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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: The Balvenie

New Arrival of the Week: Balvenie Edge of Burnhead Wood 19 year old

This week we’re shining our giant Master of Malt spotlight (think 20th Century Fox logo) on a new release from Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley and kilned using local…

This week we’re shining our giant Master of Malt spotlight (think 20th Century Fox logo) on a new release from Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley and kilned using local heather. To tell us more we have brand ambassador extraordinaire Alwynne Gwilt.

The Balvenie Stories range was launched last year with three distinctive whiskies:  The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 year old, A Week of Peat 14 year old and A Day of Dark Barley 26 year old. Each one highlights an aspect of the rich history of the distillery and some of its long-serving personnel. Alwynne Gwilt from the distillery told us: “At The Balvenie, we are lucky to have an incredibly loyal team working at the distillery, many of whom spend decades or entire careers with us. As such, we have a wealth of stories that go along with that because they know what life was like working in the distillery in the 1970s, say, and how it has developed and changed over the subsequent decades.”

Alwynne Gwilt Balvenie

Alwynne Gwilt having fun at The Balvenie

One such lifer is master distiller David Stewart MBE who has been with The Balvenie for 57 years. Gwilt told us: “One of my favourite memories of time spent with David is when we were in his lab nosing samples and I asked him what motivates him to keep coming to work after so many years. And he said: ‘Because, I can always keep learning something new.’ That humbleness, that willingness to be open, is inspiring and I think this whisky with all of its intriguing facets is testament to that ethos.”

It’s called the Edge of Burnhead Wood, after a wood near the distillery. Doesn’t Burnhead Wood sound like the whiskiest wood ever? This expression pays homage to the landscape, the barley and the water of this most beautiful part of Scotland. It’s the first ever Balvenie made entirely from estate-grown barley all malted by hand on Balvenie’s traditional floor malting.

This love of the landscape goes further because, as Gwilt explained: “We put a layer of heather [collected from Burnhead Wood] on top of the coals as it was going through the drying process.” A technique that was done in the past at the distillery. Gwilt elaborated: “Preserving those stories, and those moments in time when we make interesting decisions such as adding heather to the malt during the kilning process on this new release is vital to us not only because it represents the legacy of these individuals but also because it speaks to the human element of whisky making.” Finally, the water used comes from the nearby Conval hills.

It’s David C. Stewart or DCS to his friends

Gwilt then told me a little about the casks used to age the spirit: “In the case of The Edge of Burnhead Wood it has only been matured in American Oak and does not go into a secondary cask for a finish.” It’s a 19 year old whisky bottled at 48.7% ABV. The Edge of Burnhead Wood is a limited release, much like last year’s The Day of Dark Barley, so when it’s gone, it’s got. 

David Stewart commented: “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie Distillery and are deeply embedded in all the work that we do. The story behind The Edge of Burnhead Wood captures the majestic Speyside landscape and the inventive essence of The Balvenie’s loyal and determined craftspeople. In this way, The Edge of Burnhead Wood sums up the spirit of the work carried out at The Balvenie Distillery; The Balvenie remains true to the techniques and stories passed down by its craftsmen from generation to generation, while also looking forward by exploring new techniques, flavours and marriages to develop unique and original Balvenie expressions.”

You can learn more by listening to a specially-produced podcast (available here, on Spotify, and can be accessed by scanning a QR code on the bottle) between Stewart and brand ambassador Gemma Paterson. Gwilt described it as: “the perfect escape for a time like this, when sometimes you just need to curl up, enjoy a whisky, and hear a friendly voice.” 

The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19 year old is available now from Master of Malt.

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Dried fruit with a dusting of nutmeg, honey on toast, an oily hint or two of roasted barley balanced by citrus blooms.

Palate: More dried fruit – this time Medjool dates and plump sultanas – followed by aromatic oak warmth, delicate heather honey and sugary shortbread.

Finish: More floral wafts of heather and vanilla blossom, plus a final whisper of candied ginger.

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Sip on some superb Speysiders!

Sad about the cancellation of the Spirit of Speyside Festival? We’ve got just the thing to lift your spirits: a whole bunch of delicious whiskies from that very region! We…

Sad about the cancellation of the Spirit of Speyside Festival? We’ve got just the thing to lift your spirits: a whole bunch of delicious whiskies from that very region!

We were all disappointed to find out the Spirit of Speyside Festival had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event welcomes a huge number of visitors from across the globe each year to enjoy over 700 whisky-themed activities in a celebration of the biggest whisky-producing region in Scotland. But we can still champion Speyside and its huge variety of delicious whiskies by helping ourselves to a bottling from one of its many distilleries. We’ve done our bit by narrowing down your considerable choice. This selection features a wide range of some of the finest expressions from the region so you can get your hands on some delicious Speysiders with ease. Enjoy!

