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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Talisker

#WhiskySanta’s Talisker 41 year old 1978 Super Wish

Who’s ready for some #WhiskySanta Monday magic? Good, because this week’s Super Wish is so good you’d swim to the Isle of Skye to taste it… It’s Talisker 41 year old…

Who’s ready for some #WhiskySanta Monday magic? Good, because this week’s Super Wish is so good you’d swim to the Isle of Skye to taste it… It’s Talisker 41 year old 1978!

Ho, ho, ho! We’re really getting into the Super Wish groove now, aren’t we? Personally, I play Bob Sinclar’s Rock This Party every time I’m putting together a new giveaway. It doesn’t always have to be Christmas music, you know (just most of the time). Somebody who will be feeling the party vibes this week will be Mark @_VmarkV_, who has just won a bottle of Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old worth £1,700! 

Now, onto my latest Super Wish, which is another spectacular Scotch:

Talisker 41 year old 1978 Super Wish

Talisker 41 year old 1978 Super Wish

The second release in the Bodega series from the Isle of Skye distillery, Talisker 41 year old 1978 was distilled all the way back in, you guessed it, 1978, when #WhiskySanta had a ‘fro and platform shoes with little goldfish in the heels. The whisky was then aged in refill American oak barrels before it was treated to a finishing period in six Manzanilla sherry casks over 100 years old from Delgado Zuleta, one of Jerez’s oldest producers. I remember those days too. The afro was much more controversial then. I’ve always been ahead of my time. Eventually, once it reached the ripe old age of 41 years, the whisky was bottled at 50.7% ABV comes in a very stylish presentation case. Fancy.

To make your Super Wish, just head to Talisker 41 year old 1978 page and hit the big red button that says “Wish” on it. A box will pop up ready to send you onwards to a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post and, once you hit ‘publish’, your wish may well become my command. As long as you do that by 23:59 GMT 25 Thursday. Oh, and Instagrammers can pop a post on their feed with the #WhiskySanta hashtag.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig my goldfish shoes out of storage and get the ‘70s playlist on. I’m very busy at the moment but everyone needs a little dance break from time to time.

#WhiskySanta

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The Nightcap: 12 November

This week’s Nightcap is drenched in whisky goodness. From Jameson to Bowmore, Waterford to Bruichladdich, this edition has it all. Even a man who built a £35,000 collection without even…

This week’s Nightcap is drenched in whisky goodness. From Jameson to Bowmore, Waterford to Bruichladdich, this edition has it all. Even a man who built a £35,000 collection without even liking the stuff. It’s all here!

Christmas, Black Friday, New Year… It’s all on the way and each brings its own dollop of stress. Well, we reckon you make all that tomorrow’s problem. It’s Friday for goodness sake. Grab a drink, something warm to wrap in and help yourself to a big greedy portion of weekly news from the world of booze. 

Speaking of which, there was plenty going on the blog this week, with #WhiskySanta coming back to introduce another stunner of a Super Wish, us launching a competition offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Glenturret Distillery, and Ian Buxton returning to take a look at how Scotch whisky stepped out of the shadows. Elsewhere, Millie was recalling her visit to Glen Garioch to tell us about its exciting new upgrade, Jess was shining our spotlight on our favourite boozy gift sets, Henry was making a delightful Mezcal Espresso Martini, and Adam was enjoying the fruits of Bushmill’s recent impressive labours.

But there’s still more to come from us. It’s The Nightcap: 12 November edition!

The Nightcap: 12 November

It’s the week of biodynamic whiskies!

Bruichladdich and Waterford release biodynamic whisky

Bloody typical, you wait years for a biodynamic whisky and then two only go and come along at once. Yes, this week both Waterford in Ireland and Bruichladdich on Islay have announced the release of whiskies distilled from biodynamically-grown barley. Biodynamics is a system of agriculture developed by Austrian eccentric Rudolph Steiner, who also dabbled in education. It’s a bit like organics but with added woo woo, like brewing homoeopathic teas to treat vines and burying cow horns in the soil. Despite sounding like something made up after one too many whiskies, it’s taken very seriously in the wine world, some of the world’s top estates are biodynamic. Bruichladdich’s ‘The Biodynamic Project’ was produced from barley harvested from Richard Gantlett’s Yatesbury House Farm in 2010, which at Bruichladdich’s request obtained biodynamic accreditation, not an easy process. It was distilled in 2011. Head distiller Adam Hannett explained: “The flavour of the biodynamic, from when it was first distilled through to maturation is superb. There is a wonderful elevation of the fruity character of Bruichladdich with the biodynamic malt.” He continued: “texturally there is an extra depth which carries the flavours beautifully.” 5,000 bottles have been filled at 50% ABV and they are only available from the distillery at £100 each. Waterford’s whisky, however, dubbed Biodynamic: Luna is coming to Master of Malt. We’ll have more information on Monday.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Just look at it. A thing of beauty.

Jameson launches limited-edition 21 Year Old whiskey

Jameson is seeing off this year in some style. This week it came to the attention of everyone in the whiskey world that a delightful looking 21-year-old was on the way and now we know exactly what to expect. A limited-edition release of just 2,301 bottles, Jameson 21 Years is a blend of rare single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys that were initially matured in a range of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry-seasoned casks at the Midleton Distillery for 18 years. After that initial period of maturation, the whiskeys were then blended and re-casked into freshly emptied ex-bourbon barrels for an additional three years. The casks were then finally married with additional pot still whiskeys that had fully matured for over 21 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry-seasoned wine casks. The whiskey was bottled at an impressive cask strength 57.2% ABV and is said to be a spicy and full-bodied whiskey, but unfortunately, few will get to experience that themselves. It’s exclusively available to consumers through two separate online ballots at an RRP of €310. To those who do enter the ballot, note that Barrel Club members get dibs…

anCnoc 2009

They even tell you how to pronounce it on the label. How helpful

Limited-edition anCnoc 2009 is coming!

Limited-edition whiskies don’t have to be expensive, or hard to get hold of. The brand that looks like a typo, anCnoc, has just released a 2009-vintage single malt and it’s coming soon to Master of Malt. As we are sure readers are aware, it comes from Knockdhu distillery but to avoid confusion with fellow Speysider Knockando, it releases its single malts under a different name. The name is pronounced ‘a-nock’. Anyway! This new bottling is aged in first-fill Spanish oak butts and ex-bourbon barrels, but from our little sample it’s the American oak that stands out. There’s lots of vanilla, toffee and coconut, with fresh orchard fruits and orange peel. Extremely tasty. Distillery manager Gordon Bruce commented: “We’ve been waiting twelve years for this vintage and it has definitely been worth the wait. This is a dram that has all the light, fresh qualities of anCnoc that are so loved by our drinkers, but there’s also a rich spiciness and complexity from its time in the casks”. Naturally it’s bottled at a good high strength, 46% ABV with no chill filtering. And as we said, it’s not expensive with an RRP of £50, and it’s coming soon.

Chris O’Dowd teams up with Redbreast to protect “common birds”

“I love common birds”, admits Chris O’Dowd in a new film produced by Redbreast. But before you write in to complain to Irish Distillers about inappropriate language, we should point out that top Irish funny man O’Dowd is talking about birds such as robins which aren’t as common as they once were. On 12 November, that’s today, the Irish whiskey brand is launching Robin Redbreast Day, which will be an annual event to celebrate and protect the little birds that we take for granted, and will take place on the second Friday of November each year. The short film features O’Dowd sitting at a bar drinking some Redbreast and chatting with Robin Redbreast (“the brand’s iconic mascot”) as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s definitely funny, both funny peculiar and funny ha ha, though not perhaps deliberately. O’Dowd commented: “Common birds all over the world are facing serious issues that we need to come together and solve, so I’m encouraging everyone to watch and share the video across social media to get as many eyes on it as possible.” For every view, Irish Distillers will donate 25 cents to BirdLife International. So get watching and help protect those common birds.

