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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: tequila

The Nightcap: 8 October

A new Islay distillery, Diageo splurging half a billion dollars on Tequila, and Gary Barlow launching his own wine are just some of the intriguing news stories that made a…

A new Islay distillery, Diageo splurging half a billion dollars on Tequila, and Gary Barlow launching his own wine are just some of the intriguing news stories that made a bumper Nightcap this week.

Right. What the hell are we wearing for Halloween this year then, folks? You’d think having the first real spooky time party in two years would mean we’d have all kinds of ideas. But, the reality is very different. How about we strike a deal, you suggest some cracking outfits, and we’ll give you another delightful dollop of Friday Nightcap goodness. Are we square? We’ll assume it’s a yes and deliver our end of the bargain. Here it is.

This week on the MoM blog, Henry tasted the Diageo Special Releases 2021, picked out ten Scotch whiskies perfect for autumn, celebrated the 100th anniversary of The Sidecar, and heard why Mezcal Amores is on a mission to persuade customers to try agave spirits neat. Elsewhere, Jess tasted new Compass Box whisky with John Glaser, while Adam we got the reaction to Bunnahabhain becoming our first MoM Whisky Icon champion, picked out some of the most entertaining events to see during London Cocktail Week 2021, made some non-boozy cocktails perfect for Sober October, and got the story behind The Spirit of Manchester Distillery. Another corker of a week.

But, it’s not over yet. Here is The Nightcap: 8 October edition!

The Nightcap: 8 October

You’d think Islay would be full of distilleries already, but people keep finding space

Islay to get new sustainable Scotch whisky distillery

A proposal for a new low-carbon whisky distillery on Islay is in the pipeline. IIi Distillery will be located at Gearach Farm near Port Charlotte and is named after an old name for Islay. The brainchild of landowner Bertram Nesselrode and farmer Scott McLellan, they plan to ensure the site is powered with renewable energy, with a hydrogen plant, solar panels, battery storage, and wind turbine, ensuring the venture is not only green, but almost off-grid. The cylindrical distillery, which will also have a separate warehouse, a grain store, a visitor centre, and plenty of parking, is their attempt to help to ensure that Islay’s whisky legacy “can continue well into the future,” as revealed in their proposal to Argyll & Bute Council. “The vision for the site is bold and different; not just another distillery on Islay, but an Islay-native project, serving and benefiting the local community with jobs, sustainability, and growth,” their application explained. “Physically, the built form of the distillery will also represent a point of difference: it will respect the built vernacular of the island and complement the natural form of its spectacular surroundings”. The proposal is awaiting feedback from the council and will go through by 14 October. Once approved, construction will begin next summer.

The Nightcap: 8 October

The Glenlivet has a pretty remarkable history

Illicit whisky site discovered in Glenlivet dig

Archaeologists have discovered the floor of an illicit whisky distillery that dates back to the 19th century in a recent dig at the former site of The Glenlivet Distillery. The newly discovered site is where Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, made whisky in 1824 in Upper Drumin, about half a mile from the current distillery. Fragments of bottle glass and ceramics believed to have been used in whisky production were also uncovered. Mr. Smith became the first illicit producer to get his licence, and Glenlivet was one of Scotland’s first whisky distilleries to become licensed after the 1823 Excise Act. Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s head of archaeology, has a long association with the location and conducted a survey of the distillery remains in the 1990s and said that “returning to this place after nearly 25 years to finally uncover the remains of this special place is really inspiring,” adding that what’s really interesting is that “this is where the illicit production of whisky and the transition towards larger-scale industrial production meet; a formative part of the whisky industry becoming one of Scotland’s biggest and most successful”. The site where the dig is being carried out as part of the Pioneering Spirit project – a partnership between conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet – is marked by an inscribed monument marking its role in whisky history. Investigations at the site began on 4 October and will run until 9 October.

The Nightcap: 8 October

Trying… to… resist… making… Take That… wine… puns…

Gary Barlow launches his own wine range 

Music man Gary Barlow has introduced his own range of organic wines, imaginatively called ‘Gary Barlow Organic’, fulfilling what has apparently been his dream “for as long as he can remember”. He spent the past two years collaborating with the Benchmark Drinks, who have also made wines with Kylie Minogue and Ian Botham. The wines are said to be “carefully crafted and developed” by the man himself. Which must have been taxing. The packaging features a piano key design, for reasons completely oblivious to us. The wines themselves come from Castilla in Spain and are produced by Peninsula Wines which is run by two masters of wine Andreas Kubach and Sam Harrop, who are known for their sustainability and approach to making wine with as little intervention as possible. So far the range consists Gary Barlow Organic RED made a juicy unoaked wine made with Tempranillo and Syrah, and The Gary Barlow Organic WHITE a refreshing blend of Viura and Verdejo. We are sorry to report that there is as yet no Jason Orange wine. Both are available online at garybarlowwines.com from 9 October. So have a little patience. 

