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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Spiced Rum

Exploring the wide world of British rum

Whether they’re fermenting and distilling molasses from scratch, adding spices or botanicals to imported distillates, or blending and bottling ready-to-drink rums from overseas, Britain’s diverse, dedicated and highly experimental rum…

Whether they’re fermenting and distilling molasses from scratch, adding spices or botanicals to imported distillates, or blending and bottling ready-to-drink rums from overseas, Britain’s diverse, dedicated and highly experimental rum brands are carving their own niche. Keen to find out what the future holds for the burgeoning British rum category, we spoke with distillers, blenders, spicers and bottlers from across the UK…

While Britain has a long (often very dark) tradition of importing rum, because the UK’s temperate climate is inhospitable to sugar cane, few have attempted to make it from scratch. The first British distiller to make rum on a commercial scale was English Spirit Distillery back in 2011. From its Essex base, the team produces the widest variety of spirits and liqueurs in the UK – all under one roof, all distilled using raw ingredients under the trained hand of head distiller Dr John Walters.

When the distillery first opened, Dr Walters “started making a whole slew of spirits at once,” explains general manager James Lawrence. “He dived in headfirst to see what kind of vodka he could make, what kind of malt he could make and so on, and realised nobody had commercially produced rum in the UK before – everything before that was imported from elsewhere.” At the time, all the well-known famous brands – “Pussers, Lambs, all the ones with the Union Jacks on” – consisted of rums sourced from the Caribbean and other rum-making, which were transported to the UK and blended together, sometimes with spices added.

John Walters in the thick of it at the English Spirit Distillery

English Spirit has released three rums since – Old Salt Rum, English Spiced Rum, and St. Piran’s Cornish Rum – all distilled from 100% sugar cane molasses from across the globe. “A lot of the larger commercial rum distilleries will use sugar cane juice or sugar cane syrup, which is a lot easier to work with, cheaper, and less messy,” says Lawrence. “But using pure molasses gives a Golden Syrup-y, treacly consistency that makes a really great base for rum.” After a long fermentation – around two to three weeks – and a triple distillation in copper pot alembic stills, around 200 litres of molasses wash has been transformed into approximately 20 litres of rum.

Despite pioneering rum distilling in the UK almost a decade ago, English Spirit remains the exception rather than the rule, illustrating just how time-consuming and expensive the process is, and the difficulties in sourcing and transporting the raw ingredients. Just a handful of distillers have followed in their footsteps – including Dark Matter, a Scottish distillery that makes spiced rum; BrewDog Distilling Company, which last year released botanical rum Five Hundred Cuts; and unaged rum SeaWolf, created by bar owners Mike Aikman, Jason Scott and Craig Harper and made at Ogilvy Spirits distillery. 

Of course, that’s not to say blended rums are any less authentic. In the south west of England at Devon Rum Company, founder Dave Seear worked closely with a Caribbean rum blender and importer to create his take on a premium ‘English style’ spiced rum. “English style rum is categorised by heavy and powerful rum types – mostly pot and column-distilled from molasses and sourced from previous British colonies of Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia,” he says. 

Devon Rum Company Spiced Rum combines two pot-stilled Jamaican rums – a column-still rum and a pot-still rum from Guyana – which are imported at 80% ABV. “Once landed in the UK, we infuse the base Caribbean rum in vats with natural Devon spring water to reduce the ABV to 40%,” Seear explains. The rum is then steeped in a secret blend of spices and citrus zest, with the latter being sourced from local businesses. “Unlike many alternative spiced rums, we add no vanilla, sugar or colouring and have concentrated on the quality of our base rum, our carefully crafted recipe and sourcing quality natural ingredients,” he adds.

Just some of the spices in Rumbullion

Rather than masking low-quality spirit with punchy spices, today’s spiced rum producers seek to create harmony between the base liquid and botanicals. “[Our founders] were frustrated by the lack of respect for the base spirit exhibited by established spiced rum brands, where spices were dumped into poor quality base spirits,” says Hannah Burden-Teh, brand manager at Kent’s Rumbullion. To create their small batch spiced rum, the team layers “carefully blended natural spice tinctures” of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom into their “top quality” Caribbean rum. “Although some of the process finishes in Kent, we want to champion our original locale where the sugar cane grows and is fermented,” she adds.

Honouring the base components is an ethos shared by Devon-based independent blender Hattiers. To create his flagship sipping rum bottling – Hattiers Premium Reserve Rum – founder takes a blend of eight-year-old double retort pot and twin-column coffey still rums distilled from sugar cane molasses in Barbados and combines them with pot still rums from Guatemala, Panama and The Dominican Republic before adding water drawn from a well in the nearby village of Beesands. 

Philip Everett-Lyons from Hattiers

“We typically blend at 62% to 70% ABV, then marry with our local Devon water to bring each blend down to bottling strength,” says Everett-Lyons, who explains that traceability is paramount. “We are completely transparent on all components, which are stated on the label along with full details including still type, maturation, location and cask,” he continues. “We only blend rums with no additives or colourants and choose not to spice or use botanicals in our blends. In our opinion, the quality of the rum shouldn’t be overshadowed by these things.”

Some distillers take this approach further still by bottling single estate rums – East London Liquor Company, for example, which made its first foray into rum with the release of Demerara Rum from Guyana. “What you’re drinking at your local in Bethnal Green is exactly what the locals in Georgetown are appreciating half a world away,” says founder Alex Wolpert, “delicious molasses-based rum made from sugar cane grown along the Demerara River, distilled in the world’s last working wooden Coffey still, aged in ex-bourbon barrels until you get notes of caramel, baking spices and toffee. Basically, perfection. And we’re not about to mess with perfection, so other than proofing the rum down to 40% ABV, we haven’t touched it.”

Their latest release East London Rum from Jamaica is similarly unadulterated. “We’ve developed a blend of three of the most famous rum distilleries in Jamaica to come up with a funky, ester-led white rum that is my new favourite in Daiquiris,” Wolpert says – an 80:20 blend of medium to high-ester rums, with 80% coming from column and pot distillation, and 20% from funky Jamaican pot still. “As a huge rum fan, I’m loath to mess with a good thing,” he continues. “And as a distillery, we understand the amount of thought and hard work that goes into making these distillates, and trust that we can’t make them better than they already are.”

No messing about, the latest bottling from the ELLC

Industry folks regularly refer to the runaway success of the gin category when forecasting the burgeoning interest in rum. Will rum be the ‘next gin’? The answer might be less about the liquid, and more to do with the practicalities of production – especially if, like English Spirit Distillery, you have designs on making the liquid from scratch. “Everyone in the UK was able to pile into making gin quite quickly as opposed to importing it,” says Lawrence. “Whereas with rum, there’s such a massive capital investment needed. You need a lot more room, a lot more experience. You need more time to perfect your product before it’s ready to sell. There is a completely understandable reticence to completely investing, finding a distiller who’s willing to put in the work, and affording someone the time to practise over and over again, as we know full well that you have to do to make a decent rum.”

That British rum consists primarily of independent spicers and blenders is a trend that’s set to continue, at least in the short term. But regardless of whether brands import rum or raw molasses, future-proofing the sector, as Everett-Lyons, points out, brings benefits for everyone. “We believe that there is absolutely room for all, and that either adopting an international definition of rum classification or developing a British standard on labelling would be the next step,” he says. “As other rum-producing nations seek to adopt their own guidelines, now would be a great time to mirror the Scotch Whisky Association and bring some accountability and compliance to our trade. For this to happen, the industry would need to tread ensuring not to ostracise but instead to unite all sub-sectors of British rum.”

