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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Tamdhu

The Nightcap: 3 December

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition.  It’s December and…

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition. 

It’s December and that means Christmas is officially here. Deck those halls, put the Michael Bublé on, and enjoy The first Nightcap of the festive season. It’s jam-packed with great stories, boozy news, and, of course, Christmas cheer. 

Something else that was jam-packed this week was the MoM blog, which went full blogmaggedon. We launched two VIP distillery trip competitions, one to Highland Park and the other to Aberfeldy, kicked off our Advent celebrations (we hope you’ve enjoyed the first three days!), and released some single cask Master of Malt exclusives. We also asked the lovely folk who work here for Christmas present recommendations, made a modern take on ‘70s classic with Christmas Pudding Rum, and welcomed Bathtub Grapefruit & Rosemary Gin, exclusively to our humble towers. #WhiskySanta also returned to grant a Courvoisier Heritage de Louis Renard Super Wish, while Adam enjoyed all kinds of premium whiskies, including some perfect for Christmas presents, and others from two seriously exciting distilleries, Rabbit Hole and The East London Liquor Company

The Nightcap: 3 December edition!

The Nightcap: 3 December

What the €13 million tourism upgrade will look like

€13 million Midleton visitor upgrade announced

Big news just in from Irish Distillers. The whiskey giant has announced the redevelopment of the visitor experience at the Midleton Distillery near Cork. It will include new shops, a bar, café, and a restaurant, and will turn the old distillery into “a world-class, multi-sensory whiskey experience destination.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO, commented: “Over the past 30 years, Midleton Distillery has become synonymous with Irish whiskey tourism, welcoming more than three million visitors from countries all over the world to our home in East Cork. At Irish Distillers, we are always looking towards the future of Irish whiskey, which is why we are delighted to announce our plans for the redevelopment of the distillery experience at Midleton. Our ambition is to deliver an exceptional, world-class experiential offering which will bring whiskey lovers closer to the production process than ever before.” The aim is to attract 200,000 visitors a year. The design of the visitor experience is being handled by New York-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) which has worked with museums all over the world including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The firm has a tricky line to walk in modernising the rather dated experience while not interfering too much with the incredibly atmospheric old distillery which dates back to 1794. The work is due to be finished by 2025. We await the results eagerly. 

The Nightcap: 3 December

This photo was sent to us by a man called Hamish. Yes, really!

Tamdhu puts on jamón and whisky night

Probably our two favourite things here at the Master of Malt blog are Tamdhu and Jamón Ibérico, so we were extremely excited to hear about a series of evenings at Brindisa Spanish deli in Borough Market in London. Tamdhu’s brand ambassador Gordon Dundas will be joined by James Robinson from Brindisa for a series of nights devoted to sherried single malts and sweet porky goodness. Disappointingly, they’re not calling the evening ‘Hamdhu.’ Nevertheless, it sounds pretty special. Robinson will be your guide to the wonderful world of Iberian hams offering such delicacies as Guijuelo, Dehesa de Extremadura, Jabugo, and Los Pedroches. They are traditionally served with sherry but, the idea goes, why not a sherry-infused whisky? To prove the point, Dundas will be bringing the big guns down with a flight of single malts including the sherrytastic Tamdhu Quercus Alba Distinction, aged in first-fill American Oak cask. The events will take place on 6/7/8 December from 6-7pm and 7-8pm. Tickets cost £95 (go here) and as well as the experience, guests will get to take home a 70cl bottle of Quercus Alba Distinction, two copita tasting glasses, and a jamón serving board made from oak whisky cask ends. So what are you waiting for? Jamón down!

The Nightcap: 3 December

RIP sweet whiskey

$400K worth of Jack Daniel’s spilled in Tennessee

We’ve all heard the expression “don’t cry over spilled milk”, right? It seems like good advice. It’s just milk, after all. That logic doesn’t quite apply when $400k worth of whiskey spills onto the road, however. When that happens, cry away. Ugly cry. Call your mum and cry down the phone to her. That’s presumably what folks did in Tennessee last week when a semi-truck transporting $400,000 worth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey overturned as the driver was making a left turn onto an interstate. The main thing is that the driver was not injured, which on a whiskey blog we really must remind you is the most important thing, because we know people will be thinking about the “several gallons” of booze that spilled onto the pavement. According to a Facebook post from the Murfreesboro Police Department, the whiskey leak started when the trailer was being pulled upright by a wrecker. As you can imagine, the post was filled with responses along the lines of “I’m volunteering on THIS cleanup!” And thankfully it’s a huge brand who can take the loss on the chin. Besides, we’ve got plenty of Jack Daniel’s whiskey right here. So maybe there’s no need to cry over spilled whiskey after all? 

The Nightcap: 3 December

Congratulations, John.