Aston Martin Bowmore

Goldfinger! Sorry, golden ratio!

Bowmore and Aston Martin collaborate again

Bowmore appears to be really enjoying its collaborations with Aston Martin, because the Islay distillery has gone as far as to create a whole new range. The Masters’ Selection will kick off with the first single malt whisky to be made by Bowmore and Aston Martin, influenced by the dual input of master whisky blender Ron Welsh and Aston Martin executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman. The latter believes in the concept of the ‘Golden Ratio’, which refers to the mathematical ratio found in nature that creates aesthetically pleasing compositions and sits at the heart of the design of every Aston Martin. The theory is that absolute beauty can be created when you achieve a perfect relationship between each proportion of the car. Welsh took on this concept himself, saying he adopted the ‘Golden Ratio’ to “inspire each of the elements bringing their own unique flavours and selecting the optimal casks to forge the desired character, taking inspiration from Marek and his team”. Welsh also revealed that working with Reichman gave him a new lens from which to explore whisky making and that first release serves as a “celebration of our unified knowledge and experience; our shared passions, values and ideas”. The whisky itself is a combination of 61.8% 21-year-old Bowmore matured in first-fill Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks, while the remaining parts are made up of exact ratios of each other, including some Bowmore whisky matured for over 35 years. If you’re curious to see how effective the ‘Golden Ratio’ is in whisky making, you’ll be pleased to know that the first Bowmore Masters’ Selection is on its way to MoM Towers now. The price is a surprisingly un-golden £300.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Alex Thomas doing that thing with the glass that blenders do

Bushmills appoints new master blender

Irish whiskey maker Bushmills has announced the appointment of a new master blender: Alex Thomas. The Sexton creator and master blender will take over the role at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Co Antrim, being responsible for cask selection and management, and new product development. Thomas, who was born close to the distillery, has always been tight-knit with the Irish whiskey makers, joining the Bushmills team in 2004 and honing her craft over the years. She worked with them closely to develop The Sexton back in 2017. Colum Egan, Bushmills master distiller, says that over the years Thomas has demonstrated “exceptional skills in the art of blending”, and that her “passion and pursuit of excellence has truly made her one of the rising stars in Irish whiskey”. Thomas herself said she felt privileged by her new appointment, saying the distillery is a very special place and that she’s excited to explore her passion for developing new whiskeys and experimenting with different casks and flavours, “while still maintaining the iconic Bushmills taste and quality.” No word yet on where the outgoing Helen Mulholland will be heading to, but wherever she goes the distillery will be getting someone with 30 years experience in Irish whiskey. We think you’ll agree both are deserving of a toast. Sláinte! 

The Nightcap: 12 November

That looks a bit precarious

Rare 1978 Talisker cask set for auction

The first of two big auction stories in this week’s Nightcap concerns a 43-year-old cask of Talisker whisky, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 at a charity auction next month. The cask was donated by Diageo, the world’s largest Scotch whisky producer, to The Distillers’ Charity, with the latter including the cask as the headline item in its One of One auction, managed by Sotheby’s and set to take place on 3 December at Barnbougle Castle, Edinburgh. The auction will also feature bottlings from William Grant & Sons, Beam Suntory, and more. It’s quite a coup for the charity, because the selected barrel is part of Diageo’s Cask of Distinction ownership programme, which makes rare casks available to private clients. And this will be the first time a Cask of Distinction will go under the hammer. The successful bidder will also win a visit to the home of Casks of Distinction in Royal Deeside, where they can see their cask maturing. “We are delighted to support the Distillers One of One auction with a rare cask of Talisker Scotch whisky,” commented Javier Ferrán, Diageo chairman. “We look forward to seeing our contribution to the auction generate significant funds for the Distillers’ Charity and to help enhance the life-chances of young people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.”

The Nightcap: 12 November

Spirit could be running off the stills here as soon as 2024

New Scotch grain distillery gets the go-ahead

Scotch whisky will soon welcome its first new grain distillery in a decade after planning was approved for construction of the St Boswells Distillery at Boswell near Melrose. Work on what is claimed to be the country’s lowest-carbon grain distillery will begin in 2022 and is expected to last 18 months, with production starting by 2024. The new development, which will be designed to reduce carbon emissions and maximise recycling with its zero waste landfill, will produce 20 million litres of pure alcohol a year to use in Scotch whisky blending, and as a neutral spirit for both gin and vodka. The site will source local cereals from the surrounding area of Tweed Valley, and process them into a spirit with renewable energy, while spent cereals will pass to an adjacent anaerobic digestion plant to be converted into methane, with the remaining material being used as soil conditioner for the crops. The approved planning application will facilitate a £46m investment in the local economy, creating approximately 200 construction jobs, along with 20 permanent jobs, which will support the rural community. “This is another significant step forward in the process to create the Scottish borders’ first major grain distillery”, says Trevor Jackson, founder and CEO of Jackson Distillers, the company behind St Boswells. “We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders across the region and have worked closely with Scottish Borders Council to ensure we created plans that fit into the landscape, present climate change mitigation opportunities and support the local community”. 

The Nightcap: 12 November

Galia and Adrian Pike from Westwell

England takes on France at the judgement of Nine Elms 

There have been a lot of competitive blind tastings over the years where the might of Champagne has been pitted against the scrappy sparkling wine Johnny-come-latelies of England. Most of these have been judged by wine types which is all very well, but what we want to know is: what do non-pros think? Well, wonder no more because the results are in. We attended a blind tasting organised by Jérôme Moisan from Pelegrims beauty products, who we have written about before on the Nightcap. He brought together a group of beauty journalists and PR people, ie. the core Champagne market, to taste six sparkling wines blind at Sven-Hanson Britt’s (off Masterchef the Professionals) new restaurant Oxeye in Nine Elms, London. Champagne was represented by Veuve Clicquot, Laurent Perrier and Moet et Chandon, and England by Nyetimber, Hambledon and Westwell (which supplies Moisan with the leftover grape products to make his potions). All the wines were non-vintage. And the results were…. non-decisive. Joint first were Nyetimber and Laurent Perrier with Westwell second, though it was Master of Malt’s favourite by quite some way. So no patriotic tub-thumping but further proof that the big names of England stand up against their French rivals. We finished off the day with a legendary wine, Nyetimber Blanc des Blanc 1992, the first-ever release from the estate that put English wine on the map. And it didn’t disappoint. Truly, it was one of the best sparkling wines we’ve ever had.

The Nightcap: 12 November

I bet he likes whisky now

And finally… Man who hates whisky collects 4,000 miniatures worth £35,000

“I don’t like whisky, it’s horrible”. No, those aren’t the words of my mum, but Brian Marshall from Kettering, Northamptonshire. That wouldn’t usually constitute news, but it turns out Marshall has been picking up miniature bottles since the late 1980s and has now amassed a collection of more than 4,000 worth up to £35,000. The collection, which is for sale over two auctions this month, has been priced well above his own estimate of about £8,000 and is mostly made up of whisky miniatures from Scotland, although it also includes bottles from America, Iraq, Uruguay, and Australia. Highlights include a miniature Macallan 1961 commemorating Private Eye magazine’s 35th anniversary estimated at between £200 and £300. There is also a 1887 edition of Alfred Barnard’s The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, which auctioneers believed could exceed £300. But the real question is, why would someone who doesn’t even like whisky collect it? Well, Marshall says his collection started when a colleague came back from holiday with three whisky miniatures and said “you can start collecting those”. Marshall decided to finally sell after moving in with his partner and it was only then that he realised the sheer size of the unopened stash. So there you have it. Whisky: it’s brilliant even if you don’t love the taste.

