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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: tequila

The Nightcap: 23 July

Dwayne Johnson’s Tequila bus, 70,000 free Pistonhead Beers, and Kraken Rum’s protest ice cream all make an appearance in another cracker of a Nightcap.  Good afternoon folks. We hope you’ve…

Dwayne Johnson’s Tequila bus, 70,000 free Pistonhead Beers, and Kraken Rum’s protest ice cream all make an appearance in another cracker of a Nightcap. 

Good afternoon folks. We hope you’ve all survived the wacky weather and got to enjoy the full return of the hospitality industry. Tomorrow just so happens to be National Tequila Day, so you’ve got even more of an excuse to keep the good times going. You might have noticed that we spent a fair amount of time this week celebrating this event. This is because Tequila is tremendous and we’ll never pass up a chance to chat all about how much we love it. 

This is why we’ve been doing that on the blog the last few days. We put together a competition with El Rayo Tequila, enjoyed a Tommy’s Margarita, welcomed Volcan Tequila and recommended some cracking Tequila cocktails that you may not have tried. Our content wasn’t all agave-based, however. Henry revisited Copper Rivet’s distillery to observe its impressive operation, Ian Buxton was charmed, Millie demonstrated how to make the most of her favourite soft drink, iced tea, and Adam tasted a blend of whisky and rum, before looking at what to expect from the exciting O’Shaughnessy Distillery.  

On the Clubhouse App, meanwhile, we’ve got rum on our minds as we delve into some of the challenges the category faces with guests Peter Holland, Gayle Seale and Philip Everett-Lyons at 3pm. Do join us!

Now on with the Nightcap: 23 July edition!

The Nightcap: 23 July

Dwayne Johnson’s Tequila brand will tour the US in this beauty

National Tequila Day success for Clooney, The Rock, and Kylie Jenner

Ok, last thing on National Tequila Day. Promise. But we couldn’t help but notice there were a lot of stories this week about how the industry is thriving at the moment. Celebrity-backed brands, in particular, are enjoying the spoils of this success. First, Casamigos Tequila revealed it is now a million-case-a-year brand, hitting the sales milestone at the end of 2020. Founders George Clooney and Rande Gerber sold the brand to drinks giant Diageo in 2017 for US$1 billion, but are still involved in what appears to be an incredible investment all-around. The same is true of Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila, which has already exceeded the figures forecast for its first two years of business in the two months since its launch in May, according to the company’s president. Celebrity publication Page Six even claimed that stores had sold out of stock within four hours of its first release. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson meanwhile, is spreading the word about his brand Teremana Tequila with a road trip. The ‘Great American Mana Mobile Road Trip’ will tour across the United States, calling at military bases, firehouses, hospitals, and other locations to show gratitude to the nation’s first responders. The Tequila tour bus will also visit main streets across America to encourage the public to support local businesses while serving Teremana-based cocktails, where allowed, and dishes including brioche French toast with Teremana Tequila-infused maple syrup.

The Nightcap: 23 July

You can expect Ian Burrell to be in top form as usual

RumFest returns with new Spiced Rum Show

We got wonderful news from the folks at London-based RumFest this week: it’s back in non-virtual form! Yes, organisers expect to welcome more than 3,000 actual human people across 15-17 October at the ILEC Conference Centre in west London following 2020’s mostly virtual event. The festival, founded by rum expert Ian Burrell, will host a trade exclusive day on the 15th, providing an opportunity to sample new and rare rums, network and attend educational talks. On the 16th, consumers can then enjoy demonstrations, tastings and talks from distillers and blenders, as well as live music, dancing and food. A line-up of digital events will also be available for those who are not able to attend in person. Finally, on 17 October, the festival will hold its first dedicated Spiced Rum Show. RumFest will once again serve as the culmination of London Rum Week (11-17 October), in which partner bars and restaurants across the city will host consumer events, including special menus, cocktails, pop-ups and supper clubs. The full line-up of events can be found at londonrumweek.com. If you want to pick up tickets for RumFest Live, they are available from rumfest.co.uk for £30, with ‘Golden Tot’ tokens for samples of particularly high-end rums are available to purchase for £5 each. 

The Nightcap: 23 July

The new expression has just arrived here!

The Balvenie unveils new 25-year-old whisky

When The Balvenie releases new whisky, we stand up and take note. The brand and malt master David C. Stewart MBE rarely does things by half measures and the newest expression is no exception. The Balvenie Twenty-Five will form part of the Rare Marriages range, a tribute to Stewart’s dedication to designing and building exceptional flavour through the marriage of rare casks and will join the acclaimed The Balvenie Thirty and The Balvenie Forty within the collection. The Speyside distillery tells us to expect a dram packed with soft autumn fruits, runny honey, crystallised ginger, bold vanilla oak, layers of toasted marshmallow, fresh fruit terrine and cinnamon-infused apple tart, complete with an exceptionally long-lasting sweetness. Stewart says the expression is made from casks that have “stood the important test of time” and that this “special whisky has a distinct profile and experience which we have designed to reveal the wonderful depth of The Balvenie single malt.” You don’t have to take his word for it, however, as we have some. Look. Just click here. Wonderful, isn’t it?

The Nightcap: 23 July

Gregg Glass heads up the innovative initiative

Whyte & Mackay expands its Scottish Oak Programme 

Whyte & Mackay’s exciting Scottish Oak Programme is getting even more love, according to the brand, which will expand its efforts across all its distilleries. The aim is to establish the use of native oak as a quality raw material for the wider spirits industry, starting with Scotch. Spearheaded by master whisky maker Gregg Glass, the programme aims to address some of the historical challenges around working with Scottish oak, such as porosity, quality, consistency of the wood, and cost versus true value. Inspired by his time exploring local sawmills with his Grandfather on the Black Isle, Glass wanted to explore how to harness the local environment and the programme is part of Whyte & Mackay’s commitment to sustainability. The responsible sourcing of Scottish Oak allows full traceability and will create tree planting initiatives in rural and urban communities as well as helping support forest stewardship across Scotland. Glass has been leading this project since he joined Whyte and Mackay in 2016, developing partnerships with organisations like local landowning estates, sawmills and coopers. We’re really looking forward to seeing how it develops from there.