John Campbell joins Lochlea Distillery

Laphroaig legend John Campbell has a new gig. He is joining the independent family-owned Lochlea Distillery as its new production director and master blender. Campbell, who dropped a shock announcement that he was moving to pastures new this year, has left his native Islay after 27 years working there in whisky. The former Laphroaig distillery manager will head up the production team ahead of the release of its inaugural liquid, set to launch in early 2022 (which we will have some of…) Campbell described the move as an “opportunity to develop a whisky that is innovative and distinctive, with a distillery that shares my ethos on quality, environment, and sustainability”. He added that getting involved in the process from this early stage means he can help to define “what Lochlea becomes”. Lochlea’s commercial manager, David Ferguson commented that it was clear that Campbell’s values aligned closely with Lochlea, and the most exciting part is that he brings “new ideas, an emphasis on quality and an entrepreneurial streak which shone through with the Cairdeas bottlings he was responsible for”. We look forward to seeing what he does there. Best of luck, John.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Redbreast has brought it back!

Limited-edition Redbreast bird feeder is back for another year

Redbreast just can’t stop helping the birds! After teaming up with Chris O’Dowd to protect “common birds” last month, the Irish whiskey brand is now shouting about the release of its limited-edition bird feeder bottle for the second year running. We have to admit, it’s pretty snazzy. Within an intricate copper shell you’ll find a bottle of Redbreast 12 Year Old single pot still whiskey. Out comes the bottle, and then you can repurpose the case as the fanciest bird feeder you’ve ever seen – even the common birds will be feeling like royalty snacking from this thing. It retails at €70 (£57.49), and €3 from each sale will go to Birdlife International with an aim of raising €80,000, as well as protecting the species you’ll find in your garden throughout the winter months. “After the success of last year, we are extremely excited to re-launch our beautifully crafted whiskey casing that has been specially designed to double up as a bird feeder”, says Billy Leighton, master blender at Irish Distillers. “We worked closely with BirdLife International to ensure the bird feeder continues to honour our mission of helping to protect not only robins, but all common birds, as we move into the colder months and food begins to become scarce.” Got a mate who loves birds and Irish whiskey? It’s nearly Christmas – you know what to do.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Changing the game by… doing the same thing we’ve seen before

Wee Smoky adman blasts whisky industry for not being ‘culturally relevant’

Watch out, the whisky industry is about to get ‘disrupted’. Again. Creative director Barrington Reeves, who has worked with global brands including Nike and Red Bull, has teamed up with Wee Smoky, a single grain aged in peated whisky casks launched last year by Rory Gammel. According to Reeves: “Many brands have postured to try and be different, but nobody has actually truly disrupted whisky – it’s still inaccessible and elitist.” Some of his criticisms seem to have been beamed in from 2002, blasting the industry for trading on “twee” perceptions of Scottishness, something most brands abandoned years ago. Also isn’t the name Wee Smoky more than a little twee? He continued: “If Scotland is to be on the cultural map, we need to break through those out-dated, unhelpful stereotypes perpetuated by whisky.” Reeves thinks the potential is there to turn Wee Smoky into a global brand. But they are starting small: the second batch of only 5,000 bottles will be released in time for Christmas. Reeves went on to say: “I’m not a whisky drinker, and that’s because I’ve never felt any affinity to it. I always felt there was never a brand that engaged people like me. Whisky brands try to be diverse but I don’t think sticking a black person in your campaign is enough to be honest. Wee Smoky can be something that no other Scottish whisky is – culturally relevant.” Let the disruption commence!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Good luck, guys! Glad it’s not us rowing across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin founder plans to row across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin co-founder Xavier Baker (centre above) has just announced he will be taking part in the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Chris Mannion and Paul Berry (a well-seasoned rower) from the Isle of Wight will join him to row across the Atlantic in their boat Mermaid Atlantic to raise awareness of ocean habitats and to raise funds for marine-focused charities. The team will be using sustainable suppliers and will seek out and refurbish an older Rannoch boat to minimise their impact, all while raising funds for The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, and the Seahorse Trust. “We are all focused and determined chaps with a good understanding of the sea and certainly know not to underestimate her,” Baker says. “While we each have our personal reasons for undertaking such an exciting and challenging adventure, we’re united in our passion for preserving the oceans and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to undertake the Atlantic challenge to spotlight these causes.” Embarking on ‘the world’s toughest row’, the team will leave La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December 2023 and will need to row 3000 miles around the clock to arrive in Antigua within 35 days to break the record in their class. To find out more about donation and sponsorship head here. Best of luck, guys!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Guess who has joined the sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer game?

Bruichladdich creates sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer 

Bruichladdich has gotten into the beer game with fellow B Corp Brewgooder and sour brewery Vault City to create a tasty tipple that does some good. The limited-edition barrel-aged whisky sour beer was brewed in Portobello, Edinburgh, using a mixed fermentation base sour before being barrel-aged in Bruichladdich casks for nine months to infuse it with the character of the distiller’s unpeated Islay single malt. The result? According to the press release the depth of flavour from the casks provides “delicate notes of sweet oak and barley”, while the addition of hand-picked lemon balm, foraged locally from Islay, and Scottish heather honey create a “balance of tart acidity and smoky sweetness”. Sounds tasty, but there’s more. In a combined effort to strive for a better future, every litre of beer sold will fund 1,000 litres of clean water to communities around the world through Brewgooder’s ‘Billion Pint Pledge’ which aims to produce one billion pints of clean water in the next three years. So many booze brands trying to do their bit to do a little good in the world. We love to see it.