It’ll also support the immense creativity already bubbling away within the category. There are so many different directions you can take rum in, as Lawrence rightly points out, by playing with botanicals, barrel-ageing, and even the distillation process. When English Spirit Distillery produced Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, they added three wood varieties – date palm, pine, and sequoia – to the still, which pulled “all that really interesting wood complexity into the spirit” without the need for maturation. A dark rum called Daymark 1683, produced for a company based on the Isles of Scilly, is infused with hand-picked samphire and Cornish sea salt. The British rum revolution really has only just begun. “Give it a few years, there’s going to be some absolutely amazing rums out there,” says Lawrence. “It’s really exciting.”

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New Arrival of the Week: Central Galactic Spiced Rum

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate!…

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate! Our New Arrival this week is the aptly-named Central Galactic Spiced Rum, and we’re sure you can guess where the inspiration came for this one…

Cast your minds back to 2009, when The Black Eyed Peas ruled the charts and the very first episode of Glee was aired (gosh, we feel old). 2009 was a momentous year for many reasons, not least because it was the very year that astronomers discovered that the centre of the Milky Way tastes of raspberries and, wait for it… smells of rum! 

We know what you’re thinking. How?! We don’t want to get too sciencey about it, but basically what happened was when astronomers peered their massive telescope into space, they hoped to find complex molecules that would prove life on other planets. While they failed to do this, luckily they found something much, much better. Ethyl formate! Aka, the chemical that gives raspberries their flavour, and also (rather conveniently in this case) smells of rum.

central galactic spiced rum

Mmm, we can almost taste it…

There was only one thing for it: to create a spirit that captured the very essence of the universe. And so, Central Galactic Spaced Spiced Rum was born! Well, the idea for it was born, we’ve had to wait ten years for the actual liquid. But it was worth it! With a base of  wonderfully aromatic Caribbean spiced rum, the creative chaps behind the spirit added copper-distilled fresh raspberry distillate, as well as star anise (in keeping with the space theme) and cold-distilled lime peel for some extra citrus zing.

The idea and inspiration behind the spirit is all well and good (okay we admit it, it’s insanely cool), but when it comes down to it, what we all really want is awesome-tasting liquid. Luckily, that’s exactly what we have here. The symphony of warming, tingling spices is livened up by authentically juicy raspberry and zesty lime. Plus, we’re sure that the retro comic book strip-style label is going to be a definite standout in anyone’s drinks cabinet. 

central galactic spiced rum

Central Galactic Spiced Rum, defying gravity!

At 43.5% ABV, this is certainly a rum that you can sip simply over ice with a generous handful of raspberries. For those of you who like to get out your shakers, we’d recommend a Daiquiri, because you don’t want to drown out the complexity of the spirit itself. Plus, so long as you can count, it couldn’t be easier to make with the 3:2:1 method, with three parts rum, two parts fresh lime juice and one part sugar syrup. Oh, and don’t forget to garnish with raspberries and a twist of lime peel. 

This isn’t just a gimmick, but is genuinely delicious whilst also letting us nerd out on the awesomeness of space. Space was cool before, but then it went and tasted like raspberries and rum? Give someone else a chance! We can’t wait to see what tasty spirits will come to light next time scientists peer a telescope into the unknown… 

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Suitably spicy boasting heaps of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, with oily orange peel and a lick of liquorice in support. Top notes of tantalisingly juicy raspberry sweetness keep it vibrant.

Palate: Sweet, fruity raspberry hits the back palate while those tingling spices return bringing warmth, with orange marmalade (without the bits) alongside a sprinkling of rich brown sugar and toffee notes.

Finish: Raspberry jam lingers alongside zingy lime peel and cinnamon, with a scattering of vanilla pod.

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Black Tears: the new spirit of Cuba

Two of the biggest trends in drinks are spiced rum and premiumisation. So we were excited to try Black Tears, an elegantly-flavoured Cuban rum that was launched recently. We talk…

Two of the biggest trends in drinks are spiced rum and premiumisation. So we were excited to try Black Tears, an elegantly-flavoured Cuban rum that was launched recently. We talk to the team about cocktails, sugar and the difficulties of doing business in Cuba. 

We’re often told stories from distillers about how hard it was getting permission from HMRC, but dealing with the Cuban government is something else according to Adele Robberstad from the Island Rum Company. ““Oh my God!” she said laughing, “it’s complicated, very complicated.” She has been trying to finalise a joint venture to produce Cuban rum since 2010 but only last year did the first product, a spiced rum called Black Tears, hit the market. “We thought we were going to sign an agreement years ago!”, she said. “No one is allowed to make any decisions. That’s how Cuba works, nothing is logical.”

The joint venture, the first such in Cuba since Havana Club, is called Ron Vigia and it was put together by two Norwegians Tore Villard and Hans Christian Holst, and Enrique Arías, a Spaniard from a rum-producing family that left Cuba after the revolution. “It was very important for him to go back and invest in Cuba,” Robberstad said. “He won’t say he wants to get back what he lost because he is smart. Cuba knows everything about him, he has to be very careful,” she added. Which sounds menacing, another lesson that doing business in Cuba is far from straightforward. Robberstad’s background is in drinks, first a premium mineral water for restaurants and then liqueurs like Cherry Heering and Asanti cognac liqueur. “I increased the alcohol levels over time”, as she put it. 

Funky label

Bureaucracy isn’t the only problem in Cuba: almost everything has to be imported to the island including glass bottles. There are shortages all the time: “The shops don’t have any tomatoes or butter,” she said. This is partly down to transport problems. She told me that people flying in from Miami are often carrying car parts that are unobtainable in Cuba and there are long lines for petrol. The key is to have your own trucks and the company has had to lay on buses to get staff to work. The company’s two distilleries are in a remote area in the centre of the island. Even then it’s a struggle: “Most of the staff have two to three jobs to survive,” she said. The Island Rum company pays the government in hard currency which then pays the workers in “monopoly money” as she calls the local currency.

The dollar economy is very important. Cuba is opening up with direct flights from the US. The company has plans for tourism on the island including a visitor centre in Havana next to Ernest Hemingway’s old house. Since Obama’s time, it’s much easier for Americans to reach the island, but it’s not so easy for Cubans to get out. Robberstaad told me about the female maestro ronero who oversees the distilleries who won’t be allowed to leave the country.

It is appropriate then that the first product, a premium spiced rum, from the company is called Black Tears. The name comes from an old song Lagrimas Negras which has become the unofficial national song of the island. The base is a column still aguardiente of 74% ABV, so still plenty of character. It’s flavoured with cacao, aji dulce (a king of sweet pepper) and coffee, and bottled at 40% ABV with only nine grams per litre of sugar. With its funky packaging, the aim is to create something a bit different to Havana Club. “Havana Club is excellent,” Robberstaad said, “it has built a category. We’re aiming to do something a little bit more progressive for a new generation.”

The Enrique Varona distillery

It’s very different to most spiced rum. Delicious, layered and packed with flavour, sweet-tasting but hardly sweet at all. It’s excellent neat but particularly good mixed with tonic, a Tears and Tonic, as they call it. I think it would be an excellent Daiquiri Mulata (there’s a load of recipes on the website.) The formula for Black Tears was tweaked with a tasting panel of bartenders around the world. The emphasis is very much on the bar trade, Black Tears was launched at BCB (Bar Convent Berlin) in October. Peter Thornton ex-Pusser’s Rum is involved on the sales side, and both Ian Burrell and Simon Difford are fans. Difford has been devoting a cocktail a week for a year to it on Difford’s Guide

Jaspreet Anand from Skylark Spirits which is bringing Black Tears into the UK told me, “spiced rum is the fastest growing category in the UK and the rest of the world. It [Black Tears] is a good gateway between spiced and more serious rum. There’s nothing really similar in the industry.” Black Tears is currently available in 25 countries but hasn’t officially been launched in Cuba. They have big plans, though, as you might guess. Feedback from the name and the bottle has been highly positive. According to Robberstad, Cubans are proud to see their national song in English on a bottle. The delay is finalising the joint venture has been like a “four year seeding campaign” on the island, she said. 