The Nightcap: 23 July

You can be in with a chance of winning a pair of these unique trainers

1800 Tequila launches pop-up with streetwear artist Daniel Cordas

Hand painting artist Daniel Cordas, who counts the likes of Billie Eilish, Travis Scott, and Stormzy as fans, is teaming up with 1800 Tequila for a cool little collaboration next month. A visitor experience will launch at 15 Bateman Street in Soho, London on 14 and 15 August, from 11am to 7pm that will offer those that attend the chance to customise their own trainers from a curated menu of designs while enjoying 1800 Tequila cocktails (that’s cocktails by the brand 1800, not literally 1,800 different serves). Visitors can also collar Tequila educator Oliver Pergl for a tequila masterclass, while limited-edition pieces from merging sustainable streetwear brands will be featured. The main event, however, is the three trainers Cordas will customise ahead of the event with colours inspired by Tequila cocktails. He’ll use bright blue for the Tequila and Tonic, pinky-orange for the Paloma and lemon-lime for the Margarita, each infused with real splashes of 1800 Tequila. These one-of-a-kind trainers will be on display at the event and be awarded to three lucky winners. To be in with the chance to win a hand-painted bottle of 1800 Tequila or Tequila-inspired trainers, keep an eye on 1800’s Instagram page and you’ll soon be able to enter an online ballot.

The Nightcap: 23 July

If you want to try Luxardo’s new expressions, there’s no better place

Luxardo marks 200th anniversary with booze and a bash

Did you know that Luxardo is turning 200 this year? Yes, the legendary Italian booze maker is celebrating a remarkable anniversary in 2021 and, while the brand won’t be able to do all the things it had planned thanks to the pandemic, that doesn’t mean it can’t throw a party or two. One such bash is taking place at Hush bar & restaurant in Mayfair from 5 July until 30 September 2021, offering the public a season of Italian alfresco drinks and food. In absence of a big party, Luxardo will host a sun-kissed Mediterranean experience with a small masterclass tasting of new products, the Luxardo Antico Aperitivo and the limited edition, prestige Luxardo Maraschino Perla Dry Riserva Bicentenario. We had a chance to attend this week and can say from experience that it’s well worth a visit. And don’t pass up a chance to try the Maraschino Perla Dry Riserva Bicentenario. It’s sublime.

The Nightcap: 23 July

It’s a fantastic gesture. Who doesn’t like free beer?

70,000 free Pistonhead Beers offered to grassroots music venues 

As we’re sure you’re all aware, the last 18 months have been devastating for the hospitality and music sectors, with hundreds of venues closing and thousands of live events and festivals being cancelled. It has been brutal but Pistonhead is doing its bit to offer a helping hand. The leading craft beer specialists is throwing its support behind grassroots venues and the reopening on July 19th by giving away 70,000 free cans of Pistonhead Kustom Lager via an online application. With a resale value in excess of £300k, the donation should help grassroots venues to help get cash in the tills, punters at the bar and musicians back performing. Venues can apply for an allocation of this stock through The Pistonhead Foundation right here. I think we can all agree that this is exactly the kind of initiative we need right now, so kudos to you Pistonhead.

The Nightcap: 23 July

Anyone for ice cream?

And finally… Kraken Rum launches protest ice cream

Kraken Rum has something to say. It’s screaming for clean seas and spreading its message with punk rock attitude and rum. And ice cream. No, really. Partnering with marine conservation charity PADI AWARE Foundation, the rum brand’s ‘Ice Clean’ campaign aims to remind millions of staycationing Brits of the impact of litter on the UK’s oceans and beaches. Each ice cream sold will see £1 contributed to the PADI AWARE Foundation, with Kraken promising to match each and every donation helping to support and build the success of the foundation’s Marine Debris Programme. Bursting with tropical flavours, the Kraken-infused ice cream is black, so you know it’s punk rock still. But you can also expect to bite into flavoured 3D-printed edible toppings representing the top polluters in the ocean, including plastic bags, single-use cutlery, milk cartons, plastic bottles, plastic ring-pulls and aluminium cans. It’s basically like consuming a polluted ocean. Only it tastes like rummy ice cream. Hopefully. If you want to get a taste, Kraken will tour the UK across locations including Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and Glasgow, before finishing at music festival All Points East in London. To find out more about The Kraken’s ‘Ice Clean’, visit the brand’s social media pages, while if you want to donate to the PADI AWARE Foundation, head here

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MoM Loves: Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

This week at MoM Towers we’re loving a long-awaited Tequila that’s here just in time for National Tequila Day: it’s Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila! Paid partnership For a long…

This week at MoM Towers we’re loving a long-awaited Tequila that’s here just in time for National Tequila Day: it’s Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila!

Paid partnership

For a long time, there was no answer to the question: where is LVMH’s Tequila brand? The enormous French company has had its fingers in a number of boozy pies over years, with its considerable portfolio including names such as Ardbeg, Belvedere, Eminente, Glenmorangie, Hennessy, Moët & Chandon, and Ruinart. But nothing agave-based.

That all changed in May 2017, when the drinks giant formed an alliance with the Gallardo family to create its first original spirit since LVMH was founded 30 years ago. The result was Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila, a range made with 100% blue Agave from two regions of Jalisco, the lowlands and highlands. Each is distilled separately before blending and bottling with no additives. It’s a distinctive distilling process designed to marry history and tradition with innovation.

The spirit is made at a revamped historic distillery on the same site as the Gallardo family’s beautifully restored hacienda. Even though there are over 2,500 Tequila brands, there’s only around 150 distilleries in Mexico, so it’s not that common to see a new company emerge with its own space to create and innovate. The distillery sits at the base of a volcano, hence calling the brand Volcan De Mi Tierra, which translates into ‘land of the volcano’. But here’s the best bit. The name of the inactive but still imposing volcano itself is Tequila. No, you shut up.

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

The home of Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila sits underneath the Tequila volcano

A unique process

This isn’t just useful for branding purposes. More than 200,000 years ago, the volcano erupted and created the fertile soil of the Jalisco region in Mexico. The mineral-rich soil is ideal for growing two distinct types of agave in both the lowlands at the volcano’s base and the highlands nearer its summit. 

Blending two distinct agave types is not a typical process, but it allows Volcan to embrace the nuances of each and showcase the characteristics of the soil across the different regions. This focus on terroir and innovation creates a unique style of Tequila, with the lowlands agave bringing spicy and herbaceous flavours complemented by the highlands agave’s fruity and floral notes.

During the three-plus years of development, much experimentation was carried out with yeast variations, agave selection and blending, and maturation in multiple casks. After 150 tests, the method for making its Blanco was established, using a process that mixes the traditional with the modern. This means slow-roasting its agave in two different kind of ovens (traditional & autoclave) and using both a tahona (a volcanic stone wheel), and more contemporary techniques to crush and extract the agave juice.

Fermentation takes place in wooden tanks with champagne yeast used for the two lowland agaves and rum yeast for the one highland agave variety. Each agave is individually double-distilled separately in copper pot stills, not steel, before being blended together and the spirit then rests in stainless steel tanks. The whole process is overseen by Tequila maestro Tomas Perez, whose family has been agave growers for the past 70 years and he himself has been working in the industry for 32 years in different Tequila houses.