The Nightcap: 3 December

When something like this happens you’ve just got to roll with it…

And finally…. Snowasis!

Last week a pub gig went on a bit longer than expected when the band and the entire audience were snowed in. Top Oasis tribute band Noasis played in front of 60 people at the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales on Friday 26 November. But when it came time to leave, Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc making the roads leading to the isolated pub impassable. So the band and the entire audience had to remain until Monday morning. Tough gig! Somehow, everyone made the best of it, with the pub providing food and drink, and the band played an acoustic set. In fact, it was so much fun that there’s talk of doing it all again next year. Just goes to show, if you have to snowed in, the best place to be is a pub. 

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The Nightcap: 20 August

In the news this week, Mariah Carey has entered the Irish cream liqueur market. And we’ve forgotten everything else that’s happened because we’re so delighted and astounded. You’ll have to…

In the news this week, Mariah Carey has entered the Irish cream liqueur market. And we’ve forgotten everything else that’s happened because we’re so delighted and astounded. You’ll have to read all of The Nightcap: 20 August edition to find out what else is going on.

Before we do our usual round-up, we’d like to pay our respects to the legendary Douglas Ankrah, inventor of the Pornstar Martini. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family. We’ll be raising a glass to him tonight.

The MoM blog welcomed Lauren Eads for the first time this week as she explored the delights of the Pisco Sour, while Jess took us around Glenlivet’s new visitor centre, and Millie championed Gordon’s Wine Bar – there’s nowhere else quite like it. Henry then celebrated Cocktails in the City turning 10, before Adam introduced Dingle’s first core whiskey, found out how Reyka Vodka made its mark, and reported back from the impressive Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery. We ended the week with some seriously swanky whiskies from Diageo. They’re pretty tasty but are they worth £23,500 for the set?

Now on with the Nightcap: 20 August edition!

The Nightcap: 20 August

The winner better get used to seeing this sight

Apply to become ‘world’s first Prosecco taster’

The job of a lifetime is on the cards for one lucky Prosecco lover thanks to the House of Townsend. The family wine merchant is offering folks the chance to work ‘nine ‘till wine’ by becoming the ‘world’s first’ professional Prosecco taster.  The role is sadly a fixed-term contract for one month, but the successful candidate will get the chance to give feedback on six different bottles within two weeks. The opportunity is open to those who can taste wine and provide constructive feedback, although the lucky winner will be chosen at random and announced on Wednesday 8 September. So the door really is open here. It should be noted that the successful candidate will be paid in Prosecco, but if you’re applying for this we’re pretty sure that’s all you’re in it for anyway. If you’d like to apply or want more info, simply head here. though apparently “those who experience wine headaches need not apply.”

The Nightcap: 20 August

Jon O’Connell, whose chance encounter on a Highland fishing trip has paid off

Fisherman’s whisky collection valued at £15,000

About 10 years ago Jon O’Connell (no relation to our Adam) was fishing at Rothiemurchus when he began chatting to another fisherman over a dram or two of Aberlour A’bunadh. He enjoyed it so much that he started collecting a bottle from every batch ever made. This chance encounter has led to him amassing a selection of 66 bottles Aberlour A’bunadh, which has been valued at £15,884. Looks like that dram fishing has paid off, as has all those years O’Connell spent being outbid in auctions and scouring obscure whisky shops across Europe to track down more elusive releases. Now he’s going to seel his unique connection. Mark Littler will broker the deal, after helping Matthew Robson, 28, from Taunton, to sell his 28-bottle collection of Macallan single malt for more than £40,000 last year. O’Connell says he’s decided to sell as he thinks his whiskies would make for “a wonderful present for someone – certainly for that fisherman that inspired me all those years ago”. Mr Littler says that the A’bunadh whisky series is the largest collection he’s ever sold and that what makes it so unique is that O’Connell has a bottle from every batch. It will be someone very lucky that gets their hands on it.