The Nightcap: 8 October

Diageo has big agave-based plans

Diageo to spend half a billion dollars on Tequila plant

Drinks giant Diageo revealed this week it’s about to step up its Tequila-based efforts by investing half a billion dollars in the spirit (that sentence  reads best if you do a Dr. Evil impression). Work on a $500m Tequila distillery in Jalisco will begin this year in the town of La Barca, with the company saying it would support Diageo’s 10-year sustainability plan by incorporating environment-friendly technologies, and would create around 1,000 jobs. The move was motivated by the rapid growth in US Tequila consumption. Apparently Covid-19 lockdown led to a surge in online buying and the making of summer cocktails at home. Álvaro Cárdenas, president of the company’s Latin America and Caribbean operations, commented that its Tequila sales had risen 79% in the past financial year.  He also commented that this is “the most significant investment we have made in Latin America and the Caribbean in the past 10 years.” In 2019, the company completed another Tequila facility in Atotonilco El Alto, in the southern state of Guanajuato and spent a big chunk of change adding Tequila Casamigos, a brand created by actor George Clooney and other partners, to its portfolio in 2017. So if Diageo’s movements are anything to go by, the future looks very bright for Tequila.

Brewdog vodka

Coming soon… Brewdog vodka

Brewdog reveals new distillery and spirits

Brewdog is about to launch a new range of spirits that were produced at its new distillery in Ellon, Scotland. The site was built because the original location was not fit for expansion and there were capacity constraints on the whisky and rum side, according to Steven Kersley, head of distillation at Brewdog Distilling, who was quoted in an interview with The Spirits Business. The equipment from the original distillery has been moved to the new site, which will also boast a 10,000-litre triple bubble still that’s three times bigger than the original still. There’s also two 3,000-litre pot stills, one of which will become a full-time spirit still for whisky production, as well as Brewdog’s 19m-tall rectification column. Before, Brewdog could only manage eight to nine casks a week, when demand required 30-35 casks. This move should reset the balance a little and allow innovation. The new site sits next to the Brewdog brewery but will operate as its own standalone distillery. There will be a visitor experience, a gift shop, and a tasting room that will be able to accommodate upwards of 30-40 people, and will look out over the distillery so guests can see the still house. In addition, Brewdog Distilling has created a new range of vodkas: Seven Day Vodka, named as a nod to the seven days it takes Brewdog to make its vodka from scratch. Alongside the original, there’s three flavoured expressions: Passionfruit and Vanilla (which tastes like Um Bongo for grown-ups), Rhubarb and Lemon, and Raspberry and Lime (deliciously refreshing). An RTD range is also in the works. It’s all go at Brewdog at the moment.

The Nightcap: 8 October

One of the finest drops around, by our reckoning

Last Drop releases stunning 100-year-old Pineau des Charentes

We tried one of the most stunning old drinks we’ve ever tasted last week. No, it wasn’t a whisky or Cognac, or even a Port or sherry. It was a Pineau des Charentes. For those who don’t know, this is a blend of unfermented grape juice and Cognac much enjoyed in the Charente region of France. Very tasty it is too, usually, but this special one was over 100 years old. It was discovered and bottled by The Last Drop, the people behind such dazzling spirits as a 1947 Cognac and 1870 Port. The firm is so exclusive that it has only released 22 bottlings in its history. The cask was discovered alongside a barrel of 1925 Grande Champagne Cognac, hidden behind a wall of rubble before the second world war. One sniff and the Last Drop team knew they had something special on their hands. The freshness is quite incredible meaning that despite its incredible complexity and concentration – the balance is just perfect. The nearest comparison would be an old Madeira but really we have never tasted anything like this. Only 382 bottles have been filled and the price considering the quality and rarity is a very reasonable £600. We’re hoping to get some in at Master of Malt later in the year. If you’re looking for something really really special, then this should be on your list.

The Nightcap: 8 October

Tiempo is on its way to Master of Malt now!