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila is all about showcasing agave varieties

The Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequilas

The Blanco is bottled at 40% ABV without additives. Most of you will be familiar with a Blanco expression, unaged bottlings which are often called ‘silver’ that allow you to really taste and appreciate the flavours the agave contributes. The brand also wanted to take advantage of the increasing market for Cristalino Tequilas, however, which are essentially añejo Tequilas that are filtered (often through charcoal) to remove some of the colour and prominent wood influence. In Volcan’s case, its Cristalino is made from a blend of añejo and extra añejo Tequilas which were aged in brandy and whisky casks and then filtered.

The bottle design incorporates the terrain of the volcano, with textures inspired by the mountain set into the base. The Blanco has a blue tint in homage to the agave it’s made from, while the Cristalino is highlighted in copper, referencing the copper stills it was made in.

Both expressions have been very well received, winning multiple awards across 14 different international spirit competitions. We’re equally impressed. The Blanco is beautifully balanced with a backbone of complex agave notes complementing an array of citrus, floral and spicy elements. While the Cristalino adds some interesting cask-influenced flavours of caramel, dried fruit and chocolate without ever overpowering the distillery character. 

The full tasting notes are below with some delightful cocktail recipes if you fancy experimenting with the two new expressions. And you can buy them both now right here.

 

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

Volcan De Mi Tierra Blanco Tequila

Nose: Fresh, herbaceous, and slightly earthy notes of roasted agave are at the core of the nose, joined by eucalyptus and summer flowers. Lime peel, pink grapefruit, cherry, and cooked apple add citrus and fruity elements alongside some flinty minerality and petrichor. A little cinnamon and black pepper bring aromatic spice.

Palate: Charred agave once again takes centre stage bringing sweet, slightly smoky, and vegetal notes. A rich and silky texture carries plenty more orchard fruit and floral elements as well as touches of sea salt and honeyed sweetness.

Finish: The clean, crisp agave lingers.

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

Volcan De Mi Tierra Añejo Cristalino Tequila

Nose: A decadent, full-bodied blend of dried fruit, salted caramel, white chocolate, and vanilla emerges first before the agave appears alongside hints of sweet tobacco, desiccated coconut, and apricot yogurt.

Palate: The palate is silky and unctuous with soft toffee pennies melting over waves of stone fruits, red apples, and barrel char. Creamy milk chocolate with plenty of vanilla is present throughout. Salted popcorn, citrus, and roasted agave add depth underneath.

Finish: The finish is peppery and bold with some hints of tropical fruit, herbs, buttery vanilla, and honey.

Volcan De Mi Tierra Tequila

The Tequilas are delicious neat but also works beautifully in cocktails

Suggested serves:

Both Tequilas are more than delicious enough to enjoy neat, but you can never go wrong with a great cocktail too. We’ve got three amazing serves to enjoy here that are simple enough to make and both look and taste terrific.

Rhubarb Tonic

35ml Volcan De Mi Tierra Blanco

125ml rhubarb tonic water

Assemble in a tumbler or Highball glass over ice and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Jalapeño Margarita

50ml Volcan De Mi Tierra Blanco

25ml freshly squeezed lime juice

20ml agave syrup

3 chunks of fresh pineapple

1cm fresh jalapeño 

Salt the rim of your glass if that’s your preference then slice 1cm of fresh jalapeño, remove seeds and finely dice. Add to a shaker alongside the other ingredients. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Fine strain into an ice-filled short glass. Garnish with pineapple leaves.

Apricot & Vanilla Old Fashioned

50ml Volcan De Mi Tierra Añejo Cristalino Tequila

10ml apricot liqueur

5ml vanilla syrup

3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass and stir for 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

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Unconventional cocktails for National Tequila Day

Día Nacional del Tequila (or National Tequila Day) is on Saturday 24 July and there’s no better way to celebrate than with Tequila-based cocktails. But why go conventional when you…

Día Nacional del Tequila (or National Tequila Day) is on Saturday 24 July and there’s no better way to celebrate than with Tequila-based cocktails. But why go conventional when you can seriously mix things up and make some unique serves?

National Tequila Day is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate one of Mexico’s finest exports (the other being mezcal. Well, any agave-based spirits. Also all the food. Actually, Mexico has loads of amazing things. I’m not going to list them all). Booze made from agave is really having a deserved moment in the sun in recent years so now is the perfect time to embrace this wonderful, diverse, and interesting world.

Part of which entails broadening your horizons and trying something new. You see, perceptions of Tequila have evolved past the previous mistaken understanding of it being purely a shot-fodder party spirit. This is a cultural, sophisticated, and magnificent spirit that you can sip neat or enjoy in classic cocktails. 

Or, cocktails that aren’t so classic. Serves you might associate with other spirits or bespoke creations from elite bartenders. Ever had a Tequila-based Negroni or Old Fashioned? Well, you should. Because they’re fantastic.

But, stepping outside your comfort zone can be intimidating. Like the first time you tried olives or ventured onto the London Underground. So we’ve made it easier by giving you some cracking recipes to get started. 

Now, let’s get ready to raise a glass this National Tequila Day!

cocktails for National Tequila Day

Every Rose Has Its Thorn (a.k.a Love Potion)

An original creation by Juan Coronado for the exciting new Mijenta brand, this serve is a romantic short drink that pairs vermouth, bitters, and creme de cacao with Blanco Tequila to create a refreshing and rewarding, yet simple cocktail. 

50ml of Mijenta Tequila Blanco 

75ml of Lillet Blanc

50ml of Martini Bitter

25ml Bols Creme de Cacao (White)

Stir all ingredients with plenty of ice, strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a rose petal.

cocktails for National Tequila Day

Storywood Train Line Collins 

The Collins is an easy but effective serve that has been a favourite in the gin world for some time. But it’s no bother at all to ditch the juniper in favour of a tasty Tequila twist on the classic, as this beauty from Scotland’s own Storywood (yes, you read that right) demonstrates.

50ml Storywood Añejo

10ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

10ml Maraschino Liqueur

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Soda water

Shake the lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and Storywood Tequila in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Strain into an ice-filled Highball glass and top with soda water and add the bitters on the top. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and a Maraschino cherry.

cocktails for National Tequila Day

Mojito Blanco

Leave regular Mojitos in the past and create the ultimate summer refresher with this easy and tasty recipe from Tequila giant Don Julio. Fresh mint and lime, please. We’re doing this right.

45ml Don Julio Blanco 

30ml simple syrup

30ml lime juice 

8-10 Mint leaves

Soda water

Muddle fresh mint in a cocktail shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients except club soda. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into the glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a sprig of fresh peppermint.

cocktails for National Tequila Day

Patrón Añejo Old Fashioned

This simple Tequila Old Fashioned cocktail recipe is enhanced with sweet, oak-aged Patrón Añejo. Whisky isn’t the only spirit to shine in this serve. Feel free to experiment with your choice of bitters.