Cara Gilbert Tobermory Distillery

No wonder she’s smiling. 27 year old Cara Gilbert has just landed one of the best jobs in Scotch whisky

27 year old Cara Gilbert takes over at Tobermory

Tobermory has just appointed one of the youngest ever distillery managers. Cara Gilbert from Clackmannanshire is only 27 year old and she’s now in charge of the 223 year old distillery on the Isle of Mull. What an incredible responsibility in one so young. She clearly knows her onions though with a degree in biological science and a master in brewing and distilling from Heriot Watt. She had a stint working at Tullamore D.E.W. in Ireland before joining the Distell group first at Bunnahabhain and then Tobermory. Gilbert commented: “It’s an honour to be given the opportunity to take on this role, helping to etch the next chapter for such a historic distillery. In my head, I always knew I wanted to be in a managerial position before I was 30 and a combination of hard work, seizing every opportunity thrown my way and learning from the best has made this vision a reality.” She will be working with master distiller Brendan McCarron who added: “Cara’s absolutely bursting with talent, passion and knowledge about distilling so it’s incredible to watch her tick off another career milestone. Whether it’s peated or unpeated malts, limited editions or an enticing range of gin, it’s the dream job for anyone and she’s going to do amazing things.” And talking of limited editions, we have some very special whiskis from the Distell stable landing at MoM next week. Watch this space.

The Nightcap: 20 August

The brilliantly named Monkey Bars offers a fantastic opportunity

Monkey Shoulder reveals new bartender competition

Monkey Shoulder whisky has a new bartender competition up its sleeves. The contest, excellently named Monkey Bars, will give teams of two or three contestants the chance to build their own brand from concept to reality. Entries must include a brand name, an idea of brand identity, three drinks (at least two made with Monkey Shoulder) and, most importantly, packaging that stands out and communicates something beyond drinks. The brand suggests a QR code for a playlist as an example, but the possibilities are endless. Go here to submit your ideas. A panel of industry experts will decide on the winning concept, which will be created and distributed nationwide through Lean Kitchen Network (LKN) and land on doorsteps across the country this autumn. The competition is open for applications between 5 until 26 August, with the three finalists announced on 6 September. The finalists will then see their ideas mocked up before pitching them live to the judges on 20 September. Imagine Dragons’ Den but less finance talk and more cocktail chat. “We hope that this is a chance to change someone’s life, with the concept being progressed and continued following the three months of funding and support from Monkey Shoulder,” says Joe Petch, Monkey Shoulder’s global ambassador. “After a hard time for bartenders, we’re hoping that this opportunity will invigorate their creativity and love for cocktails.” 

The Nightcap: 20 August

You’ll be able to pick up the new Highland Park Cask Strength Release here soon

Highland Park launches Cask Strength Release No.2

We’ve got some cracking news for fans of Highland Park this week as the Orkney based distillery revealed it is launching the second in the series to its award-winning cask strength range. The whisky is a great opportunity to taste some full-blooded Highland Park goodness without any dilution and at 63.9% ABV. Release No. 2 promises more robust and intense flavours.  While each whisky will share the same underlying character, every batch will showcase different characteristics based on the cask make-up. In this case, Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.2 has been matured predominantly in sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks, and a small quantity of ex-bourbon casks. The resulting aromas and flavours are said to be of pear and almond cake, toasted oak, liquorice, cracked black pepper and aromatic peat. “Cask Strength Release No.2 celebrates the harmonious balance of tastes in the classic Highland Park style,” says masker whisky maker Gordon Motion. “I want to give everyone who loves Highland Park the chance to experience our single malt whisky in its purest form, its full flavour allows you to discover the taste and strength that appeals to your palate by adding ice or water according to your preference.” Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.2 is on its way to MoM Towers now.

Breaking Bad Bar

Remember kids, drugs aren’t cool

Breaking Bad-inspired bar opening in Newcastle

You’d probably think there’s one thing you wouldn’t want your bar associated with, and that’s the mayhem and misery caused by trafficking in a dangerously-addictive drug, but the team behind a new venue clearly thinks differently. Newcastle is the latest city to get an ABQ, also known as the ‘Breaking Bad-inspired bar.’ The experience is based on the hit TV series. Visitors have to dress up in hazmat suits before entering an RV (motorhome) where they then ‘cook-up’ drinks – just as if they were making methamphetamine, but with cocktails. What larks! There is already a permanent ABQ in London, and pop-ups in Paris, Manchester and New York. The new addition opens mid September at Lane 7, a retro bowling alley. Seb Lyall, founder of Lollipop, the bar group behind it, explained: “We have always wanted to open our concepts in other great cities in the UK. We are proud to be partnering up with Lane 7 in Newcastle to bring this experience up north.” ABQ isn’t the only novelty venue in the Lollipop stable, there’s also London’s only naked restaurant, Bunyadi in Borough. On second thoughts, hazmat suits sound quite appealing.