The joint venture consists of two distilleries in Ciego de Ávila Province, and, most excitingly, 7,000 barrels of mature rum. The company has bottled two aged rums which are not yet available in Britain: La Progresiva 13 and the ultra swanky La Progresiva 500. Only 900 bottles of the latter were produced. Island Rum was meant to get half but has only received 200 bottles. The government has the rest. Further proof, that business in Cuba is never straightforward. 

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Our top drinks trends for 2020!

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year….

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year. Read on for our top drinks trends for 2020!

It’s not just a new year – 2020 brings with it a box-fresh decade, too. But what will be drinking this year? We’ve had a good chinwag in the office, looked at sales trends from the last few years and kept our ears to the ground for word of the Next Big Thing in booze. 

Before we crack on with our top ten trends, a quick note on two topics. First up: sustainability in terms of both production and packaging. We reckon every single producer should have this on their radar by now. We’re working hard to make our own ops here are as lean and green as they can possibly be. It’s not a trend, just the right way to do things. We’ve not included this in our list as it’s a societal shift that’s here to stay. Similar with low- and no-alcohol products. 2019 saw the segment explode – but it’s not going anywhere. Brands that give us the option to drink less alcohol while keeping things delicious are a welcome and permanent part of the drinks industry.

So. What else does the year have in store? This is what we reckon we’ll be drinking for the next 12 months!

spiced rum drinks trends for 2020

Spiced rums will continue their dominance into 2020

Spiced and flavoured rums are just getting started

One of the runaway successes of 2019 has been spiced and flavoured rums. In fact, over the whole of 2019, 15 of our top 20 rum best sellers were spiced or flavoured. It’s a trend that accelerated over the course of the year, and while you’d expect an uptick in November and December (hello Christmas!), sales of the likes of Bombo, Cloven Hoof and Pirate’s Grog rums are in year-on-year growth for the start of January, too. One shift we think we’ll see? A move towards more ‘grown-up’ flavours and bottle designs. Spiced and flavoured rums don’t have to be all about the party; they can hold their own as respectable cocktail ingredients, too. 

world whisky drinks trends for 2020

No need for a passport – explore the world through whisky!

Genuinely world whisky

Move over, Scotland. Hang back, America. You too, Ireland and Japan. Yes, you make delicious whiskies. But 2020 looks set to be the year that world whisky meaningfully comes to the fore for more of us. Take Israel, for example. There are three distilleries already up and running (Milk & Honey, Golan Heights, Pelter), but there’s the Jerusalem Distillery, Legends Distillery and Eder’i Malthouse and Distillery all hot on their heels. Up in Finland, you’ve got Kyrö, Teerenpeli, The Helsinki Distilling Co, and Panimoravintola (and no doubt numerous others at the development stage). Australian whisky continues to gain momentum (Starward, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road, anyone?), and we’re excited by what distillers are doing across New Zealand, Sweden and France, too. And there’s India, South Africa, England, Wales, The Netherlands… you get the picture. We’re also thrilled by the geographic diversity of whisky production and the different approaches and flavours inherent in that. We reckon loads of you will be, too. 

vodka drinks trends for 2020

Get set for a vodka revival

Viva vodka!

A slightly unexpected one, now. Did you know our vodka sales in 2019 soared by 30% year-on-year? It’s a bit of a surprise for us, too. Bottle sales ramped up gradually but noticeably over the course of the year, and it initially had us scratching our heads. After a pretty break time in the 2000s and 2010s, why is vodka falling back into favour? We looked at our top-sellers and noticed a couple of things. It’s generally not flavoured vodka that’s hitting the mark (a couple of notable exceptions: Thunder Toffee Vodka and Whitley Neill Blood Orange Vodka). Instead, it’s the classic, neutral, big names that seem to have appeal. But that’s not all. Smaller brands playing on their legitimate flavour differences derived from their raw materials are doing especially well. We think the likes of Black Cow Vodka (made from leftover whey from cheese-making), East London Liquor Company 100% Wheat Vodka and Konik’s Tail (made with three different grains: spelt, rye and wheat) will drive this trend forward into 2020.

hard seltzers drinks trends for 2020

Hard seltzers will be A Thing

Hard seltzers and sodas

Call them what you like (the seltzer vs. soda debate could go on), but this sparkling, low-ABV mix of flavoured water and booze isn’t going anywhere. Hard seltzers have been big news Stateside for some time now, and we reckon 2020 is the year they’ll make their presence really felt this side of the Pond. Why? Beer sales are down, people are embracing low- and no-, and we’re all rather partial to a train tinnie, which, if you think about what cocktails in a can actually are, we’re barely a swift step from a hard seltzer anyway. Last year saw the UK launch of Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water, and native names DRTY Hard Seltzer and Bodega Bay are already in the market. Plus, White Claw, the US hard seltzer hero, has already registered its trademark here, too. We’re ready

Beyond bourbon drinks trends for 2020

American single malts for the win!

Beyond bourbon

Hands up who loves American whiskey? Us too. And it’s hardly new. So why does it feature on our list of drinks trends for 2020? Bourbon has long been seen as a synonym for American whiskey, but when you think about its legal definition (in short, it’s made in the US; its mashbill recipe contains a minimum of 51% corn; it’s matured in new, charred oak) it becomes clear there’s a whole load more to American whiskey than perhaps we collectively understand. Step in rye. Come in, American single malt. Oh hello, wheat whiskeys. And of course, there’s a whole host of category-defying whiskeys coming out of the US that can’t be called bourbon. Rules are there to be broken, and when distillers shrug off the bourbon confines, deliciousness can spring forth, and we think 2020 is the year we’ll get to grips with these expressions. Want in now? Check out Balcones Texas Single Malt, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, St. George Baller Single Malt, and WhistlePig 12 Year Old – Old World.

calvados drinks trends for 2020

Appley goodness right there

Calvados returns

If you’re unfamiliar with this historical French brandy, you are not alone. Calvados is made from apples and pears in Normandy, distilled in either traditional alembic or column stills, and is aged for at least two years. And it’s mighty tasty. We’re waking up to its mixing and sipping potential: last year our Calvados sales soared by an enormous 40% in 2019 over 2018. One of the key drivers was the launch of Avallen in June, a more modern expression that is all about sustainability and boosting biodiversity. Calvados Coquerel has undertaken a re-brand, bringing more energy to the category. And the likes of Berneroy and Château du Breuil are also seeing renewed momentum. 2020 is the time for Calvados to shine.

mezcal drinks trends for 2020

How mezcal gets its smoke

The advent of Mezcal

Tequila’s smoky cousin made its presence felt in 2019, when we saw sales climb by 31%. But what will 2020 have in store for Mezcal? Quite a lot, we think (especially when you consider its 2017-18 growth stood at just 5%). The biggest-selling brands are increasingly well-recognised (Del Maguey, Pensador and Montelobos are rapidly becoming familiar names), and customers in bars and in shops (on and offline) have a deeper understanding of the Mexican spirit. So, what’s next? More at-home mixing and sipping, and a deeper appreciation for all things Mezcal out and about. Bring. It. On.