60ml Patrón Añejo

7.5ml simple syrup

A dash of Angostura Bitters

Over a double Old Fashioned glass, use a vegetable peeler to take off two strips of orange zest, making sure to express the oil into the glass. Add Patrón Añejo, simple syrup, and bitters. Add ice and stir. 

cocktails for National Tequila Day

VIVIR Negroni 

The classic Negroni cocktail is made with three balanced components: gin, Campari, and vermouth. But this simple formula can be customized to different tastes and the right Tequila will shine in this serve. Hence why we’ve used the outstanding VIVIR. For an added twist, garnish with a cucumber instead to bring out the vibrant fresh notes of the Tequila.

40ml VIVIR Blanco Tequila

30ml Campari

30ml Sweet Vermouth

Orange peel garnish

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with loads of ice then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

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Ten bottles to transport you

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the…

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the magic of booze. From dry sherry to pungent cachaça, here are ten bottles to transport you to faraway lands. 

Nobody wants to go on holiday at the moment because it means that you might have to spend two weeks in quarantine stuck in a Travelodge at Gatwick airport. A bit like Alan Partridge, but less funny.

But it’s not all bad. There’s so much to see and do in Britain, from the mountains of Scotland to the sandy beaches of Kent. The summer holidays should be boom time for the country’s hospitality industry, which let’s face it, could do with the business. Next week, we’ll be looking at some of this country’s top boozy destinations.

And don’t forget that you can always take a holiday in a glass. Sip a Negroni in the sunshine, close your eyes and you could be in Rome. A glass of chilled sherry and some high quality ham, and you could be in a bar in Jerez. Who needs aeroplane travel when you’ve got next day delivery? 

Here are ten bottles to transport you to your favourite country

The Nightcap

Portugal: Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

There’s no better place to watch the sun go down over Porto than on the terrace of the Yeatman Hotel, especially with a White Port & Tonic in your hands. This week on the blog, Lucy Britner looked at all the great things you can do with white Port, but you can’t beat an old classic. With its rich fruity and nutty taste, Taylor’s Chip Dry goes brilliantly with tonic, just make sure you use plenty of ice and add a sprig of rosemary and a slice of orange.

Tio Pepe Fino En Rama

Spain: Tio Pepe Sherry En Rama

Every year Gonzalez Byass releases a small quantity of Tio Pepe En Rama. This is dry Fino sherry pretty much as it tastes straight out of the barrel in Jerez, bottled with minimal filtering. It’s always a treat but this year’s release is absolute dynamite. It walks a bold line between big flavours of apples and hazelnuts, and the elegance that you’d expect from Tio Pepe. Just add some olives and cheese, and you’re in Andalucia. 

These delightful cocktails will transport you to your favourite holiday destination

Italy: Select Aperitivo

Aperol and Campari might be better known, but you can’t beat a drop of Select Aperitivo when you want some Italian magic. Select is the choice of Venetians, it’s been made in the city since the 1920s. The flavour profile is bitter and grown-up but a bit more delicate than Campari. We love drinking it in a Bicicletta – a mixture of ice, white wine and fizzy water. It’s the perfect lazing in the sun kind of drink.

Mijenta Tequila

Mexico: Mijenta Tequila Blanca

Well, we had to put a Tequila in there somewhere, we’re agave mad here at Master of Malt. We were particularly taken with this recently-launched brand. It’s made by Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero, and it’s a tasty drop laden with flavours of green olives, cinnamon spice and a delicious creamy texture. It does good, too, with some of the proceeds going to various charities in Mexico. Try it in a Blood Orange Margarita

Ricard Pastis

France: Ricard Pastis

Now this one is likely to be controversial because some people hate, really hate, the taste of aniseed. But for those who don’t, nothing is more evocative of the south of France than Ricard Pastis. Drink it slowly with ice and a jug of water on the side, and before you know it you’ll be contemplating buying a beret and one of those blue jackets that old French farmers wear, and whiling away the evening playing boule and discussing politics.  

Plantation XO

Barbados: Plantation XO rum

This has proved itself a favourite among Master of Malt customers over the years. It’s a well-aged Barbados rum from spirits master Alexandre Gabriel. It spends its first few years in ex-bourbon barrels in the Caribbean before being shipped to France for secondary maturation in Cognac casks. It’s then sweetened before bottling to make a mixing rum par excellence. We love it in a Mai Tai.

caipirinha Ableha Cachaca

Brazil: Abelha Cachaça

Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha, calls for cachaça, which is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses to produce a pungent, grassy spirit that’s a bit like a rhum agricole. Much of the production is industrial but there are some smaller high quality producers like Abelha using organic sugar cane for something with a bit more character. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

America: Woodford Reserve bourbon

If you’re into cocktails, then you need at least one bottle of American whiskey in your drinks cabinet to make Manhattans, Old Fashioneds et al. Woodford Reserve is a great all-rounder. Unlike most bourbons it’s distilled in a pot rather than a column still. It also contains a high percentage of rye, 18%, with 72% corn and 10% malted barley, giving it a spicy, smooth and dry taste.

Inverroche Cocktail

South Africa: Inverroche Classic Gin

Many drinks claim to be a certain country in a bottle but Inveroche is literally South Africa in a bottle. It’s made by mother and son duo Lorna and Rohan Scott who use native South African plants called fynbos as botanicals to give you a gin that is infused with the taste of the Cape. This is the classic version, a dry gin, that makes a killer Martini, or a delicious Bramble.

Ming River

China: Ming River Sichuan Baijiu

If you really want to experience a different culture in a glass, there’s no better spirit than baijiu. It is one of the world’s most distinctive spirits, from the raw materials, sorghum, rice, millet and others, and production techniques involving fermentation over weeks and complex distillation methods. Some types can be a bit much for European taste buds, but Ming River produces a baijiu that is accessible and cocktail friendly.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Blood Orange Margarita

It’s Tequila time again as we’re making a refreshing twist on a classic using Mijenta Tequila, a new brand that takes sustainability very seriously. Here is the Blood Orange Margarita!…

It’s Tequila time again as we’re making a refreshing twist on a classic using Mijenta Tequila, a new brand that takes sustainability very seriously. Here is the Blood Orange Margarita!

One of the joys of amateur mixology is creating our own cocktails. Over the years, I have invented such not quite classics as the Martoni, basically a Martini with a tiny bit of Campari in it, the Christmas Negroni, a Negroni made with tawny Port, and, best of all, the Blood Orange Margarita.

