hear a lot about environmental concerns and sustainability from the Scotch whisky industry these days. But is there real substance behind the marketing? Ian Buxton investigates… I watched a…

We hear a lot about environmental concerns and sustainability from the Scotch whisky industry these days. But is there real substance behind the marketing? Ian Buxton investigates…

I watched a nice little video recently. It features Doug Allan, a wildlife cameraman particularly noted for his work on Blue Planet, talking about his relationship with the sea. It runs alongside another short film about some rather earnest Californians who make ‘sustainable surfboards’. Both form part of Old Pulteney’s Rise with the Tide campaign on the brand’s website, where it tells us, rather sententiously I felt, that its story “is inseparable from the sea”, and that it embraces “the sea’s immense power… to do something remarkable.”

I rather like Old Pulteney and enjoyed the feel-good videos, without thinking about them very deeply.  After all, who these days doesn’t want to appear concerned about the environment in general and oceans in particular?  We’ve all seen the disturbing images of oceanic pollution and watched distressing footage of birds, animals and fish caught up or killed by plastic waste.  We all want to do something.

Kudos then, to the films with their stated aim. “Our latest film series is all about sharing these stories,” the website assures us, “so people can take inspiration from them. To get out there, embrace that opportunity and do something remarkable.”  

So, I wondered, what remarkable thing is Pulteney doing? I posed a series of questions to the brand, expecting to hear about wave power generating the distillery’s electricity, reductions in effluent and waste, work with local environmental campaigners – something, anything related to these worthy messages. To summarise the answer: there’s nothing in particular.  Turns out this is a brand awareness campaign attempting to highlight Old Pulteney’s claim to be ‘The Maritime Malt’.

Now we could discuss the highly-vexed and contentious question of saltiness in the taste of whisky, but I’m not going down that particular rabbit hole. Or we could enquire what it is, precisely, that makes Old Pulteney notably different from other distilleries located on our coastline (Talisker’s marketing is uncannily similar). But there’s a bigger issue – and that’s the question of ‘greenwashing’ in marketing.

Sustainable Surf x Old Pulteney - Rise With The Tide

The Ecoboard boys enjoying a dram

Greenwashing: “a form of marketing spin in which green PR (green values) and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organisation’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly and therefore ‘better’” (thanks, Wikipedia for that cogent summary). I’d say that aligning your brand with cuddly Doug Allan and the manufacturers of ECOBOARDS™ without actually doing anything is a classic example. Incidentally, the surf video was shot on location in California – each person from the brand who flew to Los Angeles generated 2.63 tonnes of additional CO² (or around three times that if they were fortunate enough to be flying business class, which would wipe out the CO² saving of more than 200 ECOBOARDS™).

In fairness, I don’t think anyone at Old Pulteney really thought about this in terribly great depth. They seemed genuinely surprised by my questions so what I think we have here is a bit of fluffy PR with no real substance.

It’s a shame though, and the disappointment is made worse by the fact that some brands are doing this well. Take Glenmorangie, for example, and its DEEP sponsorship, which we covered back in May last year. It is helping the regeneration of the oyster beds in the Dornoch Firth, which will improve the local marine environment and may, in time, form the basis of a sustainable high-value fishery. Who wouldn’t enjoy half a dozen native oysters washed down with some Glenmo’?  I know I’d be available for that media trip!


The oyster beds in the Dornoch Firth

Chivas Brothers, justifiably proud of the reduced energy footprint at Dalmunach, is the  lead sponsor of VIBES, the Scottish Environment Business Awards. “We believe sustainable business should be at the core of any enterprise that takes a long-term approach and expects their product to have a purpose and role in society,” says Ronald Daalmans, environmental sustainability manager for Chivas Brothers. Past award winners include Diageo for its work on environmental protection on the Leven site.

Not so very long ago, Dewar’s adopted lightweight bottles for its blends and installed a biomass boiler at Aberfeldy distillery, which was projected to deliver a phenomenal 90 percent reduction in the brand’s carbon footprint on the site. In 2018, Chivas Brothers barred plastic straws and stirrers from all its events in over 100 countries, and campaigned on Twitter to raise funds for the Marine Conservation Society. 

And so on… there’s no shortage of whisky brands stepping up to meet the environmental challenges in distilling.  So, greenwashing marketers should take care. Today’s consumers are alert to empty claims and not shy in calling out offenders, with the consequent backlash far outweighing any early wins for brand image.

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks. A former marketing director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

After Ian Buxton filed this article, he received a short statement from Old Pulteney:

The Rise With The Tide campaign was developed to tell the story of The Maritime Malt in a new way, giving more insight into how our coastal hometown of Wick has depended on its relationship with the sea for hundreds of years.

Our content series shares personal life stories which mirror our brand narrative. Our first partners (Doug Allan in the UK and Sustainable Surf in the US) were selected for their lifetime of work with the sea, and their craft depending on the same patience that’s required to make a really great whisky. This is just the beginning, with the next phase of the campaign set to reveal more about the $20,000 investment we’ve made with Sustainable Surf to back their projects designed to protect the sea. This is being finalised now and will run this year – we’re looking forward to revealing more on this in the coming months.

Being a responsible member of the community is a value that Pulteney distillery has held for decades. Working in partnership with Ignis, Pulteney has supported a district heating scheme which supplies over 200 homes with renewable energy and utilises the biomass boiler’s steam to reduce the distillery’s greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, we updated the secondary packaging of our whisky to ensure the design was fully recyclable. Projects such as these continue our ongoing commitment to, where possible, put in place sustainable measures.”

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Burns Night poetry competition 2020 – we have a winner!