Tiempo Tequila launches after six years development

After six years of patience, Tiempo Tequila (meaning ‘time’ in Spanish, fitting), will launch its first batch of Reposado Cristalino Tequila in the UK. Each of the 1,320 limited edition bottles is made from 100% mature blue weber agave, grown and harvested in the Altos and Valley regions of Jalisco by master distiller, Augustin Sanchez Rodriguez to create a liquid that is additive-free, and does not use any chemical intervention. Working alongside a fifth-generation family of distillers, Tiempo is slow-cooked for 48 hours before being fermented using natural yeast for a further 60 hours. It is then twice distilled before spending up to one year aging in American oak whiskey casks. The liquid is then filtered before being housed in recycled glass with sustainably printed and inked labels as well as natural cork and a wooden stopper.  Latin American illustrator Alan Berry Rhys has depicted a surrealist journey through the Mexican jungle on the packaging. Tiempo is working towards ensuring its practices are sustainable by providing living wages for its growing and production team, focusing on sustainable agave farming in the fields, cutting CO2 emissions, reusing agave waste, and packaging with recycled glass and materials wherever possible. And it’s on its way to Master of Malt.

The Nightcap: 8 October

Not whiskey. Or particularly Malaysian. A bit of a swing and a miss, this one

We sample ‘Malaysia’s best whiskey’

We were very excited earlier this year when we received an email entitled: “EXCLUSIVE INVITATION – LAUNCH OF MALAYSIAN BEST WHISKEY.” We’re big world whisky fans but we’ve yet to have anything from Malaysia. We were even more excited when a bottle arrived at MoM Towers. It’s called Timah and on the label it says ‘1871 the legend of Captain Speedy’ and promises to be a ‘Double Peated Blended Whiskey’. It’s made by Winepack corporation who apparently have a “30 years history-making high-quality alcoholic drinks.” We were leafing through the bumf which came with the sample bottle and it states: “Timah’s fine balance of malt and sugarcane molasses imparts a unique peat-infused character.” So sadly this isn’t technically whisky (by EU and British regulations). The bottle says it’s “distilled, blended and bottled in Malaysia” but according to the PR contact, that’s not entirely true. He commented: “The peated whiskey components are imported which is (sic) then blended by our master blender in Malaysia.” He didn’t say exactly where they came from but Ruben from Whisky Notes has information that one of the malts is from Caol Ila. It certainly smells like an Islay, albeit one sniffed across a crowded bar. It’s a bit dilute on the palate but made a refreshing tasty drink with ginger ale and a slice of lime. So if you’re in Malaysia, look out for Timah. But you’re unlikely to ever find it at Master of Malt unless the labeling is changed.

The Nightcap: 8 October

We tried these two Calvados expressions and vouch for how sublime they are

… And delicious Calvados at Coupette

We had a tremendous time at London’s Coupette cocktail bar this week, celebrating the launch of Maison Sassy X Coupette Calvados! It’s fair to say that the two know their apples. Coupette with its famous array of Calvados and its expert bartenders who know exactly when it’s right to rustle up a russet or grab a Granny Smith. Meanwhile, SASSY has grafted to bring the delights of Norman cider to us all, and with deep roots in the orchards of the region, it seems only right for a Calvados to join the ranks! We were treated to a tasting of the two new bottlings, Calvados Fine and Calvados XO (which is aged for six years in rum casks!), and were immensely impressed by both. The Coupette team did not disappoint, with a special cocktail menu for the evening, showcasing the two expressions. Every serve was a stunner, the Pan American Clipper, made with SASSY x Coupette Fine, grenadine, lime, and absinthe was exceptional. We were also blown away by another collab between the two brands. A collab within a collab if you will – a canned, ready-to-drink expression of Coupette’s unofficial signature cocktail Apples, also made with SASSY x Coupette Fine. We’re still wondering if they actually shrunk one of their bar people and hid them inside the can to mix it – it was that tasty.