Introducing the Blood Orange Margarita

This came about one sweltering day when my wife had cooked a massive Mexican feast, carnitas, homemade corn tortillas, black beans, roast tomato salsa, and her own secret recipe guacamole (the secret is mango). It’s pretty spicy so I was looking for something refreshing and not too strong to wash it down with so I started playing around with the proportions of the Margarita

To the classic 2:1:1 (Tequila, lime juice and triple sec) I added one part blood orange juice and served the whole thing on the rocks with a splash of soda water. Delicious. The next day, I was planning to take my drink to the cocktail patent office but a second’s search on Google told me that there were already dozens of recipes for Blood Orange Margaritas. And there’s no such place as the cocktail patent office.

No matter, it’s a damn good cocktail which has become something of a family favourite. I’m making it this week using a new Tequila called Mijenta which was founded by Mike Dolan, an ex-Bacardi big cheese (queso grande in Spanish) bartender Juan Coronado, and designer Elise Som.

Mijenta Tequila

Mijenta Tequila

To make their Tequila dream a reality, the trio enlisted the help of maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero. The agave is sourced from Arandas in the highlands of Jalisco, about 70 miles from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city. Naturally, the Tequila is 100% blue agave. The piñas are slow-cooked in the traditional manner and double-distilled in pot stills before bottling at 40% ABV. 

In an interview with the Spirits Business, Romero commented: “We really wanted it to have the local characteristics of the region. Things like the red clay soil, the agave, all these aspects really influenced the characteristics of the terroir. The characteristics are fruity flavours and aromas. I worked with jimadors to select the agave that was of a specific height and maturity to create the flavour profile of Mijenta.”

My people

The Mijenta team is into sustainability in a big way. That’s sustainable for the environment and for the community. The name comes from the Spanish phrase, mi gente, my people. The company has set up a non-profit foundation called the Mijenta Foundation which aims to preserve traditional ways of making Tequila, and invests in the local community. Juan Coronado explained, “We wanted Mijenta to tell a story of the land and its people and ensure that the artisanal nature of Tequila is not lost.”

The environmental side comes in the form of labels and boxes that are made from agave waste while all the packaging comes from Mexico. The company is even working to save the whales through an organisation called Whales of Guerrero.

All this is great, but happily Mijenta also really delivers on flavour. It’s pungent and full of mint and lime with black pepper, chillies and cinnamon tempered by the smoothest creamiest vanilla texture. Then the spices come back for a lingering finish. 

I think that creamy vanilla feel should work brilliantly with a little oak ageing so you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a reposado on the way and the brand is also working on a cristalino (aged and then filtered to remove colour) version. 

It’s a lovely sipping Tequila but that lime note means that it makes a magical Margarita. Or a bloody tasty Blood Orange Margarita, which I still like to think I invented. 

Blood Orange Margarita

How to make a Blood Orange Margarita

50ml Mijenta Tequila Blanco
25ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
25ml lime juice
25ml blood orange juice
Soda water

Briefly shake the first four ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler (you can salt the rim if you so wish but it’s not essential), top up with soda, stir and garnish with a half slice of blood orange.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Matador

In the second part of our Cinco de Mayo special, we’re celebrating the rich life of one of Tequila’s greats, Tomas Estes from Ocho Tequila, with a cocktail recipe provided…

In the second part of our Cinco de Mayo special, we’re celebrating the rich life of one of Tequila’s greats, Tomas Estes from Ocho Tequila, with a cocktail recipe provided by his son Jesse. It’s the Matador!

The Matador is one of the answers to the often asked question of what do you drink when you want a Margarita but want something a bit longer and less strong. If you’re cooking up a Mexican feast, this would be the perfect drink to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

The recipe comes from Jesse Estes’s book Tequila Beyond Sunrise. He’s a bartender with stints at notable venues as Callooh Callay, a world-renowned Tequila expert and judge, and the son of Tomas Estes, who sadly died last week. You can read our tribute to him here.

Tequila Beyond Sunrise by Jesse Estes

Tequila Beyond Sunrise by Jesse Estes, published by Ryland Peters & Small (£7.99) Photography by Alex Luck © Ryland Peters & Small

The Ocho philosophy

The Estes philosophy is summed up in the family’s Tequila brand, Ocho, a collaboration with Carlos Camarena, a third-generation Tequilero. All the agave used comes from land belonging to the Camerena family in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of Jalisco. No chemical fertilisers or pest controls are used. They only harvest very mature agave with high sugar and acidity levels. 

After harvesting, the piñas (plants minus the leaves) are cooked for three days, milled and water is added to create what is known as agave miel (honey.) It’s then distilled first in a copper and steel pot still, and then again in an all-copper one to around 55% ABV. The Tequila is either diluted with spring water or aged in used casks to reposado or añejo level. There are no additions before bottling.

Ocho is inspired by Tomas Estes’ love of Burgundy so all bottlings are from single fields and single vintages. We’ve been fortunate enough to taste along with Estes Junior on a few occasions and the difference between sites and years can be startling. There is a family resemblance, however, a green olive note and a refreshing minerality, which you can taste even in the aged examples because they have very subtle cask influence.

Jesse and Tomas Estes

Tomas and Jesse Estes

The history of the Matador

Today, that refreshing quality is coming to the fore in Estes’s take on the Matador. 

The first mention for this cocktail is in the Café Royal Cocktail Book from 1937 written by William J. Tarling which consists of Tequila, Orange Curaçao and dry vermouth. It was probably one of the first ever Tequila cocktails. It would certainly have been something of a novelty in 1930s London.

Fast forward 35 years to the 1972 edition of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide and there’s something called a Tequila Matador.  It consists of one part Tequila, two parts pineapple juice shaken with the juice of half a lime and strained into a coupe. Ever since then pineapple juice has been a component of the Matador making it a sort of tiki Margarita.

My edition of Mittie Hellmich’s incredibly thorough Ultimate Bar Book has something similar but it’s served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. She also has a frozen version made in a blender with pineapple chunks and crushed ice which sounds splendid on a hot day. Difford’s Guide adds triple sec taking his version even further into Margarita territory. 

Matador Cocktail, Jesse Estes

Jesse Estes’ Matador on the right (photo from Tequila Beyond Sunrise credit: Alex Luck)

How to make a Matador, Jesse Estes style

Estes’ version takes the classic Matador recipes and riffs on the green note in Ocho Tequila with the addition of Green Chartreuse. We’re using the unaged La Laja Tequila from 2019 which has that classic green olive and mint Ocho profile. It gets its name from ‘laja’, a type of flat stone which you’ll find many of in this particular field. The herbaceousness of the Tequila chimes beautifully with the Chartreuse.