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Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Special Releases 2021

It’s one of the biggest dates in the Scotch whisky lovers’ calendars, the arrival of the latest batch of Special Releases from Diageo. Well, nearly. They should be with MoM…

It’s one of the biggest dates in the Scotch whisky lovers’ calendars, the arrival of the latest batch of Special Releases from Diageo. Well, nearly. They should be with MoM soon but you can pre-order bottles now. It’s Diageo Special Releases 2021!

Back in May we got a sneak preview of the labels for Diageo Special Releases 2021, the theme being ‘Legends Untold’. This is what we wrote: “someone’s been on the fantasy novels over lockdown and had a ‘brilliant idea’. Lagavulin has a flaming lion and Talisker is being marauded by a sea monster, while there’s all kinds of new age woo woo going on at the Singleton of Glendullan. They are wild.”

A portal into strange worlds

Well, now the whiskies are here so the big question is, are they as wild as the artwork? Before we dive in: a bit about those labels, they’re the work of digital artist Ken Taylor and inspired by real and imagined stories around each distillery hence the name Legends Untold. It seems that Diageo took one look at the success of the Game of Thrones-themed whiskies and thought, “we’ll have some more of that.”

But that’s not all. Each label has a QR code which with the aid of a portable telephone can take you into a strange world of augmented reality. We’re a bit sceptical of AR here at MoM. In a recent post, Adam wondered how many people actually use them but these are stylishly done with dramatic voiceovers by some pretty heavyweight Scottish acting talent in the form of Siobhan Redmond and Lorne Macfadyen.

According to brand ambassador Ewan Gunn: “They are a way of bringing distilleries to life”. As well as “whisky lovers and spirits enthusiasts” they should appeal to “fantasy lovers and perhaps people who haven’t tried Scotch before,” he continued. So very much in keeping with current whisky marketing orthodoxy though it is hard to imagine someone who isn’t already a whisky fan blowing over £1.5k on a bottle of sherry-cask Lagavulin or enjoying a fiery 8 year old Talisker. These are very much whiskies for converts.

Diageo Special Releases 2021

As usual they have been chosen by master blender Dr Craig Wilson who explained:

“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries, exploring the elements and reimagining the liquids for the Legends Untold collection. The mythical creatures of this year’s collection represent the true expressions of the distilleries. Taking inspiration from them, we have revealed new depths of flavour and embraced the essence of each of the whiskies’ unique flavour profiles revealing the legend it brings to life.”

There have been mutterings among the Scotch whisky community that the Special Releases are no longer quite so exciting what with the extra-special Prima and Ultima series. And the mutterers would have a point, because there’s no Convalmore, Brora or Port Ellen here. But we have to work with what we’ve got and happily what we’ve got is pretty good indeed.

So without further ado, here are the 2021 Diageo Special Releases Legends Untold!

Diageo_Special_Release_21_Mortlach13_70cl_Bottle_IBC

Howlin Wolf

Mortlach 13 Year-Old

ABV: 55.9%
Cask: Virgin and refill American oak casks
RRP £135

Nose: Toffee, red berries with aromatic woody and sweet BBQ notes.

Palate: Thick texture, here’s a whisky you can chew. The big bold flavours are almost overwhelming.

Finish: Aromatic and minty.

Overall: Very unusual Mortlach. Not a sherry monster but still an absolute beast. Wasn’t so keen on this initially but it is growing on me.

Click here to pre-order. 

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_TheSingleton19_70cl_Bottle_IBC

All kinds of new age woo woo

Singleton of Glendullan 19 Year-Old

ABV: 54.6%
Cask: Refill American oak casks, finished in Cognac casks
RRP £140

Nose: You’d think sherry cask because of the dried fruits, then toffee, pastry, and a waxy, almost cheese rind note.

Palate: Spicy, black pepper and cinnamon, and aromatic with a gorgeous texture. Super creamy and waxy.

Finish: Very long with a lift of orange peel and a little dark chocolate. 

Overall: Delicious, one of the stand-outs. The Cognac doesn’t overwhelm, it just provides a little seasoning.

Click here to pre-order.

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_Talisker8_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

It’s a monstrous dram

Talisker 8 Year Old 

ABV: 59.7%
Cask: Heavily peated refill casks – casks chosen with high PPM
RRP £90

Nose: Sweet notes initially, vanilla and spongecake and then bonfires on the beach with salty seaweed notes. There’s stone fruit fruitiness here too.

Palate: Lots of black pepper with smoke, heather and honey notes and a peaches.

Finish: Black pepper and chilli with a little caramel. Long and fiery.

Overall: When Talisker is this good young, why wait? Another standout whisky for me. 

Click here to pre-order

Lagavulin 26 Diageo Special Releases

Not another Lion King remake

Lagavulin 26 Year Old

ABV: 44.2%
Cask: Entirely aged in PX/Oloroso-seasoned first fill casks
RRP £1,650

Nose: Dried fruit, pungent smoke, cured meats and  touch of varnish. A truly mighty nose.

Palate: Sweet toffee, and Jamaica cake notes, layered with wood fires and coal dust. Quite prominent mouth-gripping tannins like a really old Cognac. 

Finish: Thick with salted caramel and cigar ash.

Overall: Massive whisky, hugely impressive. It’s amazing how the Lagavulin character shines through after 26 years in sherry wood.

Click here to pre-order.

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_Lagavulin12_Bottle_IBC

Flaming Aslan’s mane!

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.5%
Cask: Refill American Oak casks
RRP £130

Nose: The smoke is quite restrained, maritime with distant bonfires and lime. Just a little hint of bacon Frazzles.

Palate: Black pepper, saline and wood smoke, a little wood tannin and then some sweeter toffee notes.

Finish: Black pepper, smoke and salt with that citrus note coming back in.

Overall: Very untypical Lagavulin. It’s certainly interesting trying a stripped back Lag, especially next to the sherry bonanza that is the 26 year old. Ewan Gunn thought it tasted more like Caol Ila which is just right.

Click here to pre-order.

Cardhu Diageo Special Releases 2021

Did they run out of ideas with this one? Still, lovely whisky

Cardhu 14 Year Old

ABV: 55.5%
Casks: Refill American oak casks, finished in red wine casks
RRP £120

Nose: There are floral grassy notes, apples, honey, and sweet barley. A drop of water brings out the creaminess. 

Palate: Floral, orange blossom, peaches, cinnamon and honey with black pepper. Very elegant and harmonious. 

Finish: Sweet vanilla, and stone fruit. Long.

Overall: The red wine cask influence is very subtle, a good thing, as this is a gorgeous, subtle and fragrant drop.

Click here to pre-order.

Diageo_Special_Release_21_Oban12_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

Oban fox

Oban 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.2%
Cask: Freshly-charred American Oak casks
RRP £105

Nose: Quite restrained, subtly maritime with distant smoke, seaweed and iodine.

Palate: Spicy as hell initially: really gets up your nose with Szechuan pepper and cloves, but then the spice fades and fruit and subtle vanilla notes come through.

Finish: Long and creamy with a note of custard.

Overall: A dram that deserves a quiet moment to let the spice fade and then you can  really appreciate it. 