The Nightcap: 8 October

Lyons will provide the drinks expertise

Will Lyons and Charlie Bigham’s host virtual charity banquet

Award-winning wine writer Will Lyons has teamed up with independent food brand Charlie Bigham’s to co-host its upcoming virtual charity banquet tomorrow, offering drink pairing suggestions across a four-course cook along. Featuring top chefs Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca and MasterChef champion; Vivek Singh, founder and executive chef at The Cinnamon Collection; Theo Randall, chef proprietor at Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, and Ping Coombes, MasterChef champion, who will offer their expertise across each course. And you can cook along at home thanks to recipe boxes delivered straight to your door. The aim is to raise £30,000 for pioneering charity Chefs in Schools, allowing 2,400 more children to enjoy delicious and nourishing food at school every day. Tickets went on sale here, and included a £5 donation that Charlie Bigham’s will match. Will Lyons’ pairings will be one to watch for drinks fans, he’s The Sunday Times wine critic, and a winner of both the Glenfiddich and Roederer wine writing awards. We’re a fan of a good cause and if it helps further people’s drinks knowledge in the process then that’s a welcome bonus.

MENTZENDORFF KUMMEL Small

We want to reassure Britain’s golfers that there’s plenty of kümmel to go round

And finally… Don’t panic, there is no kümmel shortage

First, there was last year’s toilet paper shortage, then the recent brawls at petrol stations among people queuing to fill up their cars, now it looks like there will be fisticuffs at golf clubs around the country as there are rumours of a kummel drought. For those who don’t know, kümmel is a caraway-flavoured schnapps that is particularly popular among the vibrant golfing community. But it seems that one of the principal brands, Wolfschmidt, has ceased production. Blog Cookie Jar Golf reported: “In recent weeks, reports have been coming into us from all corners of the U.K. that clubs are unable to secure orders on further stock of Wolfschmidt, amid rumours that the Danish company has ceased production. Despite a lot of phone calls and various efforts to establish contact with the brand, no official statement has been received however we can confirm that future orders on the product are no longer possible.” But there is no need to panic, repeat DO NOT PANIC, Andrew Hawes, MD of rival brand Mentzendorff reassured us. “We’ve been keeping kümmel enthusiasts well-stocked for over 150 years and have no plans to stop any time soon!” he commented. And there’s plenty of stock left at Master of Malt. 

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The winner of our El Rayo Tequila bundle is…

Today, we announce the name of the person who has won our #BagThisBundle El Rayo Tequila competition. One lucky winner will be receiving a whole load of agave-based goodness. On…

Today, we announce the name of the person who has won our #BagThisBundle El Rayo Tequila competition. One lucky winner will be receiving a whole load of agave-based goodness.

On the 21 July, in time for #NationalTequilaDay, we launched a #BagthisBundle competition to win all kinds of exciting things with El Rayo Tequila. The bundle consisted of:

-3 x 70cl El Rayo Reposado
-3 x 70cl El Rayo Plata
-24 x 150ml London Essence Indian tonic water
Hola Lou prints

Everything you need to make some delicious Tequila-based drinks.

And the winner is…

Tanner!

We’ve been asked to only reveal one of our winner’s names. Congratulations! We are sure you’ll enjoy all that agave deliciousness.

Keep an eye on the blog for upcoming competitions.

El Rayo Tequila

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Top ten bottles from independent distilleries

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our…

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our top ten bottles from independent distilleries.

It’s not easy being an indie in a drinks industry dominated by giants like Diageo, Pernod Ricard or Beam Suntory. These behemoths have marketing budgets bigger than some countries. How do you compete with that? Then there’s always the possibility that one of the big boys will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Pernod Ricard, in particular, seems to be constantly snapping up craft gin distilleries.

Yet, we’re glad that so many independent distillers are not only surviving but thriving. They are able to react more quickly than the giants, be more individual, or just do things as they’ve always done without having to worry about shareholders.

An independent could be a hungry start-up bursting with innovation, or a family business that’s been honing its craft for generations. Either way, you’re getting something a bit different when you go independent. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites from the world of whisky, gin, rum, Cognac and Tequila. Let’s raise a glass to the small fish of the drinks industry!

Top ten bottles from independent distilleries

edradour-10-year-old-whisky

Edradour 10 Year Old 

Edradour is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and at the heart of the range, this 10 year old Eastern Highlander is a highly distinctive single malt, a decidedly rum-like dram with a thick mouthfeel. The distillery’s methods of production remain virtually unchanged in the last 150 years, and we can see why. If it ain’t broke and all that. This single malt’s decade of ageing was spent in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks. This is one sherry monster and we love it.

drumshanbo-single-pot-still-inaugural-release-whiskey

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still

The single malt still is Ireland’s great gift to the whiskey world. Until recently, if you wanted some of that creamy magic, there was only one game in town, Irish Distillers. Now though, independent distillers are beginning to release spirits like this splendid one from Drumshanbo. The mash bill is a mixture of malted and unmalted barley with 5% Barra oats. It’s triple distilled before being matured in a combination of Kentucky bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, making for a glorious balance of cream and spice.