The judges have consulted, conferred, and, finally, concurred. So, we are delighted to announce the winner of our Burns Night competition who will receive a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay Islay…

The judges have consulted, conferred, and, finally, concurred. So, we are delighted to announce the winner of our Burns Night competition who will receive a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay Islay single malt.

When we launched our poetry competition last year, we didn’t know what to expect. Would anyone enter? Would the entries be any good? Well, we need not have worried as clearly Master of Malt customers are a talented bunch. This year we had over 52 entries from all over the world. Admittedly, there were some stinkers, some that were, how can we put this, not suitable for a family audience, and many that rhymed whisky with frisky. But there were also plenty of top quality stuff. 

But what would Rabbie think?

So, without further ado, it’s time to announce the winner. It’s Neil Mackenzie! Readers may remember him from last year where he was one of the runners-up. Well, now he’s only gone and snatched the winner’s crown with a Scots ode to whisky makers. Metaphorically speaking that is, there is no actual winner’s crown, but he will win a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay Islay single malt.

Runners up were: Anne Greengrass, Kyle Kenneth Moonsamy and Laurence Smith. Congratulations, you all win a dram of the Aerolite. The winning entry and runners-up are below. Thank you to everyone for taking part. The competition will be back next year so there’s plenty of time to practise your scansion.

The winning entry:

The Greatest O’ Folk

Each nation has her ain great folk,
That freed her frae oppressors yoke,
Or brichtened monie a dull heart,
Wae great inventions, words an’ art,
Mozart and Bach wae papers strewn,
Ha’e jotted monie a gallant tune,
All Socrates and Plato thought,
Were gifts to they wha knowledge sought,
Rembrandt and Monet wae sure hand,
Captured the charms o’ sky an’ land,
Alexander earned the title “Great”,
Lang ‘fore he took the Persian gate,
Ev’n Scotia’s humble shores sae braw,
Whan threatened wae her ain downfa’,
By tyrants that wid her ensnare,
Rais’d up mair than her fair share,
The Black Douglas wae Bruce and Wallace,
Won our battered land brief solace,
Tho’ fac’d wae pay’n’ that highest price,
They hearkened not tae fears advice,
Said folk, their tales, whan heard, impart,
Sic inspiration tae my heart,
The words come streaming frae my pen,
Verse upon verse time an’ again,
But yet, I trow, truly I speak,
Wae tongue firmly away frae cheek,
That nane o’ them the boots could fill,
Of those wha gi’e their time and skill,
Tae fill my glass wae somethin’ proper,
Born of barley, oak and copper.

Neil Mackenzie


Islay malt so warm,
Shields me from the winter’s chill.
One more for the road?

Laurence Smith


Islay – A Malty Sonnet

This wind-wracked isle of seaweed salt and storm,
Of treeless boggy mire beneath oor feet,
Has ay kent how tae keep a biddy warm,
By hernessin’ the glory o’ the peat.

When next ye raise a dram tae toast the bard,
Think lang on Islay’s place in Alba’s past,
This land o’ smoke and smugglers unco hard,
Whaur drouthy neebors brav’d th’Atlantic blast.

Whaur bogles creepit in thru ev’ry door,
And Hebridean kelpies their weans steal,
Their best defence? Ben Bracken or Bowmore,
Laphroaig or bold Ardbeg to quate the deil.

Yet sic auld-fashioned drams upon Burns nicht
Are far oot-stripped by Lyndsey Aerolicht!

Anne Greengrass


The sky is black, no star in sight,
Oh what a beautiful rainfall night,
I sit all by myself contemplating my life…
Am I really doing what’s right for me,
Or am I just going with what the flow of life wants me to be,
I walk to my cupboard and pull out a bottle,
Pour myself a dram I guess I’ll make it a double,
Out on the porch I throw myself on a chair,
Breathing in the smell of rain that so sweetly scents the air,
I lift up my glass and there swirls a light golden elixir,
Amazing to think water, yeast and barley can make such a beautiful mixture,
But it’s not just the ingredients that are in here, It’s the type of cask as well as the year,
So I bring the glass slowly up to my nose,
Vanilla, Citrus and Mint begin to show causing my eagerness for a taste to grow,
I take a sip and try to pick out every detail,
And thereafter swallowing with a gentle exhale,
Lemon cake, Vanilla, Apples and Pears, beautifully balanced and so smooth,
As my chest starts to warm from that magnificent prelude,
I lift up my glass once more to the night,
Sip number two goes down as I think of what to write,
Whiskey to me is more than just alcohol,
The way people look at it as if it’s going to be my downfall,
I believe it improves you as a man because you truly have to take your time,
And that’s a brilliant virtue in this world because of how life just flies by,
So for one final time I lift up my glass to the reader of this poem,
A toast to you good Sir, may you never drink alone. 🥃Sláinte!

Kyle Kenneth Moonsamy


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

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

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

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

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

Aerolite Lyndsay

Chocks away!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filey Bay

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

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

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

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

Foley Crop

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

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

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

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

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

Finish: Floral honey, toasted nuts and cinnamon.



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Did our 2019 drinks trends predictions come true?

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

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

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

Boom time for liqueurs

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

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

Irish whiskey

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

Botanical spirits

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

Category-defying ‘spirits’

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

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

Alcohol-free imbibing

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

Cognac and Armagnac

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

Yeast conversations

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

Johnnie Walker highball collection

The Highball, still very much a drinks industry thing

Blended and blended malt Scotch

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

Could agave beat rum in the premiumisation stakes?

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

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

The verdict

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

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

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Planning permission given for Port Ellen

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

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

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

whisky crash

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

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

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



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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #22: Peat’s Beast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peat's Beast

The Beast is here!

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

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

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

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


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