Click here to pre-order.

Diageo_Special_Release_21_RoyalLochnagar16_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

Wyld Stallyns!

Royal Lochnagar 16 Year Old

ABV: 57.5%
Cask: American Oak and European Oak refill casks
RRP £200

Nose: Creamy nose, touch of toffee, touch of brioche, touch of vanilla and some apple.

Palate: A little chilli and then warm baking spices, cooked apple like a tart tatin, creamy texture.

Finish: Some spice on finish, creaminess persists. Quite short.

Overall: Definitely the least startling whisky in the line-up. No fireworks here but it’s tasty and finely-balanced.

Click here to pre-order.

You can see the full range here. Estimated despatch from 25 October

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Whisky icons – we have a winner!

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media…

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media to find out, and this is the page to follow the results.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘icon’ as: “A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.”

So, what makes a whisky an icon? Well, it has to be a great whisky to start with. One that’s revered across the world. But more than this, it has to have a strong memorable image. Say the name of a particular distillery or brand, and it should instantly resonate. 

Worthy of veneration

Now this could be a globally famous brand like Johnnie Walker or Jack Daniel’s. Many people who have never even drunk whisky will have heard of these brands. Jack Daniel’s for its association with music, and Johnnie Walker because it’s an icon of consumer capitalism (as well as a great whisky). Then there’s Macallan, a symbol of luxury up there with Rolls Royce or Cartier. 

But lesser-known names can be iconic among the whisky cognoscenti. Take Springbank, for example. You have to know a bit about whisky to have heard of it but it’s undoubtedly “worthy of veneration.” We’ve seen grown men and women go all tearful at the thought of a rare bottle of Springbank. 

But your whisky icon might be Lagavulin from Islay, Four Roses from Kentucky or even a newer distillery like Mackmyra from Sweden. So to decide this once and for all, we’re giving Master of Malt customers the opportunity to shout about their favourite brands. 

Vote for your whisky of icon

Social polls will be posted on a @masterofmalt Instagram story Monday to Friday this week (simply view our story and tap on the distillery/brand you wish to vote for). Or alternatively you can vote over on the @MasterOfMalt Twitter page where a poll will be posted to our feed.

The tournament will end on Monday 27 September with the winner announced that day. This is how it will work:

Monday 20 September – first round with 32 whiskies

Tuesday 21 September – second round with 16 whiskies

Wednesday 22 September – quarter finals 

Thursday 23 September – semi finals 

Friday 24 September – finals

Saturday 25 September – voting closes

Monday 27 September – announcement of the winner

Get voting so we can say once and for all what the greatest icon of whisky is! And then we find something else to argue about. 

UPDATE, 27 September:

The winner was… Bunnahabhain with Lagavulin as the runner-up.

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The Nightcap: 11 June

Guinness gets innovative, Rockstar Spirits rocks Dragon’s Den, Lochlea prepares for first bottling and Brewdog finds itself in hot water. It’s another cracker of a week on The Nightcap: 11…

Guinness gets innovative, Rockstar Spirits rocks Dragon’s Den, Lochlea prepares for first bottling and Brewdog finds itself in hot water. It’s another cracker of a week on The Nightcap: 11 June edition!

The weekend is always an exciting thing. But this weekend is particularly thrilling because we’re given the perfect excuse to enjoy some delightful gin. That’s right, tomorrow is World Gin Day and, while we don’t really need an excuse to enjoy the finest juniper-based beverages, it’s always nice to have something to say while you raise your glass in good company. And we’ll be doing exactly that at 3pm today on the Clubhouse App with World Gin Day founder Emma Stokes as well as the Neil Ridley and Kristiane Sherry. Join us, won’t you?

Over on our blog this week we rounded off our Islay Festival coverage with Ardbeg and Jura before launching a fab new competition with our friends at Tomatin. If a hamper full of whisky goodness doesn’t interest you then a) don’t enter and b) seek help. For Father’s Day (it’s soon, don’t forget!) we had a look at brands that keep distilling in the family and rounded-up a list of the finest musician-made booze on the market. Ian Buxton then cast doubt on a dubious claim about column single malt whisky while Lucy Britner busied herself learning the history of the brand that changed vodka. Amidst all this fun and fancy there was still time to enjoy some tasty blended Scotch and a cocktail with a song in its heart

Now, let’s get stuck into some Nightcap goodness!

BrewDog carbon negative

The founders of Brewdog were singled out for criticism in the open letter

Ex-Brewdog staff allege “culture of fear”

We begin with an explosive story that hit the headlines yesterday as former staff at Brewdog published an open letter regarding the “culture of fear” and “toxic attitude” that they allege exist at the company. The signatories said a “significant number” of former staff had “suffered mental illness as a result of working at BrewDog” and that the firm was built around a “cult of personality” of founders James Watt and Martin Dickie. The Scottish brewer and pub-chain has never shone away from controversy in its marketing, but the group calling itself Punks With A Purpose says this came at a cost. That Watt and Dickie exploited publicity, “both good and bad” to further their own business goals, chased “growth, at all costs”, and created an environment where staff were afraid to speak out about concerns. The letter included further statements such as “being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at Brewdog”. The plots thickened when Unite Hospitality (@FairHospitality) released an email attributed to Brewdog which appeared to encourage current staff to sign a counter letter dismissing the negative views of current and former staff. Watt responded to this and then later released a statement saying Brewdog was “sorry” and that it would not contest the letter, but “listen, learn and act”. It’s not the first time the brand has landed itself in hot water over its practices. And this story clearly isn’t over yet.

The Nightcap: 11 June

Joe Wilson says this is one of the most “collectible independent bottlings in existence”

Rare Samaroli whiskies head to auction

Few bottlers can boast a range of whiskies as desired and collectible as Samaroli so it’s no wonder headlines have been made now that 60 of its rare Scotch whiskies are set to go under the hammer via Whisky Auctioneer this month. Taking place from 17 to 21 June, the online auction will feature whiskies from collector Emmanuel Dron’s personal stash, some of which have been signed by Samaroli himself, including a 1967 Strathisla, 1967 and 1970 Laphroaig bottlings, a 1951 Glen Cawdor (Springbank), and the 1966 Bowmore Bouquet. Bottlings will also be up for auction from The Corti Brothers of Sacramento, such as a ‘very rare’ 1965 Clynelish and bottlings from Balmenach and Imperial, distilled in the 1960s. “This collection is a magnificent example of some of the finest and most collectible independent bottlings in existence,” says Joe Wilson, head of auction content at Whisky Auctioneer. “What’s special about Emmanuel Dron’s collection is that these bottles have unparalleled provenance. Whiskies with such an impeccable source are hard to come by.” And you know what that means. A price tag to match. Expect to see some eye-watering sums next week.

The Nightcap: 11 June

Rumour has it this beauty will be at MoM Towers in the future…

Lochlea whisky prepares for first bottling

For years Lochlea has been known best as the farm in Ayrshire which was the home of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns from 1777 to 1784. By late 2021, however, it will also be recognised for its whisky. The independently owned farm-based distillery has announced this week that it is ready to launch its first expression this year. The distillery is the result of a £6m investment and production of the purpose-built facility began in 2014, taking four years. Lochlea then began laying down its first casks of whisky in the on-site warehouse in August 2018. So while we don’t know the exact launch date yet, we know it will be no sooner than August at least. The Lochlea Distillery team says it’s been working on creating a “truly distinct whisky” and describes the new make spirit as having a profile that’s “bursting with orchard fruit” with a “beautiful elegance way beyond its years”. All production is overseen by distillery manager Malcolm Rennie, who has spent 34 years in this industry at the likes of Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, and Ardbeg. Lochlea says that he sees this whisky, however, as the result of his life’s work. “Ensuring full traceability from field to cask is vital for us. We grow and harvest our own barley on Lochlea farm with the resulting draff used to feed local cattle and the water is sourced on-site. We’ve been able to take advantage of Ayrshire’s natural resources and in doing so it keeps our carbon footprint to a minimum,” says Rennie about the distillery’s process, which does sound extremely promising. Let’s hope it does Robert Burns proud.