scotch whisky casks drinks trends for 2020

Bit cold out there

Unconventional cask finishing in Scotch

In June 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association widened the list of permitted cask types in Scotch whisky production. In short, as long as what was previously held in that cask wasn’t made with stone fruits, and hasn’t had flavourings or sweetening added, you’re good to go. It wasn’t an unexpected decision, and loads of Scotch distillers already had experiments under way (Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project, we’re looking at you). So what? In 2020 we reckon we’ll see loads more esoteric expressions, perhaps some agave finishes, and maybe even some Calvados casks. And probably some stuff we’ve not even thought of yet. Get set for a new wave of flavour in Scotch whisky. (At this point, we’d also like to add a nod to Irish distilleries, who have been playing with different casks for some time.)

aquavit drinks trends for 2020

Delicious dill

An age of aquavit 

Similar to Calvados, aquavit is a traditional category with strong local ties that flies way too low under the radar for our liking. We’re going to stick our necks out and say 2020 is going to be the year that starts to change. To kick off, last year our aquavit sales blossomed by 27%. More people are seeking out the dill- or caraway-flavoured Scandi spirit than ever. What’s also interesting is that some producers in international markets are looking to aquavit for inspiration and are crafting their own expressions, most notably Svöl Danish-Style Aquavit, from Brooklyn, and Psychopomp Aqvavit, hailing from Bristol, UK. This comes hot on the heels of the botanical spirits trend – tried all manner of gins and want something new? Eschew the juniper and look to aquavit instead. It’s a narrative that could well play out this year. 

liqueurs unicorns drinks trends for 2020

RIP, unicorns

Liqueurs ditch the unicorns

2019 was a bumper year for liqueurs, growing 31% to rank as our third-largest drinks category by bottle sales. It’s a notoriously diverse category, defined really only by sugar levels rather than style or flavour. Good job really, three of our top 10 most popular liqueur products are ‘unicorn’ flavoured, whatever that means. There has been a slight shift already though: for the last three months of the year, whisky, coffee, herbal and caramel varieties proved far more popular. Yes, it could be Christmas. But we reckon there’s an underlying trend of a return to more conventional liqueur flavours. Yes, they’re still going to be sweet (that’s kind of the point). But 2020 looks likely to be the year more traditional liqueur variants reclaim the realm from mythical beasts.

Over to you! What do you think will be the biggest drinks trends for 2020? Have we missed something out or got it wildly wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and on social! 

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10 deliciously warming rums

They’re warming. They’re delicious. And they’re not just for Christmas. But they are particularly delicious this time of year. Rum is a go-to for many who want a good winter warmer….

They’re warming. They’re delicious. And they’re not just for Christmas. But they are particularly delicious this time of year.

Rum is a go-to for many who want a good winter warmer. It’s versatile in cocktails, it’s often full of festive spices and it tends to satisfy those with a sweeter tooth. But there are so many expressions around now, it can be hard to narrow down which bottling you should go for. 

That’s why we’ve done the hard part for you and created this collection of some of the most sublime spirits we have at MoM Towers. Enjoy!

Rumbullion! Chilli & Chocolate

Chilli and chocolate is a winning combination, as we all know. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when Abelforth’s decided to add that delicious duo to its already sublime Rumbullion! Criollo cocoa nibs, chipotle chillies and jalapeño chillies were used to create the profile that we reckon would be smashing in a deluxe hot chocolate…

What does it taste like?:

Intense bittersweet dark chocolate leads with earthy red chilli warmth, creamy vanilla. coffee beans, nutmeg, red cola cubes and orange zest in support. 

Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23

Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23, a sensational Guatemalan rum that’s won more awards than Meryl Streep, was blended using the solera system and matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. It’s a firm favourite of ours for good reason and a real show-stopper at social occasions.

What does it taste like?:

Very sweet and nutty with honey, chocolate, dark brown sugar, pipe tobacco, molasses and gentle smoke.

Foursquare Spiced Rum 

Foursquare is one of the best spiced rums on the market from one of the best rum distilleries around. The actual recipe is a family secret passed down through five generations, but you should be able to detect cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, which are gently blended among other ingredients at the centuries-old site.

What does it taste like?:

Spicy and sweet with notes of peppermint, nutmeg, toffee apples, gingerbread, Christmas cake, marmalade and parsley. 

Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rare Blend

Appleton is one of the finest rum distilleries in the world and if you haven’t experienced any of its delightful expressions, then Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rare Blend is a great place to start. Plus it was made by the wonderful Joy Spence, who were big fans of here at MoM Towers.

What does it taste like?:

A thick, nutty and spicy expression with notes of vanilla, salted butter, rich molasses and toasted oak.

Pineapple Grenade Spiced Rum 

Pineapple Grenade is a spicy, fruity and fun expression made with 100% molasses rum from the sublime Diamond Distillery in Guyana. The spirit is then imported into the UK where it was infused with a secret spice mix as well as a blend of pineapple and salted caramel. This is perfect for those who love a bit of Tiki in their lives.

What does it taste like?:

Tangy mango and pineapple, layers of caramel and a touch of ginger.

Five Hundred Cuts Botanical Rum

One of the more intriguing trends of 2019 was the emergence of botanical rum, such as this from bottling from the distilling arm of BrewDog. Five Hundred Cuts was distilled from sugar cane molasses, which was fermented with red wine yeast and rum yeast for seven days before it was then double pot distilled. Then botanicals, including orange peel, lavender, schezuan peppercorns and cardamom were then re-distilled in the spirit, while cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, tonka bean, ginger, and allspice, were steeped in the spirit for 14 hours. The two spirits were finally blended and finished off with a touch of muscovado sugar. It’s quite the process and the resulting rum is suitably delicious.

What does it taste like?:

Coca-cola, dark chocolate, caramel, cardamom and rich dark sugar combine with more aromatic notes like ginger, orange peel and cloves.

Cut Smoked Rum 

A rum that should appeal to fans of peated whisky is not something that’s usually readily available. However, those who prefer the smokier side of things should be satisfied with this tasty rum. The base of Jamaican rum was smoked using oak chips to impart that signature flavour.

What does it taste like?:

Struck match, coffee bean bitterness balanced by vanilla.

El Dorado 12 Year Old

Any fan of rum will have good things to say about the Demerara Distillers Limited distillery, Guyana, who produce the fantastic El Dorado rums. The 12 Year Old is the perfect introduction to its range, a rich, complex and downright delicious tipple.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet vanilla, dark chocolate and brown sugar, then some syrupy dried fruit, zesty notes of marmalade and rich spice.

Ron Izalco 10 Year Old

Ron Izalco 10 Year Old is a delightful blend of Central American rums produced from volcanic sugar cane molasses which were aged in ex-bourbon barrels oak casks for a decade. This is one to be sipped and enjoyed.

What does it taste like?:

Fresh red chilli heat balanced by sweeter tropical flavours and citrus, alongside creamy caramel and fragrant honey, with a pinch of tobacco and a handful of raisins.

Caroni 20 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) 

As independent bottlings of rum go, Caroni 20 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) might just be the finest you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting. It’s hard to get your hands on spirit from the legendary closed distillery, such is the popularity of its rums, but thankfully That Boutique-y Rum Company managed to squirrel some away and it’s every bit as fantastic as you would imagine.

What does it taste like?:

Medicinal smoke, warm rubber, homemade blackcurrant and raspberry jam, ripe banana, manuka honey, muscovado sugar, rich vanilla, game meat, coffee beans, rancio truffles, drying wood spice and bread and butter pudding. 