Tamdhu_Batch_6_UK_Detail_LAND_150dpi

Sherried goodness guaranteed

Tamdhu’s sixth mighty Batch Strength is on its way

If there’s one thing we love here at Master of Malt, it’s Tamdhu. This is one of the very few distilleries in Scotland to use only Oloroso-seasoned casks to mature its whisky. So, if you’re into sherry bombs, then you need some Tamdhu. The core range is pretty tasty, but what gets whisky nuts really hot and bothered is the distillery’s Batch Strength releases. You can read more about this magnificent series here. And now a new one is on its way! Sandy McIntyre, Tamdhu Distillery Manager, explained: “The Batch Strength series is one of our most popular releases – and Batch Strength No.006 is sure to appeal to our fans old and new. The high proportion of first-fill Oloroso sherry casks give this whisky a rich, complex taste and long, rewarding finish.” It’s a NAS whisky bottled at a mighty 58.6% ABV with no chill filtering. Expect massive quantities of dried fruit, spice and all kinds of sherried richness. Previous releases have been exceptional, winning gold medals at San Francisco World Spirits Competition and many others. All this for a very reasonable RRP of £79.99. Keep watching the new products page, it’ll be with us soon.

Zero waste cocktail

Environmentally-friendly cocktail served with ethically-farmed sturgeon. This is so 2021

Try a ‘zero waste’ cocktail during Zero Waste Week

So, what’s everyone doing for Zero Waste Week, 6-10 September? Us, we’re terrified of doing anything in case we generate any waste. Happily, we can go out and have a drink while producing very little waste thanks to a new cocktail that’s been created by Discarded, hard seltzer brand Served, and top chef Adam Handling. Called the Full Circle, it’s available from Handling’s Eve bar in Covent Garden, London from 6-30 September. It combines Discarded Grape Skin Vodka, Muyu Vetiver Gris, Italicus, mind and thyme syrup, lime juice, and it’s topped with Served Lime hard seltzer. Both Served and Discarded are made with unwanted or leftover ingredients. According to the press release, in Europe we throw away 50 million tonnes of fruit and veg because “it does not meet aesthetic standards of retailers.” Ellie Goulding, founder of Served and UN Environment Programme ambassador, explained: “Zero Waste Week is an increasingly important UK initiative at this crucial point, and it has been great to partner with the talented bar managers at Adam Handling’s Eve Bar to create a cocktail using Served and upcycling ingredients from the kitchen that would have otherwise been thrown away. Being able to partner with like minded spirits such as Discarded Grape Skin Vodka has shown us all that we can all make a difference to the  environment by what we eat and drink”. Handling recommends drinking this special cocktail with a dish of  thinly-sliced ‘ethically-farmed’ sturgeon, smoked mousse, and caviar. It’s gourmet environmentalism, darling. 

The Nightcap: 20 August

We have no words

And finally…  Mariah Carey launches Irish cream liqueur

Sometimes you write something so bizarre it’s tempting to think that everyone in the world is playing some kind of prank on you. But this news appears to be very real. In truly baffling, but admittedly also quite brilliant scenes, an Irish cream liqueur has entered the celebrity drinks market and Mariah Carey, of all people, is behind it. Seriously. That picture above isn’t photoshopped. While you, and every Irish person, may be wondering what the hell is going on, the truth is we don’t even really know. The little info the brand has revealed confirms the award-winning artist owns the brand and that she was inspired by her Irish grandparents. The drink is said to be a blend of “decadent Irish cream with aged Irish whiskey” with aromas and flavours of “freshly roasted coffee, milk chocolate and warm spices”. On Monday the singer tweeted: “Introducing Black Irish. Two years in the making. Truly a cause for celebration!!! @goblackirish”. To add even more confusion into the mix, there’s already a booze called Black Irish. So a trademark dispute is probably en route too. One thing’s for sure, Mariah Carey will not stop until every inch of Christmas is hers. She has the traditional glass of  Baileys in her sight. Lord knows what she’ll try and conquer next. 

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The inside scoop on pairing whisky and ice cream

Banana, vanilla, chocolate – the flavours of whisky and ice cream make for wonderful bedfellows. Millie Milliken put in the strenuous research to find out how to pair them and…

Banana, vanilla, chocolate – the flavours of whisky and ice cream make for wonderful bedfellows. Millie Milliken put in the strenuous research to find out how to pair them and came up with five perfect matches of her own.

Ok, I get it, it isn’t quite shorts and sunnies weather just yet – I can’t be the only one to endure rain (and hail) in May for a pint. But as warmer and balmier days approach us – and staycations become the holiday de jour – that can only mean one thing: ice cream. Buckets of the stuff, preferably on a lawn, maybe on a beach.

While daydreaming of my own upcoming holiday on the English riviera and the plentiful ice cream opportunities it presents, I got to thinking about what my accompanying hip flask might contain. There was only one answer: whisky.

Now, the combination of whisky and ice cream is hardly new – remember the onslaught of alcoholic milkshakes that hit the UK bar scene in the early 20-teens? But with the rise of artisanal ice cream and a slew of excellent whisky launches, I wondered: how and why are whisky and ice cream such wonderful bedfellows?

Affogato

Affogato with whisky, this is Blair Bowman’s dream

It takes two

“There are a lot of factors,” Blair Bowman, whisky consultant and author, tells me fresh from an alfresco meeting in Edinburgh. “Whisky has such a big range of flavours to start with so you have a huge palate to choose from. Then you’ve got all the flavours of ice cream to match them up nicely – fruity with fruit, oily whisky with a delicate sorbet, smoky whisky with chocolate,” the list goes on.