This recipe calls for a dehydrated pineapple slice or lime wheel which you can make in the oven. But fresh fruit is fine too. We do recommend the pink pepper at the end which does all kinds of wonderful things. 

It’s a fitting way to celebrate Mexico’s national holiday, Cinco de Mayo, and pay tribute to Tomas Estes. ¡Salud Tomas!

Here’s the recipe

50ml Tequila Ocho Blanco (La Laja 2019)
20ml lime juice
25ml pineapple juice
10ml Green Chartreuse
5ml agave nectar

Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice, strain into a large rocks glass (you could also serve it on the rocks). Garnish with a dehydrated pineapple slice or dehydrated lime wheel, and freshly cracked pink peppercorns.

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Top ten: Mexican spirits for Cinco de Mayo

Today, Cinco de Mayo, is Mexico’s national day of celebration so, if you want to get involved, we’ve picked some bottles to help you get in the mood. And not…

Today, Cinco de Mayo, is Mexico’s national day of celebration so, if you want to get involved, we’ve picked some bottles to help you get in the mood. And not just Tequila and mezcal, there’s also rum, whisky and more!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that we are pretty keen on Mexican’s finest produce. Why only last week we ran a profile of Don Julio Tequila. But did you know there’s more to Mexico and booze than Tequila and mezcal? So as the world gears up to celebrate Mexico’s national holiday, Cinco de Mayo, we round-up some of our favourite bottles from one of our favourite countries. Naturally, we’ve also included some agave-based action in there. We’re not complete mavericks.

el-destilado-rum

El Destilado Rum

If you’re a fan of rhum agricole, grassy pungent spirits from the French-speaking Caribbean, then you’ll love El Destilado. Like agricole, this is made from raw sugar cane rather than molasses and fermented with wild yeasts.

What does it taste like?

Slightly tangy with green apple and white grape, with cut grass and peppercorn spice in support.

sierra-norte-yellow-corn-whiskey

Sierra Norte Yellow Corn

Whisky from Mexico, whatever next? It’s made from 85% native Oaxacan yellow corn fermented with 15% malted barley. Sounds like a recipe for a bourbon-like whisky, but the distillate is then aged in French oak for a taste that’s completely unique.

What does it taste like?

Buttered popcorn, vanilla cream and cloves, with smoky barrel char and a nutty floral finish.

ilegal-joven-70cl-mezcal

Ilegal Joven Mezcal

Don’t worry, this isn’t actually illegal (the spelling is slightly different). We wouldn’t sell anything that wasn’t legal. This unaged mezcal is in Oaxaca using traditional methods, like roasting the agave in an earthen pit for a rich full flavour. 

What does it taste like?

Sweet caramel, peppermint and smoky agave with hints of raisins, dried herbs and black pepper.

nixta-mexican-licor-de-elote-liqueur

Nixta Licor de Elote 

You can probably tell by the name, if not the shape of the bottle, what the star of this liqueur is – corn. This liqueur from Nixta is made from maize grown surrounding the Nevado de Toluca volcano, so it’s packed full of buttery corn sweetness at 30% ABV. 

What does it taste like?

Buttered popcorn and fresh sweetcorn, swiftly followed by silky caramel. This would be great in an Old Fashioned. 

el-rayo-plata-tequila

El Rayo Plata Tequila

El Rayo Tequila pays homage to the legend that lightning struck an agave plant, cooking it and creating the first ever Tequila. This particular expression is made from Blue Weber agave distilled twice in 105 year old copper pot stills.

What does it taste like?

Exceptionally smooth and gentle, with an oily mouthfeel, notes of citrus, lots of earthy agave and a hint of flinty minerals, with a warming peppery finish.

mezcal-amores-espadin-2020-edition-mezcal

Mezcal Amores Espadin 

This is the latest edition of Mezcal Amores’ Espadín-based mezcal. The producers work with small agave growers to plant ten agaves for each one they use, and make sure they’re paying the mezcaleros they’re working with a fair price.

What does it taste like?

Fresh vanilla and citrus blossom, balanced by spicy herbs, wood smoke and leafy coriander.

drinks-by-the-dram-12-dram-tequila-and-mezcal-collection

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Tequila & Mezcal Collection 

If you can’t make your mind up what to buy, then why not get this collection? In that stylish box there are 12 different 30ml wax-sealed drams of absolutely delicious Tequila and mezcal from some of Mexico’s best producers. 

What does it taste like?

What doesn’t it taste like? There are 12 delicious agave-based wonders to explore in here.

ocho-blanco-tequila-2019-la-laja-tequila

Ocho Blanco Tequila 2019 (La Laja) 

Sadly, the man behind Ocho Tequila, Tomas Estes died last week. But his son Jesse is keeping the flag flying for single rancho (field), single vintage Tequila. This unaged bottling was made with agave harvested from La Laja, named after a type of flat stone which you’ll find many of in this particular field. 

What does it taste like?

Waves of fresh mint and cooked agave sweetness, leading into dried herbs, green olive, warming, peppery spice and subtle smoke.

montelobos-joven-mezcal

Montelobos Joven Mezcal

Montelobos Joven Mezcal is made with espadin agave and distilled by mezcal guru Iván Saldaña. You can read an interview with the man himself here. It also offers a really stylish bottle with a rather ferocious-looking wolf on the label.

What does it taste like?

Wood smoke and green pepper freshness on the nose, with a tropical fruit and powerful smoke character on the nose. 

storywood-double-oak-anejo-tequila

Storywood Double Oak Añejo

Scotland, Spain and Mexico meet in one bottle thanks to this añejo Tequila from Storywood. This Double Oak expression has spent 14 months in both Scotch whisky barrels and Oloroso sherry casks. It was bottled at cask strength, 53% ABV.

What does it taste like?

Honeyed roasted agave sweetness, with jammy forest fruits, oak spice and dried fig.

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The story of Don Julio Tequila

Don Julio González-Frausto Estrada was just 17 when he founded his Tequila distillery. It’s been quite a journey from these humble beginnings to being part of one of the largest…

Don Julio González-Frausto Estrada was just 17 when he founded his Tequila distillery. It’s been quite a journey from these humble beginnings to being part of one of the largest drinks companies in the world, and enjoyed by celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the story of Don Julio Tequila.

1925 was a momentous year. America got its first female governor in Wyoming, Nellie Tayloe Ross; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published; as was Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; and Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush hit the silver screen.

Don Julio

It’s Don Julio himself!

Do Julio, the man behind the brand

It was also the year that Julio González-Frausto Estrada was born. The man behind one of Tequila’s most recognisable brands, Don Julio, was raised in the highlands of Atotonilco el Alto in Mexico’s Jalisco region. “He was born and raised in the heart of a family devoted to the agaves,’ says Karina Sánchez, Don Julio’s global brand ambassador. ‘Since he was a child he developed a devotion to the land.”