The Nightcap: 11 June

We can’t wait to see you all again!

Imbibe Live to return this September

Great news arrived in our inbox this week from the UK’s leading drinks industry event as Imbibe Live confirmed it will be returning to London’s Olympia this September. The return to some normality will run from 13 to 14 September 2021, bringing the industry back together again after a challenging year. Strict standards of health and safety will be adhered too, naturally, as folks discover newly launched and unique products and attend seminars from industry leaders. Helping to curate the programme are the likes of Anna Sebastian, drinks expert and founder of ‘Celebrate Her’, Gabe Cook, global cider expert, Lorraine Copes, founder of not-for-profit organisation Be Inclusive Hospitality, and more. Daniel Zanetti, exhibition director at Imbibe Live, says the industry has shown an “incredible amount of support for one another” during the last year hopes that Imbibe Live “provides those working in the trade with real insight and practical support on how to help their businesses grow and thrive once again”. Registration is open now, although due to venue capacity visitors will be asked to attend on either the 13 or the 14 September to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to go. For further information visit the website and to register visit here. Let’s hope everything goes well between now and then to let this fantastic event take place. Fingers crossed!

The Nightcap: 11 June

It’s a bumper year for the Fiona Beckett

Fortnum & Mason awards 2021 shortlist announced

The Oscars of food and drink writing are back as the shortlist for the Fortnum & Mason awards has just been announced. The big award, as far as we’re concerned, is drinks writers of the year with the Guardian’s Fiona Beckett taking on Hamish Smith from CLASS magazine and beer writer extraordinaire Will Hawkes for his work in Pellicle and Tonic magazine. It’s a bumper year for Beckett as she is also shortlisted in the book category for How to Drink without Drinking (which we covered back in January). Also in the book category is Jane Anson with Inside Bordeaux and Wine Girl by Victoria James. Meanwhile, the debut book line-up features a great-looking new cocktail book which we’ll be covering shortly called CO SPECS by Cas Oh, Drink? by Prof. David Nutt, and Which Wine When by Bert Blaize and Claire Strickett. There’s also some food stuff. The winners will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony on 13 July. Nigella might be there. Oooh!

The Nightcap: 11 June

Tom Hurst rocking the dragons

Rockstar Spirits rock Dragons’ Den

We go for years without featuring a story about spirits brands on Dragons’ Den and then two come along in under a month. In May, we reported on Whisky Me securing funding from all the three ‘dragons.’ And now we were delighted to learn that Rockstar Spirits, the company behind delicous bottles like Two Swallows rum, secured funding after appearing on the BBC 1 programme on Thursday 10 June at 8pm. That’s last night. Founder Tom Hurst received bids from all but one Dragon, winning the backing of both Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani – who will both receive 4% of the premium spiced rum business in exchange for £12,500 each. Most impressively, Hurst managed to secure an offer for double the money and five times the equity from Theo Paphitis. Hurst said that he hadn’t been as nervous “since I had to do a reading in assembly when I was 11,” but that it was a “fantastic experience to take part in the show and a great rite of passage for any entrepreneur to test their mettle against some of the best business brains in the UK.” To celebrate Hurst has come up with a special Dragons Daiquiri cocktail with Two Swallows Citrus rum.

The Nightcap: 11 June

Copper Rivet is one of the many fantastic English whisky distilleries featured

The English Whisky Show is back

For the second year running there’s a whole show dedicated to English whisky called, um, the English Whisky Show. Sadly, like last year, it’s only taking place online but we’re all good at this now and the organisers can boast quite a line-up. All the big names are represented including Adnams, Copper Rivet, Bimber, the Oxford Artisan Distillery, Lakes, and, the granddaddy of them all, the aptly-named English Whisky Company, alongside independent bottlers like That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Taking place on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 September there will be six sessions all with tasting packs hosted by names including Felipe Schrieberg and Fiona Shoop. Prices start at £27.50 per session which seeing as you’ll be tasting some quality liquids including 11 new releases, looks like pretty good value. Tickets are available here and there are discounts for bulk buys and members of Exploring English Whisky. From single malts to spicy ryes and experimental grains, we couldn’t be more excited about the varied and dynamic English scene. So whether you’re already a fan or just English whisky curious, we highly recommend signing up for one or, better still, all the sessions. 

The Nightcap: 11 June

The new ‘world-first’ is a single nitrogen dispense solution. It pours pints from cans, basically.

Guinness launches world-first ‘microdraught’

Guinness was in an excitable mood this week as it revealed its new ‘microdraught’ technology, which aims to serve fresh pints regardless of an establishment’s size or setup. The result of a two-year development process, the MicroDraught unit uses a “keg’ so small, it comes in a can”, so even though the Guinness used is brewed in exactly the same way, the system bypasses the need for the traditional system of kegs, beer lines, and cooling systems. The dispense technology is described by the brand as its biggest innovation “since the development of the widget in 1988”, and is set to be trialed in restaurants in Great Britain from June, in venues in Ireland from July, and fully launched in Korea in July. Further trials in the United States, China, Hong Kong, Germany, and Russia will follow later this year. “Guinness is enjoyed the world over and globally renowned for pushing boundaries in technology.  Guinness MicroDraught is the next step in this journey and today’s launch means that Guinness will be available in over 12,000 more outlets for millions more consumers to enjoy,” says Grainne Wafer, global brand director, Guinness. “The secret to how the MicroDraught unit produces beautiful Guinness every time is the world-first patent-pending double coaxial piercing of the can. It uses an air pump – as opposed to the gas cylinder used in the traditional system – to push the liquid out of the can and through the standard Guinness Draught spout. The result is a beautiful two-part pour with the iconic surge and settle and cold, smooth taste that makes Guinness Draught a beer loved by consumers around the world.” We’re intrigued to see if the innovation takes off and whether the new pints feature on the right Instagram page, or the wrong one

The Nightcap: 11 June

The swanky, new-look Talisker is more sustainable

New sustainable packaging upgrade for Talisker 10 Year Old

Diageo has made a big deal about its sustainability commitments in the last couple of years and the drink giant’s latest innovation concerns Talisker. New packaging for its Talisker 10 Year Old has been introduced as part of the company’s wider 2030 sustainability action plan. The new packaging has increased the recyclability of the classic dram to 99.8%, while the bottle’s plastic components have been reduced by 86% and the original plastic stopper has been replaced with a premium wooden stopper. The brand also ensured the packaging weight was reduced by 6%, which will reduce materials used by 28 tonnes across 2021, meaning less waste to be managed per bottle. Pranay Chandra, malt whisky marketing manager, says that “consumers are increasingly conscious of their own environmental impact, and we are dedicated to supporting and being a part of this.” She adds that “we understand that there is still more to do, however, this is a significant step towards our goals of making all Talisker packaging recyclable by 2030, as well as working towards zero waste across our supply chain.” It’s another positive step in the right direction and we welcome any further improvements in the future.

The Nightcap: 11 June

Shit.

And finally… A beer made from goose poo. Mmmm!