It would be an understatement to say that Bowman is a fan of combining whisky and ice cream. In fact, his dream is to own a 24-hour bar which serves nothing but affogatos (vanilla ice cream, coffee and booze). He even brought whisky and ice cream together at the 2019 Scottish Whisky Awards, challenging the chef to create a blue cheese ice cream to go with a dram of Clynelish. “To cut the richness we had it with poached pears, a shard of chocolate, crunchy bit of flapjack, and the day before we decided to make the blue cheese pop so we added a little ridge of sea salt.” Needless to say, it split the room. 

Just this year, he took part in Hipflask Hiking Club’s #whiskyicecreamfloatchallenge. His entry combined Littlemill 44yo, Häagen-Dazs Summer Berries & Cream, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, pink Himalayan salt, a dark chocolate rim and an Iain Burnett Chocolatier garnish. He admits that some people may have seen using such a rare and high calibre whisky in an ice cream float may be “blasphemous”, but for Bowman, whisky is a drink to have fun with.

Jude's award-winning ice cream

Jude’s award-winning ice cream

Ice, ice baby

Chow Mezger, MD of Jude’s Ice Cream in Berkshire, knows how to have fun too. When I call him for a chat about his award-winning brand, he’s just come from a flavour tasting and is excited at some of the new products his team has just signed off (not that he’ll tell me what they are). The company churns out some of the UK’s best ice cream, with flavours ranging from salted caramel to mango and passionfruit – and even includes vegan alternatives.

Just as with Bowman, Mezger is no stranger to pairing whisky with ice cream. “We did a hot toddy collaboration with Laphroaig which was really, really interesting,” he tells me. “We tried it with a few of the whiskies that were not very peated, so the problem was we had to add so much of it to the ice cream that there was too much alcohol. We ended up partnering with Laphroaig because the peat flavour is so strong that it meant we could use less.”

When it comes to pairing ice cream with food, he thinks texture is a key component. “Here at Jude’s we talk about flavour but we talk about texture just as much and the changing nature of it in ice cream.” Of course, the changing nature of ice cream is similar to that of whisky too and when you add temperature contrasts into the equation (cold ice cream, warming whisky) it gets even more exciting.

So, without further ado, I thought I’d give it a try. I picked five ice creams and raided my drinks cabinet for the perfect (or near perfect) match. Do try this at home.

The pairings
Tamdhu 12

Tamdhu 12 with ice cream. Hell yes!

Jude’s Salted Caramel x Tamdhu 12 Year Old

Salt and sweet, or salt and smoke? I went for a bit of both on this one as my first instinct to go heavy on the smoke proved far too powerful. Instead, I went for the light smoke touch and sherried notes of Tamdhu 12 Year Old.

Alongside the delicate caramel notes of the ice cream and the pleasant hit of salt, the sweet spice and dried fruits of the Tamdhu, and typical of sherry casks, offset each other beautifully.

Cecily’s Mint Choc Chip x The Norfolk Parched Single Grain

The trickiest of the bunch but a must-have as this writer’s favourite ice cream flavour. After much deliberation, I settled on The Norfolk Parched Single Grain (with a little help from ex-Master of Malter Kristiane Sherry).

Aged in bourbon casks, this whisky has vanilla and lemon on the nose, which followed by some aniseed and cloves complements the minty fresh aroma of the ice cream. On the palate, the ice cream is a lovely coolant while the bitter chocolate slightly mellowed by the dry finish of the whisky.

Ice Cream Union Banana Split x Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

When I first tried Glenlivet’s relatively new Caribbean Reserve aged in rum casks, I fell in love with the banana notes bursting through. Matched with Ice Cream Union’s Banana Split ice cream, this whisky really shines.

On the nose, this whisky is heavy on the banana as well as toffee and popcorn which, when matched with the delicious and creamy ice cream, comes through with some pleasant spiced notes to offset the sweetness.

hackney gelato ice cream

Bring on the bourbon!

Hackney Gelato Peanut Butter & Chocolate x Bowsaw Small Batch Bourbon

Peanut butter? It just had to be a bourbon. This gelato is more peanut butter than chocolate, so I wanted something that would be an equal sparring partner. Enter Bowsaw Small Batch Bourbon. 

On the nose, those toasted wood aromas and toffee were the perfect gateway into the pairing, with the heat and slightly dry texture making the peanut butter less sweet and more nutty. The caramel on the finish topped it off beautifully.

Waitrose Strawberry Cheesecake x Milk & Honey Elements Red Wine Cask

This Milk & Honey Red Wine Cask from Tel Aviv is quite something. What first got me to thinking of pairing the two is the immediate hit of strawberry on the nose with some caramelised demerara sugar at the back.

Matched with the fresh strawberry flavour and the malty biscuit pieces in the ice cream, the whisky’s hit of baking spices and dried fruits bring this ice cream back from being too sweet while also drawing out those strawberry notes. A real surprise.