He learnt his trade as a young man making mezcal in underground ovens and at the tender age of 15, Julio was distributing Tequila on horseback to provide for his family after his father’s death. In 1942, at just 17 years of age, he bought his first distillery – La Primavera (meaning ‘spring’) – using money lent to him by a wealthy local gentleman.

However, it was another 43 years until the brand Don Julio was officially born. During a party thrown for Estrada by his sons in 1985, he requested that his special reserve reposada be served in the now signature short and square bottles so that guests could see each other across the table. When he was asked by guests where they could buy the Tequila originally only made for the family, it set off a spark for turning his liquid into a business. In 1987, finally the world was introduced to Don Julio Tequila.

Don Julio Tequila HQ

Don Julio HQ

The liquids

Today, the brand has six core expressions: Blanco, Añejo, Resposado, 70 Añejo Claro, 1942 and Real, as well as some special limited bottlings, including one even aged in Lagavulin casks – master distiller Enrique de Colsa is, needless to say, a busy man.

Making the Tequilas is a showcase in quality craft. The agaves (Don Julio only ever uses 100% blue agave) are grown in the microclimate and the mineral-rich red clay soils of Jalisco and harvested after seven to 10 years. Then, the pencas (leaves) are cut from the piñas which are then cut into thirds or quarters and steam-cooked in traditional masonry ovens over three days before going into white oak casks for the aged expressions. Eight pounds of agave goes into one bottle of Don Julio Tequila.

These meticulous methods are testament to Estrada’s love of his craft. His unconventional methods included planting the agave’s further apart and even whispering to his agaves. “I really admire his dedication and love for the agaves – he considered them as his own children,” says Sánchez. “He was also so careful about trimming the grass around them, and he taught the jimadors how to cut the leaves in his own way.”

The legacy

When Don Julio sadly passed away on Tuesday 20 March 2012, there was an outpouring of love for the Tequila pioneer. In a statement, president of global Tequila for Diageo, Maggie Lapcewich, wrote: “Throughout his life Don Julio worked arduously, neither allowing himself to fail nor succumbing to adversities. He always fought and prevailed in his perseverance to achieve his goalsMany describe the journey of Don Julio’s life as one that was honest, just and fair. He remained loyal to his beliefs and was committed to his work and family… we know that his legacy will live on.” 

Indeed it has, with Diageo completing a full acquisition of the Tequila brand and the assets of La Primavera in 2015, pumping $400m into the brand. Since then it’s been sipped by Leonardo DiCaprio, P Diddy and Hailey Baldwin at Coachella’s 2018 afterparty; had a cameo in 2018’s The Predator; and featured in its own TV promo entitled The Man, the Legend.

Don Julio continues to sell by the ‘caja’ (‘crate’) load – even if the second half of last year saw sales drop somewhat, no doubt a result of Covid. With more consumers leaning towards premium tequilas, we’re expecting the agave spirit to continue to fly off shelves and backbars. I’m sure if Don Julio could still distribute his wares on horseback, he would.

The Don Julio Tequila range is available from Master of Malt.

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Industry pays tribute to Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes

We celebrate the life of Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes who died on Sunday 25 April. He was the man behind Pacifico Mexican restaurants, which did so much to introduce high-quality…

We celebrate the life of Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes who died on Sunday 25 April. He was the man behind Pacifico Mexican restaurants, which did so much to introduce high-quality Tequila to Europe, as well as the superb Ocho range of terroir-driven spirits.

Last night, we learned that the drinks industry had lost one of its great, Tomas Estes, from Ocho Tequila. The brand’s Facebook page said: “Dear Friends, it is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we share the news of our Founder Tomas Estes’s passing. He died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday 25th April, surrounded by family in Southern Oregon.” It’s fair to say that nobody has done more to introduce high-quality Tequila to Europe than Estes.

Despite his Spanish-sounding name, Estes’ family was of English and Welsh descent. But the area where he was born in 1945, East Los Angeles, has a strong Mexican community. He truly fell in love with the culture when he first visited Mexico. While at college in LA, he spent much of the time south of the border visiting bars and, according to this interview, getting into trouble. 

Cafe Pacifico in London

Cafe Pacifico in London

Pacifico

He had a varied career after graduating in 1967 as a teacher and wrestling coach. But his life changed when visited Amsterdam in 1970 and eventually opened a Mexican restaurant in the city in 1976 called Pacifico. 

This was at a time when Mexican food, drink, and culture was virtually unknown outside the Americas. He opened a London branch of Pacifico in Covent Garden, the first Mexican restaurant in Britain in 1982, which is still going. It proved a hit with celebrities, Queen (the band) and Hunter S. Thompson both photographed there. At one point there Estes had 17 restaurants in Holland, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia.

Tequila ambassador

All the time, Estes was visiting Mexico learning about Tequila and bringing that knowledge back to Europe. His bars sold a huge range of high-quality agave spirits at a time when Tequila was just seen as a party drink, if it was known at all. He wrote a book on the subject, The Tequila Ambassador, in 2012, and was honoured by the CNIT (Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera) who made him  official Tequila ambassador for the EU.

In 2008, he began his own drinks company Ocho Tequila with Carlos Camarena, an award-winning third-generation Tequilero. It pioneered vintage, terroir-driven Tequila which at first he only sold through his bars. But gradually, people recognised the quality and it’s now recognised as one of the world’s great spirit brands. 

Jesse and Tomas Estes

Tomas and Jesse Estes with Ocho Tequila

Industry pays tribute

Estes senior inspired everyone he met as the following tributes from around the industry attest:

Master of Malt buyer Guy Hodcroft said: “‘Great’ is not an epithet to be used lightly, but Tomas Estes was truly a great man. So wonderfully generous with his time, knowledge, and love. Myself and countless others across the world have been inspired by his deep passion for Mexico and Tequila. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life in the bars he created or owned, and I know just how sad many of them are today. Tequila may just have lost the best friend it ever had.”

Meanwhile, Dawn Davies at The Whisky Exchange described him as “a man who taught us all so much and who inspired us to learn and discover more about the world he was so passionate about.”

Financial Times drinks columnist Alice Lascelles said: “You taught me everything I know about Tequila and opened my eyes to Mexico. But way, way more than that, you were a joy to be around….. Or and you made bloody good Tequila too – the best.

Drinks writers Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley described him as: “A true force of nature: an educator, a writer, a pioneer; an innovator and above all else, a genuinely lovely guy. His contribution to the world of spirits will never be forgotten.”

Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London said: “Tomas was one of a kind, he will never be forgotten… I will celebrate his life with a strong Margarita.”