 

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BrewDog Distilling Company introduces Five Hundred Cuts Rum

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th…

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th century botanical illustrator Elizabeth Blackwell…

Twelve years ago Brewdog’s co-founders set about revolutionising the beer industry from a garage in Aberdeenshire. And revolutionise it they did, ruffling countless feathers along the way with 55% ABV beer stuffed inside taxidermy animals, herbal Viagra-spiked American IPA, and the first beer ever brewed on the ocean floor. 

It’s of little surprise that this cavalier ethos has been applied to Brewdog’s ever-expanding distilling arm, which recently introduced a botanical spiced rum. The fifth spirit in the core range, named Five Hundred Cuts, is inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, “a heroine of Aberdeenshire back in the 1730s”, explains Steven Kersley, head of distillation at BrewDog Distilling Company

Born in Aberdeen in the early 18th century – “a time of huge change,” observes Amanda Edmiston, a self-styled herbal storyteller known as Botanica Fabula – Blackwell went on to create one of the most comprehensive herbals* of her era. Recording a ground-breaking 500 plant engravings (or ‘cuts’), The Curious Herbal was validated by the Royal College of Physicians and made available to both the medical elite and, unusually, a wider public audience. 

“Not only was Elizabeth the first woman to publish a herbal; she was the first person to publish one with quite so many plants,” explains Edmiston. “She embraced plants that were coming into the UK from a huge range of countries. There was a real explosion in botany, and it was the first time anyone in the UK had seen cacao and allspice and Tonka beans,” which – spoiler alert – may well feature in the Five Hundred Cuts recipe.

Hand not included

Her botanical creation is also one of the first herbals where the plants are accurately drawn – take mandrake root, for example. “Legend says it transforms into the shape of a person when pulled from the ground,” Edmiston adds, “it screams and the person pulling it up dies. For this reason mandrake root was often drawn as a little person, but she draws the actual plant.”

It’s a story made all the more remarkable when you consider Blackwell’s motivation: to pay off debts owed by her husband Alexander and see him released from Newgate Debtors Prison. Later, he managed to secure a job as an agricultural advisor to the king of Sweden, says Edmiston, but before she could join him, “he gets caught up in a Jacobite-influenced plot to fiddle and tweak the running order for the claim on the Swedish throne – and is promptly executed”. Oh dear. 

Beheading aside, it’s a remarkable story that has influenced an equally remarkable rum. Five Hundred Cuts starts out as sugar cane molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process – since there aren’t any sugar cane fields in northern Scotland, pressing, distilling and fermenting raw sugar cane isn’t an option for Kersley and the team. “It arrives on-site in tankers, 28 tonnes at once,” he explains. “We unload it one tonne at a time, wearing those white forensic crime scene [scrubs] – it does look like a crime scene after we’re finished – and start the fermentation process by diluting that molasses down with water.”

The team ferments the molasses with a combination of red wine yeast and rum yeast; the former brings out “massive dark fruit flavours and works with the dark burnt sugar flavours coming from the molasses” while the latter “creates a lot of tropical notes like pineapples and mangos”. Yeast, after all, “is a massive source of flavour,” Kersley continues, “it doesn’t just convert sugar into alcohol – it creates a whole host of different esters and flavour profiles”.

Steven Kersley

Steven Kersley, head of distillation

The mix is fermented for seven days at precisely 28 degrees celsius before it’s double pot distilled. Then, 11 botanicals including tonka bean, clove, lavender, cardamom, orange peel, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, allspice and ginger are brought into the mix using two methods. The more delicate botanicals, such as orange peel, lavender, schezuan peppercorns and cardamom, were re-distilled with the base spirit to “create what is, in essence, a spiced white rum distillate”, he says.

The botanicals which are – as Kersley kindly puts it – “slightly more assertive, slightly more bold”, like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, tonka bean, ginger, and allspice, are steeped in the remaining white spirit for 14 hours, before the solids are filtered out. Then, the macerated white rum and white rum distillate are brought together, “so we’re getting all the bright, vibrant flavours from the distillate and then a lot of the more spicy, bold characters coming from the macerate,” Kersley says. The team rounds the liquid off with a little muscovado sugar, and then it’s bottled – scroll down for some tasting notes.

So, how to drink it? Five Hundred Cuts “works amazingly across all the classic serves: Rum and Cola, Rum and Ginger Beer, Pina Colada…” Kersley says. “We absolutely love white rum, it tastes incredible, and for me as a distiller it has real potential for layering and developing flavour on top of it. The natural step was to use botanicals. We didn’t just want to create another generic spiced rum with fake colour, fake sweetness and a lot of vanilla typically added. We wanted to create something authentic, honest and packed full of flavour.”

*A ‘herbal’ is a text that contains illustrations and descriptions of plants, their medicinal preparations, and the ailments for which they are used, according to The British Library.

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Coca-cola, dark chocolate, caramel combine with more aromatic notes like ginger, orange peel and cloves.

Palate: Highly aromatic, almost menthol, with assertive cardamom leading balanced by rich dark sugar. 

Finish: Fresh and herbal, like upmarket cold cure. 

 

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A botanical white rum? Brilliant! Why has no one done this before?

Sound the innovation klaxon and ready your tasting glass, because last week Amsterdam’s Spirited Union Distillery debuted what it believes to be the world’s first botanical white rum. Here, founder…

Sound the innovation klaxon and ready your tasting glass, because last week Amsterdam’s Spirited Union Distillery debuted what it believes to be the world’s first botanical white rum. Here, founder Ruben Maduro gives MoM the lowdown on his lemon and blue eucalyptus-spiked agricole bottling and explains why flavour innovation and transparency are crucial in the mission to broaden rum’s reach…

When it comes to deciphering the meaning behind a distillery name, there’s no ambiguity when it comes to Spirited Union. At the Amsterdam-based site, the team brings rum and botanicals real ones, no artificial flavours in sight together in one pioneering bottling, ‘til drinks do them part. The most recent nuptials? Union Lemon & Leaf Rum, launched just last week, brought together in holy matrimony by founder and rum aficionado Ruben Maduro.

“We started about three and a half years ago on a mission to add a new approach to the rum category,” explains Maduro, who grew up on the Caribbean on the island of Aruba. “I’ve always been disappointed with the amount of sickly-sweet and artificially-flavoured rums, and really wanted to combine flavours with rum in an honest way completely transparent, with real botanicals, so I started looking for rums from specific distilleries and regions that have certain flavour characteristics.”

Spirited Union

Spirited Union HQ: where botanical magic happens

By adding botanicals, Maduro wanted to evolve those flavours and shake up the category by creating an entirely new rum style. With Union Lemon & Leaf Rum he sought to create a “fresher drinking experience” and set about pairing vegetal, earthy rhum agricole from Mauritius made by distilling sugar cane juice with citric, herbal botanicals. “We infused the agricole with Amalfi lemons and then redistilled it to create a citrus rum distillate,” he outlines. 

They did the same with Blue Mountain eucalyptus from Australia, which introduces menthol notes, and again with Uva Highland black tea, a Sri Lankan tea grown at high altitudes. “It’s very similar to white tea in terms of flavour and it’s a great flavour conductor,” Maduro continues. The mix was rounded out with kina bark, sarawak pepper and sarsaparilla root, to “bring a bit of that robust spiciness you want and expect from an agricole”.