We’ve had some funny drinks on the Nightcap –  like gin flavoured with sprouts or Chernobyl vodka – but a new beer might just take the biscuit. It’s from a Finnish brewery called Ant Brew which has just released a series of beers called Wasted Potential that are brewed from waste including goose droppings. No joke, this shit is for real. According to the press release: “The poop is used in a food-safe way to smoke malt to create a unique stout beer. The goose droppings are gathered from local parks, where geese are causing a messy problem.” Everybody wins! Sort of. Anyway, we can mock but this might be the logical conclusion of sustainability. Ant Brew’s home city of Lahti, aims to have a wasteless economy by 2050. So, in future, when someone says: “this beer tastes like shit”, it’s probably because it’s brewed with real poo. Lovely. 

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MoM Loves: Talisker Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge

Talisker has always valued its maritime heritage. Now, it has released a whisky aged with staves that have travelled across the Atlantic. And at 43 years old Talisker Xpedition Oak:…

Talisker has always valued its maritime heritage. Now, it has released a whisky aged with staves that have travelled across the Atlantic. And at 43 years old Talisker Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge is the oldest commercial release from the Isle of Skye distillery. Intrigued?

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Talisker and boats go together like, well, whisky and oak casks. The story begins in 1830 when Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill rowed across to Skye from the Isle of Eigg to found a distillery.

That distillery would go on to produce one of Scotland’s most distinctive and famous whiskies. Robert Louis Stevenson described it, along with Glenlivet and Islay, as the “King of drinks.”

The Talisker character

Talisker gets its classic character from a unique production process. It begins with medium-peated barley from the Glen Ord Maltings. The team produces a clean wort which is then subjected to a long fermentation in Oregon pine washbacks. The distillation process is a bit unusual as the wash stills have purifiers, pipes leading back to the lyne arm, which increase reflux removing heavier compounds. There are three spirit stills with washtub condensers. Ageing is mainly in bourbon barrels with some sherry and Port casks for special editions. 

This all leads to that classic Talisker profile: peppery, smoky, strongly-flavoured but with a certain delicacy and fragrance provided by heather and honey notes, and all the time with a distinct whiff of the ocean. No wonder each bottle carries the legend: “Made by the sea.”

Talisker - James Aiken

It’s intrepid yachtsman James Aiken

A life on the ocean waves

To celebrate this maritime heritage, since 2011 the distillery has sponsored the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. It’s one of the hardest endurance events in the world: teams have to row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean. A distance of 3,264 miles. You’ll need a wee dram at the end of that.

The last race ran in 2019 and was won by British team Fortitude IV who made the Atlantic crossing in an impressive time of 32 days 12 hours and 35 minutes. 

Oak across the Atlantic

Well, the event didn’t take place last year because of the pandemic. Instead, Talisker sent an intrepid fellow called James Aiken on the journey across the Atlantic on his yacht. On board was a very special cargo, oak staves from a selection of casks. We imagine the rowers were glad that they weren’t carrying this extra cargo.

Aiken commented: “Over twenty-four days, sailing from La Gomera, Spain, to the island of Antigua, I crossed the Atlantic solo aboard my boat Oaken Yarn. I cared for the wooden staves aboard ensuring their safe passage. The crossing was an almost meditative experience in nature: both challenging and a joy.”

On his arrival in the West Indies, the staves were sent back to Scotland where they were made up into barrels to complete the maturation of a very special Talisker.

Talisker_Xpedition_Oak

Talisker Xpedition Oak and its fancy packaging

Talisker Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge

In recent years Talisker has been releasing increasingly older whiskies in very limited quantities such as the Bodegas Series with 40 and 41 year old releases, but this is the oldest release yet from the distillery. It’s called the Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge and it’s 43 years old bottled at 49.7% ABV.  It was drawn from 10 casks and as a tribute to Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill only 1830 have been filled with an RRP of £3500.

As part of Talisker’s commitment to the ocean, the very first bottle of Xpedition Oak filled will be auctioned with all proceeds going to Parley for the Oceans. This charity’s mission is to help preserve 100 million square metres of marine ecosystems around the world by 2023.

Ewan Gunn, senior global brand ambassador, said: “This whisky is a sublime single malt that captures the pinnacle of the key aromas of Talisker – spice, sweetness, waxy and creamy, with a sense of the sea salt spray the morning after a storm. The four decades of maturation have given a full flavour, yet a softness to this bold drama resulting in a rounded and elegant experience.”

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We can only agree having tried it. That unmistakable Talisker DNA runs like a thread through Xpedition Oak, it’s there on the nose and hauntingly on the palate among the richer waxy, nutty, creamy notes from all that time spent in casks with the most spectacularly long finish. Most amazingly, it’s not a woody whisky in any way. You’d probably never guess it had spent more than 40 years in wood. 

To celebrate its sheer magnificence, we will be talking to brand ambassador Jason Clark live on the Master of Malt Instagram page at 7.30pm on Thursday 14 May. We’ll be discussing all things Talisker so crack open a bottle of the Ten Year Old, sit back and enjoy.

Talisker Xpedition Oak: The Atlantic Challenge is available now from Master of Malt.

Tastings note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Vanilla, cooked apple and waxy aromas lead when you first take a sniff. There’s a mellow smokiness swirling around beneath with notes of bacon, varnish and that characteristic Talisker saline quality.

Palate: Black pepper and chilli dance on the tongue, and then they’re overtaken by a creaminess. There’s a little custard, white peaches and that waxy character again. The smokiness is there in the background but it’s very restrained. That creaminess lingers and is joined by salty maritime notes. 

Finish: Very long and mellow, the texture taking on a little marzipan with a crackle of black pepper. 

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What are worm tubs and why do they matter?

Today, Lucy Britner takes a dive into one of the more geeky aspects of whisky production, worm tubs, and asks what effect these traditional condensers have on the finished spirit. …

Today, Lucy Britner takes a dive into one of the more geeky aspects of whisky production, worm tubs, and asks what effect these traditional condensers have on the finished spirit. 

Anyone who enjoys visiting distilleries will likely remember their first worm tub. Mine was at Talisker on a freezing cold March morning. As I stood outside, looking at the large wooden tubs filled with steaming water and coiled copper worms, part of me wondered what on earth they were for. But most of me wanted to jump in and warm up (obviously I didn’t do that). For a few reasons, worm tubs are a relatively rare sight. But for those that have them, they represent a vital part of a distillery’s character…

Worm tubs at Talisker

Fancy a dip? The worm tubs at Talisker

Worm what?

In short, worm tubs are a type of condenser. They are a traditional way of turning spirit vapour back into liquid and they work like this: The lyne arm at the top of the still is connected to a long, coiled copper pipe (worm) that sits in a huge vat of cold water (tub), which is usually outside. As the vapour travels down the worm, it condenses back into liquid form.

There are only a handful of distilleries that still use this method to condense their spirits, with most now preferring the more modern and efficient ‘shell and tube’ approach.

The general assumption is that because the cold water in a worm tub causes the vapour to condense fairly rapidly, there isn’t as much copper contact, generally making for a heavier style of spirit. But, like with all things whisky, this is only one part of the process and there are many factors that combine in each distillery to influence the style of a spirit.

“Some believe that worm tubs tend to create heavy spirits, but that’s not necessarily true as they are capable of producing lighter characteristics depending on how they are used it’s a fine balance,” explains Jackie Robertson, site operations manager at Talisker on the Isle of Skye. “At Talisker, we are passing a lot of cold water through the tub, condensing the vapour quite quickly to reduce the copper contact, so you’re going from the vapour phase to the liquid phase. If you retain warm water in your worm tub, you can slow down that condensing process and allow much more of a copper conversation with the vapour.”