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Our favourite posts of 2020

It’s been a bumper year on the blog with over 500 fascinating articles appearing. Earlier this week, we wrote about our most-read ones, but we thought it would be interesting…

It’s been a bumper year on the blog with over 500 fascinating articles appearing. Earlier this week, we wrote about our most-read ones, but we thought it would be interesting to pick our personal favourites too. So here they are!

Our most read posts tend to be whisky news because Master of Malt customers really want to know about in-coming new whiskies. But we also publish more in-depth features with producers, opinion pieces and some good silly stuff. In 2020, despite not being able to travel for most of the year, we managed to continue publishing fascinating, amusing and thought-provoking articles. And not from just in-house scribblers, this year we’ve been proud to commission some of the country’s best drinks writers on a diverse array of topics. 

So, we thought we’d pick some of our highlights. It was not easy to narrow it down to just ten but we’ve got everything from articles aimed squarely at whisky geeks to important scientific research on what snacks go with which spirit. Something for everyone. 

The joy of distillery pets 

We love animals almost as much as we love booze here at MoM so this important article by Lucy Britner was an instant choice. That gorgeous creature above with the film star eyes is Otis from Badachro Distillery.

Why I won’t be opening my bar this December 

There really was only one story this year, and bartender and MoM occasional columnist Nate Brown tackled it head on in this moving look at the difficulties of running a bar with the Covid-19 rules changing the whole time. 

Jim Swan, a legacy of style 

This one got a great response from the industry: our roving whisky expert Ian Buxton took a look at the man who did more than anyone to create the world whisky category. 

Inside Mexico’s first whisky distillery 

Some great writing here from Adam O’Connell. The article manages to do two difficult things extremely well: transport the reader to another country and describe the flavour of a highly distinctive spirit. 

A Long Stride: A history of Johnnie Walker 

2020 was the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker. Most of the promised festivities never happened, but we did get this splendid book by Dr Nick Morgan who took the time to talk to us about it. 

Flor de Caña: Rum and adversity in Nicaragua 

Another tremendous bit of armchair travel writing, this time from Annie Hayes. A great story, beautifully told, and it helps that the rum in question is so delicious. 

Everything you wanted to know about peat but were afraid to ask 

Well, the title says it all. This is a rich and rewarding journey into smoke from Annie Hayes which will appeal to those who want to take their whisky knowledge to the next level. 

Lessons in sherry casks with Tamdhu

Another one for whisky nerds, those two simple words sherry and cask can have dozens of different flavour permutations as we learn from Gordon Dundas at Tamdhu.

The story behind the revival of James E. Pepper Whiskey 

An epic tale spanning the centuries told in suitably epic style. This is the article that people will come to again and again when they want to know about this great whiskey brand.

The search for perfect snack & spirit pairings 

And finally… Some actual science here as Sam Smith investigates which spirits go with which snack. The results might surprise you. 

 

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Lessons in sherry casks with Tamdhu

We take a lesson in the complexities of sherry cask-ageing with one of the very few single malts that is entirely aged in sherry casks, Tamdhu in Speyside. The last…

We take a lesson in the complexities of sherry cask-ageing with one of the very few single malts that is entirely aged in sherry casks, Tamdhu in Speyside.

The last tasting I attended in person before lockdown was with Gordon Dundas, brand ambassador from Tamdhu. We met in a tiny room in London: a few writers, lots of whisky and no social distancing. At the time it was fun and enlightening, looking back, it seems almost miraculous that such a thing was possible.

Tamdhu has to be one of Speyside’s least-known distilleries. Dundas said that he’d never even heard of it before he got the job at Ian McLeod Distillers, the parent company. “Even whisky people don’t know Tamdhu”, Dundas said. “We are not an old distillery,” he continued, “when the distillery opened in 1897, it was the most modern distillery of its time.” Tamdhu nearly disappeared a couple of times: no distillation took place between 1925 to 1947 and then after a period of expansion in the 1970s, it was mothballed by the Edrington Group in 2010. Ian McLeod acquired the distillery in 2011 and production resumed the following year. The company, Scotland’s second largest family-run distillers, now owns three whisky distilleries, Tamdhu, Glengoyne, and the soon to be reborn Rosebank, along with brands such as Smokehead, Sheep Dip and Edinburgh Gin

Sandy McIntyre and Gordon Dundas

The distillery:

At Tamdhu there’s capacity to produce four million litres of pure alcohol per year, 85% of this goes into blends. The rest is put into sherry casks to be sold as a single malt. Despite the rather trendy looking St. Germain-style bottles, introduced in 2013, it’s marketed very much at the single malt lover. There’s no line about demystifying the category or changing whisky’s image. Dundas commented: “We’re after the whisky drinker. We’re not trying to convert people nor are we after the cocktail market.” 