The bottling follows the launch of Union Spice & Sea Salt (originally known as Union 55 Rum – same recipe, but recently rebranded) earlier this year, which sees cask-aged rum from Barbados macerated with Madagascan vanilla and cloves, Guatemalan cardamom, raw Peruvian cacao and mineral-rich Añana sea salt for 55 days. Regardless of whether they’re experimenting with dark, golden or light varieties, allowing the rum to shine is key, he says.

Spirited Union

Smell those lovely botanicals!

When formulating the recipe, the team starts by picking out the most prominent characteristics of the base spirit. “Rum is very diverse, there’s a lot of different styles, so we look at the flavour notes and aim to amplify those with the botanicals,” says Maduro, as opposed to working towards a designated botanical profile. Since no single standard exists for what constitutes rum – the category is revered for many reasons, but consistent rules and regulations certainly aren’t among them – there aren’t any definitive legislative hurdles for Spirited Union to overcome. Instead, “the challenge for us is, like any start-up brand, going against the status quo established by the bigger brands,” he adds, “being creative about the category and introducing new approaches to broaden rum’s reach.”

In moving away from the traditional spices and ingredients associated with flavoured rums, the team hopes to tap into a different drinking occasion, he continues. “Most rums are dark, heavy, indulgent and rich, so we’re trying to add some excitement to the white rum end of the category,” says Maduro. “There’s a lot going on already in terms of ageing and traditional authentic rums but not much in the lighter segment.”

This, in turn, will no doubt broaden the category’s appeal for rum newbies. For the devout G&T drinker, a botanical white rum and tonic will taste far more familiar and appealing than a neat finger or two of its oak-aged counterparts. Speaking of serves, how to imbibe Union Lemon & Leaf Rum? Maduro suggests grabbing a copa glass, filling it with plenty of ice and topping a measure with your favourite tonic. Alternatively, try mixing with a botanical soda, or get creative with a cocktail: Highballs, Sours, or any refreshing long drink you fancy – just don’t forget to raise a toast to the happy couple.

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A lip-smacking round up for Rum Month

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously….

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously.

Some people know July as “I’m going to see that one big movie and maybe I’ll go to a park to kick a ball” month. Others know it as “my boss won’t look at me funny for coming to the office wearing shorts” month. Ice cream van owners probably know July as “aw beans, I’m going to need to order more flakes” month. While these all may be correct, they are all missing one important thing. July is Rum Month. That important fact is the catalyst for this blog post’s existence, because we’re taking a moment to show off some of our favourite rums that we enjoyed during Rum Month!

Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

The last day of July is Black Tot Day, which commemorates the last ever daily rum ration issued by the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970. Though the bosun’s call of ‘Up Spirits’ no longer rings out, Navy rums are still very much a thing. As such, it’s only right that we kick off this rum round up with the incredible Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label, produced in accordance with the Admiralty’s recipe and bottled at a generous 54.5% ABV. You can expect all sorts of dark fruit, brown sugar and dry spice notes running through this one.

Pineapple Grenade Spiced Rum

Pineapple Grenade

Pineapple Grenade

If you’re looking for a particularly punchy rum for… Well, for punches and the like, then Pineapple Grenade is exactly what you’re after. Built around a molasses-based rum from the ever-excellent Diamond Distillery in Guyana, Pineapple Grenade is flavoured with a secret mix of spices as well as salted caramel and the eponymous pineapple. It’s bottled at 65% ABV, which we agree, is rather strong indeed. You’ll want to dilute it well in your mixed drinks – speaking of which, this stuff goes excellently with ginger ale.

Issan (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

When you think of countries where rum is produced, Thailand probably doesn’t spring to mind. Which is too bad, because it turns out that tucked away in the north-east of Thailand, there’s a distillery making some fascinating rum with an eco-friendly approach. This rum from the Issan Distillery was bottled by That Boutique-y Rum Company, and made using the juice from red sugar cane (as seen on the label). It’s full of classic rhum agricole funkiness, with hints of fresh berries and vanilla coming through later on.

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Got a hefty wodge of cash that you’re looking to turn into a very special bottle of rum? Havana Club can certainly help with that endeavour. Máximo is an extra añejo Cuban rum expertly crafted by maestro ronero Don José Navarro using some incredibly well-aged stocks, with only 1,000 bottles produced each year. You might be thinking “Gosh, that sounds nice, I bet it comes in a very fancy bottle…”, and you’d be absolutely right. Máximo is presented in a handmade crystal decanter alongside a sufficiently weighty crystal stopper.

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

We’re finishing things off here with another reference to Black Tot Day – this time it’s a shout-out to the grog tub, the robust vessel from which tots were dispensed up until 1970. You’ll see one of these on the label of Rumbullion!, a marvellous spiced rum featuring the likes of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cassia, clove and cardamom alongside the high-quality Caribbean rum. A terrific cockle-warmer, but more than suitable for enjoying on a warm evening with ice and a good whack of lime.

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New Arrival of the Week: Spice Hunter Boldest Spiced Rum

To kick off Rum Month in style we see if an expression that claims to be ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’ lives up to its name… The world…

To kick off Rum Month in style we see if an expression that claims to be ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’ lives up to its name…

The world of spiced rum is a confusing place. It wasn’t long ago that it seemed it was condemned as just a party drink. The black sheep of the rum family. It has even been debated if the category can even be classified a rum. Which is not a great start. It’s generally useful if people believe that you are what you claim to be (hot dogs being a notable exception).

But the last few years have demonstrated that there’s more to spiced rum than poorly made, vanilla-drenched and pirate-infested nightmares. Blenders, bottlers and distillers are increasingly keen to capitalise on a market hungry for innovative flavoured booze. Even spiced rum haters should be able to find an agreeable bottle they like if they look hard enough.

In steps Berry Bros. & Rudd distribution arm Fields, Morris & Verdin., which released its own attempt at a premium spiced spirit with Spice Hunter Boldest Spice Rum, a Mauritian rum blended with 13 spices.

Spice Hunter

Spice Hunter, surrounded by spices. It’s probably going to be spicy.

The first thing that stands out about Spice Hunter is its title, which contains an ambitious claim. Fittingly the vivid orange, white and black colour scheme, enlarged block capital text and overall presentation is also bold. Behind all of that, you’ll see a man on a boat. His name is Pierre Poivre and he was the inspiration for Spice Hunter. You know Pierre, right? The 18th-century botanist turned spice smuggler? Jeez. Read a book.

Poivre began his career after he noticed there was an abundance of spices growing on the Dutch-owned islands of Indonesia, where he was recovering after losing his arm while fighting the British (a wooden arm isn’t quite as iconic, is it?). Back then, spices fetched more than gold and the death penalty was imposed on any ‘spice hunter’. That didn’t stop our Pierre, oh no. His smuggling career was so successful that it is said he single-handedly broke the Dutch monopoly.

Between this rum’s name and the story, there’s a billing to be lived up when it comes to the spice blend. Fortunately, Fields, Morris & Verdin didn’t let us down there. A total of 13 spices feature in Spice Hunter, including allspice, caraway, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon, clove, cubeb, elemi, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, pimento and, of course, vanilla. That’s one packed blend. Quite a bold spice blend, you might even say.

Of course, a truly great spiced rum doesn’t just have a great spice blend, the base rum needs to be up to scratch too. In this case, the rum used in Spice Hunter is a column distilled single-estate rum from the Medine Distillery in Mauritius. For all the marketing bumf and playful claims, FMV isn’t messing about here.

At the time of release, Jack Denley from FMV said: “Spice Hunter is designed for the modern drinker; complex, approachable and undeniably bold.” It’s still very much expected that you play with this spiced rum and Denley wanted to make it clear that this is a rum that “doesn’t get lost in the mix”.