Wilderness Trail Bourbon

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

Many small American whiskey brands buy in spirits from larger distillers. Wilderness Trail, however, did things the hard way when the founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist (great name) built their own distillery at Danville, Kentucky in 2013. This Single Barrel release is made from a mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% malted barley, aged in toasted and charred barrels. It’s also bottled in bond, meaning that, as laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, it must be aged between five and six years and bottled under the supervision of the U.S. Government at 100 proof, or 50% ABV in British English.

Hayman's London Dry Gin & Tonic

Hayman’s London Dry Gin

The Hayman family are descended from James Burrough, the founder of Beefeater Gin. They have been distilling for five generations but it’s only in recent years that the family name has appeared on bottles. These days, their gin is produced in Balham in South London (following the Hayman’s base of operations moving from Essex in 2018), only four miles from where the company was founded by Burroughs. This classic London Dry Gin is produced to a family recipe which is over 150 years old but the company also makes innovative products like the fiendishly clever Small Gin.

Masons-Gin

Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin

Mason’s is back from the brink. In April 2019, the distillery burnt to the ground in a freak fire. It was utterly destroyed. But founders Catherine and Carl Mason did not give up. They had their gin made at another distillery before rebuilding and reopening in 2020 (read more about the story here). Their distinctive London Dry Gin uses Harrogate spring water along with juniper, a proportion of which is from their own bushes, and a combination of secret botanicals including citrus, fennel and cardamom. Produced in small batches, each bottle has hand written batch and bottle numbers.

Botanivore Gin

St. George Botanivore Gin 

As you might be able to tell from our visit in 2019, we’re pretty keen on everything from California distilling pioneers St. George. The team makes whiskey, vodka, various types of gin, liqueurs, eaux-de-vie and more. But we can only pick one thing so we’ve gone for the Botanivore Gin. It’s made with 19 different botanicals, including angelica root, bay laurel, coriander, Seville orange peel, star anise and juniper berries, among others. It’s like a greenhouse in a bottle.  This would make a superb Martini with just a splash of vermouth and a green olive.

O Reizinho Rum

O Reizinho 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) 

This has proved a hit with customers and staff alike. It’s a rum from the Portuguese island of Madeira, located off the coast of West Africa, made by O Reizinho and bottled by our very own That Boutique-y Rum Company. The distillery uses fresh sugar cane rather than molasses so expect lots of vegetal funkiness with green banana, olive and red chilli, tamed somewhat by three years in oak barrels bringing toffee, vanilla and peanuts to the party. And what a party it is! This is now the second batch; only 1936 50cl bottles were filled at 52.6% ABV. 

Scratch Patience Rum

Scratch Patience Rum

British rum, distilled in Hertfordshire by one man spirits maverick Doug Miller. Read more about him here. A great deal of patience has gone into this one. The rum is double distilled, spending time in whisky casks between distillations, before further maturation in ex-bourbon and new oak casks. Finally, the matured rums are blended for perfect balance and bottled in small batches. Wonderful stuff, expect flavours of toffee and butter fudge, tropical hints of banana with rich, oaky vanilla, combined with dried fruits and soft wood spice prickle. It just goes to show that patience does pay off!

Frapin 1270

Frapin 1270 Cognac 

Whereas most Cognac is made from bought-in grapes, wine or eau-de-vie, Frapin only uses fruit from the family’s estates in the Grand Champagne region. They ferment and distill everything themselves too. After distillation, 1270 was matured for six months in new oak barrels and then moved to older casks for extended ageing. The name is something of a tribute to the long history of Frapin. A refined and fruity Cognac that was created by Frapin to work as an aperitif, served over ice, or as a base for cocktails. 

Tequila Fortaleza

Fortaleza Tequila Reposado 

The brand Fortaleza was launched comparatively recently, back in 2005, but Guillermo Sauza’s family have been making Tequila for five generations. Apparently his ancestor, Don Cenobio, was the first person to export “mezcal de tequila” to the United States, shorten the name to simply ‘Tequila’, use steam to cook the agave rather than an earthen pit, and specify blue agave as the best to use. Quite a legacy! This reposado bottling spends a short time in ex-bourbon barrels where it takes on popcorn, caramel and wood spice to go alongside those fruity, herbal agave flavours. 

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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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