Enter relative newcomer Ballindalloch, which started making whisky in 2014 and uses slightly warmer tubs to create a lighter style. Distillery manager Colin Poppy explains that the distillery was built inside an 1820s listed building, so the design had to fit the site. “There was no room inside for shell and tube condensers,” he explains. “We could’ve put them outside but we decided early on that we wanted to be traditional, so we decided on worm tubs.”

Ballindalloch’s tubs are about 10,000 litres each and the copper worms are about 70 metres long. “The most common statement I get from guests is ‘how come your spirit is light and fruity when you use worm tubs?’.” Poppy explains that at Ballindalloch, the worm tubs operate using a closed loop system that recycles the water. This means it is never quite as cold as other worm tubs, where water is often drawn from a river.

He says this allows the vapour more copper contact in the worms before condensing. Not only that, the distillery carries out a very slow distillation, which also means lots of copper contact.

Sandy McIntyre and Gordon Dundas

Sandy McIntyre and Gordon Dundas from Ian Macleod Distillers

Traditional practices

Like Ballindalloch’s desire to adhere to traditions, the soon-to-be reawakened Rosebank distillery in Falkirk will feature new worm tubs that mirror the original production style alongside the same still designs.

Rosebank was of course a triple-distilled Lowland malt but also used worm tubs a juxtaposition in whisky production,” explains Gordon Dundas, senior brand ambassador at Rosebank’s parent company Ian Macleod Distillers. “Triple distillation promotes a lighter style in a whisky (more copper contact and reflux) but then using worm tubs is more associated with a bolder and heavier style of spirit.”

Dundas also points out that the role of condensers must be looked at in relation to the whole distillation process and “what the spirit is like before it passes through”. He continued: “How that manifests itself during maturation is key and in Rosebank, I always get a light floral style, as it is a whisky predominantly matured in refill but a little weight in the palate.”

From the Lowlands to the height of the Highlands and the Pulteney distillery has been using worm tubs since 1826. Distillery manager Malcom Waring says that “using worms in our process at Pulteney allows us to have a long, slow spirit run, with the spirit vapour picking up the bolder, beefier characteristics in the first part of its journey in the worm. Once in the cask, these develop into notes of butterscotch, vanilla and coconut, giving Old Pulteney the distinctive taste and character we’re looking for in the finished whisky”.

The overall structure and design of the worm tubs used at Pulteney today are the same as the originals. “We tend to replace sections of the worm tub when needed, so some bits of the current equipment are older than others,” he explains. “They were installed as you see them today when Pulteney was refurbished in the 1920s and six original stills were replaced with two.”

Ballindalloch Distillery

New worm tubs at Ballindalloch Distillery

Why aren’t they everywhere?

In theory – and indeed in the glass – worm tubs seem great. So why don’t more distilleries have them? In short, they have been substituted for a more efficient condensing method.

Distillery equipment company Forsyths says they have largely been replaced by shell and tube condensers because shell and tube offers a “more compact design and are easier to repair and replace”.

Indeed Pulteney’s Waring says it takes more effort to use and maintain worm tubs. “There’s a lot of copper, so they wear out more quickly, plus the equipment needs quite a lot of space and water,” he says. “But I think it’s worth it for the qualities they bring to our whisky. We are one of only a handful of distilleries still using worm tubs, and unlike many others, there has never been any pressure for us to change our production process. I see this as a huge advantage, allowing us to make Old Pulteney using the traditional equipment in the way it has always been made here in Wick.”

And as more distilleries are revived or built with certain traditions in mind, it will be interesting to see if the worm tub will become a more popular fixture.

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Looking for a top Burns Night dram?

Don’t miss out on your celebrations just because of the lockdown. You can still pick yourself a bottle of delicious Scotch whisky and toast Scotland’s favourite son in style. The…

Don’t miss out on your celebrations just because of the lockdown. You can still pick yourself a bottle of delicious Scotch whisky and toast Scotland’s favourite son in style.

The 25 January is the birthday of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns and usually at this time people around the world mark it with an extravagant affair of food, music and malt. Burns Night this year, however, is taking place smack bang in the middle of a lockdown. So, we’re going to have to do things a little differently.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have a brilliant time of feasting and festivities. There’s going to be a raft of virtual celebrations we can get involved in and there’s nothing stopping you from donning a kilt, picking up some haggis and ensuring you’ve got some tasty Scotch whisky to enjoy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some delightful expressions perfect for a long night of drinking, dancing and entertainment.

Slange Var!

The perfect Burns Night drams

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Robert Burns Single Malt 

Drinking any Scotch whisky on Burns Night is a fitting way to celebrate the man himself. But, picking yourself up a bottle that bears his name? Now we’re talking. The Robert Burns Single Malt was produced by the Isle of Arran Distillers, who are patrons of the ‘Robert Burns World Federation’. So you can be sure this beauty was made with true reverence for the Bard.

What does it taste like?

Pear juice, coconut, custard, vanilla, panna cotta, lime peel, apple strudel and cinnamon.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old Cask Strength (Batch 001) 

If you’ve tasted Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire, you’ll already know it’s brilliant. But the clever clogs behind this cracking Islay single malt have taken things up a notch. How? By bottling the whisky at a cask strength 57.5% ABV. This is a Burns Night dram for those who really love their complex and smoky Islay whiskies.

What does it taste like?

Strong sea breeze, roasted barley, grounded by flame raisins, red apples, earthy peat, sherried richness, strong coffee with a dash of milk, charred oak and a flash of spicy yet fruity red pepper flake.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Talisker 10 Year Old 

There are few better bang-for-your-buck whiskies than this classic Island dram from the Isle of Skye. Talisker 10 Year Old is one of those expressions that has a place in the heart of all whisky fans. Its versatile profile means it’s great neat, in cocktails and when paired with food, making it ideal if you’d like to enjoy your Scotch in different ways on the night.

What does it taste like?

Smoke, sweet pear and apple peels, maritime salt, seaweed, peat, black pepper, brine and dry barley. 

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Darkness 8 Year Old

One for fans of sherry bombs. This 8-year-old single malt Scotch whisky was matured initially in ex-bourbon barrels before being moved into tiny, custom-made Oloroso sherry octave casks for at least three months. When you use smaller casks you increase the intensity of wood’s influence on your spirit. And when you have beautiful hand-coopered sherry casks, this leads to most excellent results.

What does it taste like?

Candied orange peels, chocolate peanuts, cooking spice warmth, dried cherry, Amaretti biscuits, subtly toasty hints, powerful raisin and prune, just a touch of earthy oak lingers.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old 

There’s plenty of mystery about this dram. From its intriguing name (it’s an anagram, see if you can figure it out…) to the fact it’s sourced from an undisclosed distillery on Islay. But, one thing we know for sure is that it’s damn tasty. An approachable introduction to Scotland’s most distinctive collection of distilleries, Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old captures the true taste of Islay with its smoky, sweet and maritime profile.

What does it taste like?

Maritime peat, iodine, honey sweetness, paprika, salted caramel, old bookshelves, mint dark chocolate, espresso, new leather, honey, liquorice allsorts, bonfire smoke and toffee penny, with a pinch of salt.

Perfect for some Burns Night dramming!

Regions of Scotland Tasting Set 

There’s no better way to familiarise yourself with the wonderful world of Scotch whisky than this tasting set. The ultimate introduction to the famed whisky regions of Scotland, Islay, the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside and Campbeltown, this creation from Drinks by the Dram contains five 30ml samples of deliciousness. Which means there’s sure to be something you love inside. Why have one Burns Night dram, when you can have five?