It also “challenges you to make a bold move”. There’s even a cheesy video (above) that cements this message. But don’t let it put you off, this spirit stands up to scrutiny. Fiery spices are certainly there and make their presence known without hesitation, but there is enough sweetness to act as a counterpoint. Most pleasingly, that sweetness is not saccharine or cloying. The spicing itself appears to have been infused, so it comes across as authentic and not at all artificial.

Is it ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’? No, instead, rum fans should enjoy Spice Hunter as the intriguing, warming and satisfying drink that it is, especially at the price. It’s custom made for cola, cutting through the sticky sweetness and lifting the whole drink. But there’s also a number of cocktails it would shine in like a Cubanita (rum Bloody Mary), for example. Luckily the brand has a few suggested serves so you don’t have to do the hard work yourself, and we’ve them listed below our customary tasting note. Make a bold move, or something.

Spice Hunter Boldest Spice Rum Tasting Note:

Nose: Fresh ginger initially, then long pepper, cardamon and heaps of aromatic cloves. More spice comes in the form of green peppercorns, allspice and a couple of drying dashes of nutmeg and pimento before cinnamon pastries, cola cubes and vanilla pods add a balanced sweetness. A hint of spent firework adds something interesting underneath.

Palate: More cinnamon, clove and an earthy twist of black pepper, then root beer, gingerbread and mulled fruit.

Finish: Short and delicately sweet, with earthy and dry spice lingering underneath.

Spice Hunter & Cola

Ingredients: 25ml of Spice Hunter and 150ml of cola.

Method: Build in a glass over cubed ice and garnish with an orange wedge. If you mess this one up, I suggest letting someone else handle the cocktails for the time being.

The Smuggler

Ingredients: 30ml of Spice Hunter, 30ml of orange juice, 22.5ml of agave syrup, 22.5ml of Grand Marnier, 15ml of lime juice and a dash of grapefruit bitters.

Method: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake that bad boy up. Strain into your glass and then garnish with an orange wheel. If you’re a total badass, make the dehydrate the orange and add a spritz of mezcal spray over the glass.

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The Nightcap: 28 June

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised….

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised. This weekend the lidos, paddling pools and beaches of Britain will be full of cheery people eating ice cream and sipping cold drinks. And the main topic of conversation among those over 18 will be… booze, of course! You thought it would be something else beginning with ‘b’ didn’t you? And so, to make you king of the conversation, we’ve rounded up the most interesting stories of the week. Simply read, learn and regurgitate to your friends and they will be amazed at how ‘with it’ you are. Though perhaps don’t use the phrase ‘with it’.

On the blog this week there was even more delightful Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage to enjoy as we put your questions to Ardnahoe, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain and Jura. Meanwhile, we announced the winner of our Game of Thrones competition! Ian Buxton then looked into the drinks industry’s flirtation with cannabis, while Annie enjoyed five minutes with the founder of Native in Singapore, Vijay Mudaliar, before shedding some light on Mexico’s most popular plant, agave. Henry’s New Arrival of the Week was a collaboration between That Boutique-y Gin Company and a Yorkshire distillery that rose phoenix-like from the ashes, while his Cocktail of the Week was an old school favourite, the Sherry Cobbler.

Right, let’s take a look at those stories. 

 

You can carry this on Eurostar, but you can’t drink it

Eurostar booze crisis resolved

There was panic among Britain’s booze enthusiasts this week when it was discovered that Eurostar had changed the policy on carrying bottles on its trains. Previously travellers were free, unlike on planes, to carry wine, spirits or beer in their hand luggage, but the new rules limited passengers to one bottle of wine, four bottles of beer and no spirits whatsoever. The drinks world was up in arms. Joe Fattorini from The Wine Show said: “This new rule from Eurostar officially ends the whole point of Eurostar for any wine producer coming to the UK.” When people asked for clarification, Eurostar commented the rules had changed to “maintain a pleasant environment on board for all our travellers”, and that passengers could pay to have their baggage checked, at £30 per item. Suddenly all the money you have saved on that bottle of Cognac has disappeared. But thanks to a concerted effort from, among others, travel writer and campaigner Mark Smith, aka. the Man in Seat 61, Eurostar clarified its rules: passengers are only allowed one bottle of wine, four beers and no large spirit bottles, to drink on the train, but “we are happy for customers to bring unopened bottles of alcohol to take on to their destination”, it now says on the site. Problem solved. Thank you, Eurostar, for listening to your passengers. 

 

Laphroaig 1995 (2)

This Laphroaig 1995 could be yours via new online auction site, Cask 88

New online auction site launches for whisky in cask

There can be few whisky lovers who haven’t dreamed of owning their own cask of the good stuff. Now acquiring your dream barrel has got that bit easier with the launch of a new online auction site especially for whisky in casks, called Cask 88. Just register with the site and you’re ready to go. Casks are listed with a photo and information about distillery, age, cask type, ABV and roughly how many bottles you could get out of it. So, for example there’s currently a cask of Laphroaig at £25,000 which was distilled in 1995. It weighs in at 55.4% ABV and you should be able to get 186 bottles of delicious smoky goodness. The site takes a 10% commission and offers two years storage free, after that it will cost £50 per year. And when the time comes to bottle your cask, you will have to pay VAT and duty. Auctions will take place monthly, including valuable old whiskies like that Laphroaig as well as young casks that should, hopefully, grow in value. And of course, don’t forget that even if you don’t make any money, you do have whisky. Which you can drink.  

 

Cooper Smith new make

One day this will be whisky

Yorkshire’s self-built distillery begins whisky production

The wonderful Cooper King Distillery over in Yorkshire has officially announced the start of distillation of its inaugural single malt whisky! Clearly everyone is just as excited as we are, as the distillery sold out of its pre-order whisky casks after just 10 days. Locally-grown Yorkshire barley will be traditionally floor-malted in England’s oldest working maltings, before it is mashed and fermented at the distillery itself. It will be distilled in a unique Tasmanian copper pot still, and matured on-site. “We may be one of the smallest whisky distilleries in England, but what matters to us is not the quantity of whisky produced, but the flavour of that whisky, its provenance, and the story behind the spirit,” co-founder Abbie Neilson commented. “Sourcing great barley, working with a superb master cooper, and carrying out mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation under one roof allows us to truly celebrate terroir.” The new spirit will be “robust, flavourful, and unlike any other in the country”, and influenced by the founders’ work with award-winning Tasmanian whisky distilleries. “Five years ago Abbie and I quit our jobs, flew to Australia, and fell in love with the Tasmanian way of making whisky,” added fellow co-founder, Chris Jaume. “Since then we have worked incredibly hard to realise our dream of distilling an English whisky underpinned by craftsmanship, honesty and adventure. We are thrilled that the day has come, and malt spirit is flowing at the distillery.” We, along with many others, eagerly await the day that the spirit will come of age, and be enjoyed as whisky. May the countdown begin!

 

There’s no added sugar in Pinkster gin (though there is in the tonic)

Tabloids take aim at sugar content in gins

Gin fans have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride the last few days. Yes, we’re in the midst of Negroni Week (more on that shortly). That’s always a winner. But we’ve also seen a raft of press coverage around the unexpectedly high sugar content in gin – with contemporary pink gins very much highlighted (just have a search on social if you want to see the article(s)). Whether you would just rather not know, or reckon that being well-informed is the best course of action (the side we come down on), there was a WHOLE load of chatter. Pinkster Gin even weighed in. “The report on sugar levels in flavoured gins makes for disturbing reading as many gin-lovers will simply have no idea that they’re playing sugar roulette,” said MD Stephen Marsh, stressing that there’s no added sugar in its production. That Boutique-y Gin Company was also in the social spotlight for its ‘no added sugar’ claim when Chocolate Orange Gin went viral. Do you care whether or not your gin has added sugar? What about your tonic water? Or would you just rather kick back with a refreshing G&T and forget about all the nutritional deets? Let us know on social or in the comments below. 