While sister distillery Glengoyne packs in 90,000 visitors per year, Tamdhu doesn’t even have a visitor centre. According to Dunadas it would cost £1million and they would rather spend the money on sherry casks. He also added: “We are not a pretty distillery”. The whole operation is automated. Dundas told us little about the process: “we heat the stills slowly. It’s a very different whisky when stills get too hot. It’s more of a simmer than a boil which gives us lots of reflux. Historically people used to whack the stills on full power.” 

The new make certainly tasted good. We tried it at 66.9% ABV and it showed lots of cereal character and green minty notes. Water brought out a creamy texture. You wouldn’t know it but Tamdhu uses a tiny amount of peated barley because, according to Dundas, that’s what’s always been done.

The casks:

Then we got onto the serious business of sherry casks. The distillery has its own on-site cooperage presided over by an ex-Glenfiddich cooper. The firm has produced a useful 12 minute film called Spain to Speyside (above) to explain how the casks get to Scotland. The team buys from various firms in Spain: Tevasa, Vasyma, and Huberto Domecq (scion of the great Domecq sherry family). Tamdhu uses butts (around 500 litres), puncheons (like a dumpier butt, no giggling at the back!), and Hogsheads (250 litres). These are sent whole to Scotland, not broken down. 

The casks are all seasoned for two years with oloroso sherry of roughly five years of age. This is real sherry, not sherry-style wines that some producers use. The wood soaks up about 35 litres of sherry per year. Dundas said: “The role of sherry is to modify the oak. Colour and flavour come from oak not the sherry. Sometimes it can be hard to tell sherry-infused oak from bourbon oak.” 

Tamdhu uses both American oak (quercus alba) and European oak (quercus rober). The Spanish wine industry has long-used American oak barrels which are much cheaper as you get many more casks per tree. It’s not just in Jerez, traditional Rioja owes its signature taste to long ageing in American oak. The final factor to be considered is whether the casks are first-fill or refill.

Tamdhu cooperage (you probably don’t need a caption here)

 

So when someone says ‘sherry cask’, there are a number of questions we can ask:

-What size is the cask?
-Is it European or American oak?
-What type of sherry was used to season?
-How long was the sherry in the wood for?
-Is the cask refill or first-fill?
-How long was the whisky in the sherry cask for?

It’s complicated. To demonstrate the importance of just one of these factors, European or American oak, we tried two limited edition Tamdhus:

– Representing America was a single cask bottling named in honour of Sandy Mcintyre, distillery manager, winner of best Single Cask at the World Whiskies Awards this year. It was distilled in 2003, bottled in 2019 at 56.2% ABV, and only aged in a first fill American oak sherry butt.

– And in the European corner was the Edinburgh Airport Cask which was distilled in 2006, bottled in 2019 at 58.9% ABV, and only aged in a first fill European oak sherry butt

 

Casks, very important

The American oak one had some of what you might think of as sherry notes on the nose, some dried fruits, but really it was all about fresh fruit with vanilla, crème brûlée, and caramel. Tried blind, I think most people would say something about bourbon casks. The American oak character is really strong. 

Then we tried the European one, the colour is much darker (all Tamdhu expressions are the colour they came out of the cask, unlike some other famous sherry-influenced malts that Dundas mentioned). Now this is what you’d think of as a sherry bomb: dried apricot, tobacco, leather, a smell like getting into a Jensen Interceptor. Then the mouth, it’s all about wood tannins, strong chilli spice, drying leather and maraschino cherries. 

Both are superb sherry-influenced whiskies but only one is what you’d think of as a classic sherried whisky, the European oak version. Those ‘sherry bomb’ notes come not from sherry but from European oak. It makes sense, because those flavours also crop up in old Cognacs. Old Macallan often tastes a lot like Cognac. 

Tamdhu 12 Year Old, a lovely drop

We then tried some of core range bottling that combine the two oak types, different cask types as well as refill and first fill casks: 

– The 12 Year Old leans more to American oak. The nose smells of butter and vanilla with a touch of tobacco then peachy fruit with some strong herbal new make character coming through. It’s creamy and sweet on the palate with some peppery notes.

– The 15 Year Old is matured in around 40% European oak. The nose is so fruity with apricot, pineapple, oranges in syrup, lots of rancio character. On the palate, there’s vanilla, orange peel, demerara sugar with walnuts on the finish.

– Finally, we tried the Batch Strength #4, a limited edition NAS expression bottled at 57.8% ABV.  It’s a real beastie that would appeal to lovers of whiskies like Mortlach. Nose is marmalade, dark chocolate, then the palate is like burnt sugar, thick dark marmalade, dark chocolate and chilli spice. 

My favourite of the day was probably the 15 year old, a graceful melding of European and American oak but everything we tried was spectacularly good. Tamdhu is very quietly, without making too much fuss about it, turning out some of the finest whiskies in Scotland. You should check them out. And now you’ll never use the words ‘sherry cask’ when tasting whisky without thinking carefully again. 

 

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