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Check out these awesome autumn sippers!

Autumn… it’s the time of year when you start to crave delicious, hearty, comforting drinks. Luckily, we’ve got a huge range and we’ve picked some of our favourites. The temperature…

Autumn… it’s the time of year when you start to crave delicious, hearty, comforting drinks. Luckily, we’ve got a huge range and we’ve picked some of our favourites.

The temperature is dropping, the days are becoming shorter and suddenly pumpkins are popping up all over the place like arcade moles ready to be whacked. You know what that means. Autumn has arrived. We’re optimists here at MoM Towers, so we like to celebrate the change in seasons by enjoying a dram or two of the heartiest and tastiest spirits around. We don’t want you to miss out on all the fun though, so we’ve whipped up a selection of drinks just right for cosying up with on cooler days.

 autumn sippers    

Benriach The Smoky Twelve

When Benriach released a new core range this year we were very excited, and rightly so. One of the highlights is this brilliantly peaty 12-year-old whisky created by Dr Rachel Barrie, who matured this Scotch in a combination of bourbon, sherry and Marsala wine casks. Perfect for those chilly evenings.

What does it taste like?

Flamed orange peel, chocolate brownies fresh from the oven, raisins, walnuts, peppercorn, hickory, woody smoke and a hint of clove.

autumn sippers

6 O’Clock Damson Gin

A dark and delicious flavoured gin from the wonderful folks at 6 O’Clock Gin, this beauty was crafted in the traditional way; in small batches, using hand-picked British damsons and a moderate amount of sugar. Lovely stuff, this.

What does it taste like?

Fruity, aromatic and drying. Fragrant spices integrate perfectly with the damsons rightly taking the lead.

autumn sippers

Redbreast 12 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?

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

autumn sippers

The Gin Kitchen Ginger Cat Gin

There aren’t many gins that count tonka beans as a signature botanical, but this delightful gin makes us wonder if that’s something on an oversight. This aromatic expression also features cinnamon, orange zest and, of course, ginger as ingredients and comes presented in a rather quaint ceramic bottle with a lovely little cat on it. Paired with tonic or Cointreau and ginger beer if you’re feeling more adventurous.

What does it taste like?

Peppery juniper leads into spicy ginger, with earthy vanilla notes, aromatic cinnamon and a citrus finish.

autumn sippers

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey

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

What does it taste like?

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

autumn sippers

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

For those who immediately think of warming, spicy and fruity rums when someone mentions autumn, then we recommend this terrific Pineapple Rum here from Project #173. Handsomely presented in a bottle adorned with 23 karat gold leaf, you can enjoy this cracking flavour combo neat or in a Rum Old Fashioned, for our money.

What does it taste like?

Citrus, kiwi and the unmistakable funkiness of pineapple, with underlying cinnamon. allspice. toasted brown sugar, upside-down cake and a touch of mint.

autumn sippers

Talisker 18 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?

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

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Diageo Special Releases 2020: Details are in!

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know….

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know.

It’s always a big day in the whisky calendar when the embargo lifts for Diageo Special Releases. A collection of unusual and generally pretty rare cask-strength single malt Scotch whiskies (no grain this year – obsessives of that style collectively stifle a sob), Special Releases celebrate distillery character, notable firsts, and often, pleasing quirks. 2020’s haul is no different!

The Rare by Nature theme returns, which is a deliberate throwback to 2019. And the eagle-eyed among us will note that the distillery line-up is a repeat from last year, too. The liquid, however, is all new. 

“The first selection we did of Rare by Nature was really well received,” explained Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, when he introduced the Special Releases 2020 line-up on a Zoom call. “People liked that they were all related to each other, the spread of piece points.” 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Eight delicious whiskies, the highlight of which for our money is that young Talisker…

Stand-out highlights? The first pot still Jamaican rum-finished Talisker expression – hello! – and a 20-year-old Cragganmore, the first release of that age from the distillery. It was also an absolute treat to get to sample a 30-year-old Pittyvaich, liquid from the ghost distillery. 

“For those who enjoy spicy flavours, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu,” Dr Craig Wilson, Diageo’s master blender, who curated the collection, said in a statement. “For those who favour rich, intense and smooth flavours my choice would be Mortlach 21-year-old.”

But enough of the recommendations! Here’s the glorious line-up in full, complete with our tasting notes.

Cardhu 11 Year Old

ABV: 56.0%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill, new, and ex-bourbon American oak

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £85

On the nose, this is a pretty juicy, wood-forward wonder, rounded out with loads of green fruit (mouth-watering apple especially), and some boiled sweets – pear drops and rhubarb and custard. On the palate, it’s creamy, buttery and lifted by a smidge of pepper. The finish is long, lingering and warming.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Cragganmore 20 Year Old

ABV: 55.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill casks and new fresh-charred casks.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £130

A pretty relaxed dram for the ABV, with banana, pear and vanilla pods on the nose, along with a cedar wood quality. The palate is more savoury than you might think with toasted bread, black pepper and some pecan nuttiness. On the finish, there’s sweet chilli and more toast.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old

ABV: 51.9%

Region: Highland

Cask: From refill hogsheads 

Availability: No. bottles available: 6,978

RRSP: £550

A mega-aged Dalwhinnie, often thought of as the gentle dram. And this continues its reputation! The nose is soft, herbal and shortbread-led, while the palate comes through with soft sweet spices – a smidge of cinnamon with a helping of orchard fruit. The finish plays up on the spices.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.4%

Region: Islay

Cask: From refill American oak casks

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £125

An earthy delight! This packs an ashy punch, with pronounced smoky notes, but with lashings of boiled sweets, too. It’s lively, packed full of sweet spices, and there’s a vanilla ice cream cone note in with all the medicinal qualities. The finish is super long, with waft after waft of smoke. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Mortlach 21 Year Old

ABV: 56.9%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From Pedro Ximenez & Oloroso Sherry seasoned casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,692 

RRSP: £575

According to Dr. Wilson, this is “the Beast of Dufftown tamed”. But fear not – if you like robust whiskies, this still more than stands up. The PX and Oloroso casks preserve the meatiness, while on the palate there are loads of tannins to make the mouth water. The finish is bursting with savoury notes. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Pittyvaich 30 Year Old

ABV: 50.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From first-fill ex-bourbon casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,056

RRSP: £400

An absolute gem, overflowing with tropical fruits on the nose, plus a linseed oil quality and forest-floor leaves. The palate holds up fruit-wise, with peppery vanilla and a mouth-filling oiliness keeping it complex. While the finish is on the shorter side, it gives a surprisingly spicy warmth. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Talisker 8 Year Old

ABV: 57.9%

Region: Isle of Skye 

Cask: From pot-still Caribbean rum casks. 

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £90

The expression of Special Releases 2020 for us. And the first from the distillery to be matured in ex-pot still Caribbean rum casks! It’s aromatic and smoke-led, but with pear drop, seaweed and even a meatiness on the nose, too. The palate adds in tropical fruit hints and peppery spices, while the finish blends in chilli pepper, too. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old

ABV: 55.1%

Region: Highland

Cask: Matured only in refill American oak hogsheads.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £110

A more chilled out expression, but still all-around delicious. The nose is waxy with honeycomb and magnolia vibes, while on the palate there’s a cream soda suggestion, along with British orchard fruits. The medium finish has hints of ginger, too.

What’s on your shopping list? Any expressions you can’t wait to try? Let us know in the comments – and keep an eye on the New Arrivals feed for availability!

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