Stuart Ekins from Cask Liquid Marketing who distribute Ocho in Britain paid tribute: “Your passion for Mexico, for life, for travel, for people and their different cultures, and of course Tequila, brought people together across the world, who you captivated with your knowledge, your stories, your mischief, and your fun.”

#RememberingTomas

Estes was married twice and had four sons, one from the first marriage, and three from the second including Jesse who continues in the family business. We were fortunate enough to taste through the Ocho Tequila range with Jesse in 2019.

The brand is encouraging people to share their stories of Estes: “If you wish to commemorate Tomas’s life by posting your favorite photo(s) or stories of him, please use the hashtag #RememberingTomas so that we can see and share your memories.”

RIP Tomas Estes, we’ll raise a glass to you this evening.
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Top ten: Independent spirits brands

Today, we’re striking a blow for independence with ten delicious bottlings from brands that aren’t part of big drinks companies. So, from a Maryland-style rye whiskey to single estate vodka,…

Today, we’re striking a blow for independence with ten delicious bottlings from brands that aren’t part of big drinks companies. So, from a Maryland-style rye whiskey to single estate vodka, here are some of the best independent spirits brands out there.

Most big booze brands are owned by huge multinational companies like Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Not that that’s a bad thing. We love Johnnie Walker Black Label and Beefeater, distilled by Desmond Payne in south London, is one of our go-to gins. But without a thriving independent scene, our drinks cabinet would be a lot less exciting. 

Happily, thanks to some pioneering distilleries such as Sipsmith, now part of Beam Suntory, there are now countless new brands turning out high quality, delicious and idiosyncratic boozes for all your drinking pleasure. From pungent mezcal to world-spanning Japanese blends, here are ten of the best independent spirits brands money can buy.

sagamore-spirit-signature-rye-whiskey

Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye

Much of the explosion in whiskey labels comes from independent bottlers who buy and blend spirits to create something a bit different. This is one case in point being a Maryland-style of rye which is sweeter than normal. It’s blended from two whiskeys sourced from Indiana, brought down to bottling strength with limestone-filtered water from Sagamore Farm.

How do I drink it?

Those sweet milky coffee and pistachio ice cream flavours are just crying out for an Old Fashioned

portobello-road-no-171-gin

Portobello Road No. 171 Gin

Portobello Road Gin is distilled on the actual Portobello Road in west London. It was founded by top bartender Jake Burger and Paul Lane in 2011. Alongside the distillery, the building called, naturally, The Distillery, houses two bars, a hotel and the Ginstitute where you can learn to make your own gin. Or if that sounds like too much work you could just buy this bottle.

How do I drink it?

With its elegant traditional flavours, this is great in all manner of ginny cocktails like the summery Gin Cup.

hatozaki-blended-whisky

Hatozaki Blended Whisky

If you’re a whisky fan, you probably read the recent news about the changing legislation for Japanese whisky which now excludes certain big names from the category. One company that has always been open about using imported spirits in its blends is Hatozaki. This mixes Japanese and imported whiskies and is aged in a mixture of sherry, bourbon and mizunara oak.

How do I drink it?

With those sweet flavours of honey, stone fruit and nutty cereals, this is a great one to put in a Whisky Highball with soda water and plenty of ice.

casa-noble-blanco-tequila

Casa Noble Blanco

The Casa Noble range of 100% agave Tequilas have proved quite a hit with Master of Malt customers. Agave spirits are a huge growth area as drinkers move away from the lime and salt image of yesteryear to bottles that major on flavour.  This is packed full of earthy, roasted agave notes on the nose and palate.

How do I drink it?

We’re very partial to a Sweet Orange Margarita which involves making the standard version but adding an extra part of fresh orange juice and serving it on the rocks with a splash of soda water.

new-riff-straight-bourbon-whiskey

New Riff Straight Bourbon

Those who like a spicier style of bourbon will love this. It’s distilled by New Riff distillery of Kentucky with a mash bill of 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley. Then it’s aged in toasted and charred new oak barrels before bottling at a useful 50% ABV to accentuate all those big spicy flavours.

How do I drink it?

High rye strength bourbons like this one are perfect in a Manhattan. And may we recommend the Hotel Starlino vermouth rosso which is aged in bourbon casks?

east-london-liquor-co-louder-gin

East London Liquor Co. Louder Gin

The East London Liquor Co. (ELLC) is one of our favourite small distillers. Founded in Bow in 2015, it produces a big range of spirits including gin, vodka and whisky, as well as rums imported from the Caribbean. As you might guess from the name, this gin packs a flavour punch with oily juniper bolstered by lavender, fennel, lemon peel and more.

How do I drink it?

Some gins get lost in the flavour soup that is the Negroni but Louder can make itself heard above the noise of Campari and vermouth.

quiquiriqui-tobala-mezcal

QuiQuiRiQui Tobalá Mezcal

Ok, so the name is a bit of a challenge. Apparently, it’s what Mexican cockerells say instead of ‘cock-a-doodle-do.’ But it’s worth getting past the pronunciation to enjoy this delicious mezcal. It’s produced from wild Tobalá aged between 10 and 15 years of age in strictly limited quantities to ensure sustainability. 

How to drink it?

With it’s complex flavours of coconut, tangy pineapple, mint and butter, we think it’s best just sipped neat. But it’s also fabulous in place of gin in a Negroni.

merlet-creme-de-mure-liqueur

Merlet Crème de Mure

Every drinks cabinet should have a bottle of this in it. It’s made by Merlet in France from fresh blackberries steeped in neutral alcohol and sweetened.  This firm produces a great range of fruit liqueurs like creme de cassis, poire William and apricot brandy all made in the traditional way from fresh fruit. 

How do I drink it?

Well, the classic cocktail for Creme Merlet Crème de Mure is the Bramble but it’s also great in place of cassis in a Kir Royale. 

ramsbury-vodka

Ramsbury Vodka

We were so impressed with Ramsbury when we visited a couple of years back. It’s a distillery and brewery set in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside that only uses grains from the surrounding Ramsbury Estate. Each bottle tells you the provenance and variety of the wheat used and the quality really shows when you taste this creamy spicy vodka. 

How do I drink it?

This makes the best Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, we’ve ever had. Serving it ice cold brings out that gorgeous creamy texture. 

colonel-foxs-london-dry-gin

Colonel Fox’s London Dry Gin

This is named after a war hero called Lieutenant Colonel Fox. Apparently, it’s based on his 1859 recipe that was recently rediscovered. We tend to roll our eyes a bit when we hear stories like this. There are a lot of them in the gin world. But there’s now denying the quality of this gin. That old Fox knew what he was doing.

How do I drink it?

People who like gin with plenty of flavour will lap this up. We think it’s perfect in a G&T but it’s a great all rounder, especially as it’s very reasonably priced.

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