 

Circolo Popolare

Circolo Popolare is Italian booze heaven

Circolo Popolare throws open its doors

We love a good shindig at MoM Towers, so when we were invited to the launch night of new Italian bar and restaurant Circolo Popolare, we knew we were in for a treat. The save-the-date said there was 400 litres of spritz to get through, for goodness sake! What we weren’t quite prepped for was the exuberance of the flower-filled space, the chandeliers, the general opulence. This is a Sicilian embassy in the middle of Fitzrovia, complete with a terrace! The banquet was incredible – if the initial impression of the burrata, pizza and gelato is anything to go by, one could happily feast there for days. And there was a Negroni bar (a tip-top way to celebrate Negroni week). AND the alabaster walls were lined with 20,000 bottles of Italian spirits! No need for a passport, Circolo Popolare brings all the celebratory summer vibes we need. London folk: get in there quick. 

 

Smooth AmblerJPG

This is what’s known as a ‘cookout’

Smooth Ambler Cookout comes to London

Diaries out, folks 4 July is approaching, and US whiskey brand Smooth Ambler is determined to get Londoners in the mood for all things Americana. On Sunday, the Smooth Ambler Cookout is coming to East London! Strongroom Bar’s outdoor terrace is playing host, and guests can expect bourbon, bluegrass and barbeque food aplenty. So what is a ‘cookout’? Basically it’s the word for the whole event – we Brits might refer to the whole shebang a ‘barbeque’, but in Smooth Amber’s West Virginia, a ‘cookout’ encompasses it all. Want in? Tickets are £10, and include a Smooth Ambler cocktail, and unlimited access (mmmmmm, unlimited access) to the barbeque from 3-5pm. More info is available here. Time to start working up an appetite!

 

Kraken's Perfect Storm,

Kraken’s Perfect Storm, frankly it looks terrifying

Kraken Rum launches restaurant inside a thunderstorm! (Literally)

You’ve heard of 4D cinemas, but how about a 4D dining experience? The Kraken Black Spiced Rum has taken the phrase ‘cooking up a storm’ quite literally to the next level, with a brand new immersive 4D restaurant where you are, indeed, inside a storm. It’s called ‘Dining in a Perfect Storm’, inspired by the tumultuous waters home to the mythical Kraken. You’ll be subjected to state-of-the-art technology, recreating extreme stormy weather indoors. Expect real rainfall (1,000 litres of rain will fall from the ceiling every minute), howling cyclonic winds, flashes of lightning and booming thunder. You’ll be given a raincoat, though perhaps skip on the blow-dry for this dinner date. It all sounds rather intense, though we’ve been assured that The Kraken cocktails are best without a hefty serving of rain water, so perhaps it’s not as bad as it sounds. After the worst of the (indoor) weather, slightly damp diners will enter the ‘eye of the storm’, where the winds drop and the rains subside. Luckily it’s during this time that dinner is served, with a jet-black menu of dishes crafted using naturally black ingredients and natural black food colouring, with options such as squid ink linguini or even The Kraken black ice cream. Better be snappy though, it’s only running for two days on 12 and 13 July. 

 

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Cocktails at Chelsea’s Kurabu

There’s a new addition to Chelsea’s plethora of cocktail bars and restaurants; we headed over to Kurabu (which means clubhouse in Japanese) at Dinings SW3. Up on the mezzanine, it’s cosy and modern while still retaining a somewhat traditional feel. We started the evening with the super floral and delicate Kurabu Spritz, containing Umeshu plum sake, Tio Pepe Fino sherry, rhubarb, cardamom and R de Ruinart Brut. Quite literally perfect for a summer’s evening. Then there was the super zesty Haru Gimlet, with Roku Gin, lemongrass, elderflower, ginger and fresh lime. It must be said, the food was also exquisite. The standout dishes for us were the fabulously innovative Crispy Rice, deep fried sushi rice with fish tartare alongside, and the deliciously decadent Mini Buns, homemade and soft steamed burger buns filled with either teriyaki wagyu beef or shrimp tempura dressed with spicy sweet chilli and sesame. Truly mouthwatering. We then finished with a Kurabu Negroni (well, it is Negroni week after all) and a delicious Tsuyo Old Fashioned with Nikka From Barrel, chocolate bitters and fig leaf liqueur. Truly outstanding drinks, and while the Tokyo Mule also caught our eye, with Hennessy VSOP, MUYU Vetiver Gris and blueberry shrubs, topped up with ginger beer, you can’t have ‘em all. We’ll try them all one day!

 

Balcones Single Malt - Batch 2 - 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) (1)

Balcones – wonderfully experimental

Balcones Distilling launches legendary Texas independent bottlings

In exciting whiskey news, four fabulous new bottlings have been announced, the products of a partnership between the wonderfully experimental Balcones Distilling in Texas and That Boutique-y Whisky Company. As you would expect, they’re wonderfully experimental. Firstly, there’s the first batch of  Balcones Two Year Old, a two-year-old single malt finished in a Balcones brimstone cask, said to have notes of smoky bacon, hickory, mesquite and camp fires. Then,  Balcones Three Year Old, and this single malt that has been part-aged in a Tequila cask for 24 months. Super exciting and interesting stuff. Finally, there’s  Balcones Two Year Old, another single malt spirit, though this one has been finished in an oloroso sherry cask, making it the third sherry cask matured single malt from Balcones. Dave Worthington, That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s brand ambassador stated, “Balcones has a special place in my heart as the first ever whisky festival I worked was for Balcones, so I’m so happy to see some of their Texan spirits wrapped up in our Boutique-y labels. Y’all gonna love this y’all (in my best Texas accent).” Finally, there’s also a mysterious fourth spirit which has yet to be released, made exclusively from Balcones’ signature corn grain, blue corn. You’ll have to wait until September for this one, though, which has been finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. “We are delighted to partner with our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company to release these rare and special spirits, all of which are a nod to our passion for exploration and testing the waters of what’s possible,” said Balcones’ head distiller, Jared Himstedt. “We wanted to share some single casks that showcase some of our fun experiments and finishes, alongside the versatility of our blue corn spirit, which we’ve not release in sherry casks before.” Oh, and would you look at that, the first three bottlings are available at your favourite online retailer right now! (That’s us, by the way.)

 

 

And finally. . . Moretti launches Deliver-A-Nonna, an Italian grandmother delivered to your door

Wouldn’t it be great if you when you were hungry an Italian grandmother would turn up at your house and cook for you? So much better than Deliveroo. Well, dream no longer because next month Birra Moretti is launching ‘Deliver-A-Nonna’. This will operate between 22 and 27 July in Brighton and London. Izabela Glodek from the Italian beer company said: “Our team of nonne will be ready and waiting to jump in to their Moretti motors and head to people’s houses to cook up a storm this July.  Our knowledgeable nonne will not only provide a delicious feast but also pass on valuable skills and recipes that have been around for generations inspiring people to get together for home cooked meals around the dinner table more often.” I wonder if they’ll do the washing up as well. You will be able to sign up from 7 July for a chance to have a real Italian grandmother delivered to your door. Mamma mia! Or maybe that should be nonna mia!

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