Speyside #2 25 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)     

We begin our round-up with a delightful mystery. We know is that this a 25-year-old single malt from a Speyside distillery and that it was bottled by the wonderful folk over at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. We also know that’s it’s from a different distillery in the region to Speyside #1, which only increases the intrigue. What we can confirm, however, is that it’s very, very tasty.

What does it taste like?

Estery malt, candied fruit, nutty almond oil, barley sugars, a hint of Turkish delight, ginger, cinnamon, lemon citrus, white oak, praline, hazelnut, cedar, honey, dried apricot,  gingerbread, dark caramel, vanilla essence and maybe even a hint of rancio.

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 63      

Aberlour is one of those distilleries that has a passionate following who look forward to every release, in particular the excellent A’Bunadh batches. Well known for being made of whiskies with intense and complex profiles that are matured in Spanish oloroso sherry butts and bottled at cask strength and the 63rd edition is no exception. The series is incredibly popular and its expressions always end up selling out so you’ll want to get your hands on this one sooner rather than later.

What does it taste like?

Buttered malt loaf, sherried peels, spearmint, Christmas cake, dark chocolate mousse, cinnamon, white pepper, dried fruit and sugared almonds.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask     

There are few distilleries that boast a range as consistently excellent and intriguing as The Balvenie, who demonstrated how to put ex-rum casks to good use with this tasty expression. The single malt Speysider was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held Caribbean rum, imparting some extra sweetness and warmth.

What does it taste like?

Tropical fruits, namely passion fruit, sweet vanilla, apples, mangoes, orange and creamy toffee.

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old        

Those who love sherried whisky love Glenfarclas whisky, and for good reason. The independent and family-owned distillery is well known for producing some spectacular sherry bombs and its 15-year-old expression maybe the standout from its impressive core range.  A fabulously complex and rich Scotch, Glenfarclas 15 Year Old is bottled at 46% ABV simply because this was the strength that George Grant’s grandfather preferred it at. 

What does it taste like?

Intense, powerful sherry, rancio, orange peel, walnuts, dates and peppermint.

Cardhu Gold Reserve      

A sweet, mellow and easy-drinking expression from one the region’s oldest distilleries, Cardhu Gold Reserve is an impressive no-age-statement release that represents seriously good value for money. It’s a whisky that’s delightful when mixed and we can tell you from experience that it makes a very good Hot Toddy.

What does it taste like?

Honeyed tinned stone fruits, toffees, strawberry, red apple, ginger and biscuity oak.

Master of Malt 10 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur        

Something a bit different to conclude our list is a whisky liqueur that’s excellent over ice with a healthy helping of fresh orange peel, but more than good enough to drink neat. Our very own Speyside Whisky Liqueur was made exclusively using 10-year-old single malt whisky from one of Speyside’s most famous distilleries that was previously matured in sherry casks to give it that classic Speyside style. We emphasised this flavour by adding a host of tasty ingredients such as cinnamon, two different kinds of orange peel and cloves. Delicious.

What does it taste like?

Dried, aromatic fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, Angostura bitters, cola, peppermint, dark chocolate, dried ginger, crème brûlée, blood oranges, mint humbugs, sweet malty cereal and vanilla.

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The Nightcap: 10 January

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery. After…

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery.

After a few weeks in a regenerative cocoon made out of Stilton and Yule log, The Nightcap has emerged with wings and those weird bug antlers that are actually eyes, ready to chow down on all the news from the booze world. That was a long-winded way to say that The Nightcap is back after a bit of a Christmas break, but the enthusiasm remains the same. We’re excited to see what drinks news this new year (and new decade) will behold – and it all kicks off… Now!

The blog was still full of fabulous features even throughout the festive period. We announced the winner of our Where’s #WhiskySanta 2019 competition the same week our supernatural, omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded sadly went on his holibobs. We then looked back at 2019: the delightful drinks we enjoyed (bartenders also had their say), the most read posts on our blog and an honest review of our trend predictions, before cracking out the crystal ball and to do it all again for 2020. Not always that seriously.

Our Dry January coverage kicked off at the Small Beer Brew Co., before Fiona Beckett and Claire Warner dropped by for a chat. Annie then explored the world of no-ABV cocktails, embraced #veganuary and the use of plant milk in cocktails and even looked to the future of AI in booze. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed some warming rums, cast a spotlight on Micil and then Luxardo Distillery, while Jess brushed up on her Armagnac knowledge, and Henry reported on the developments at Port Ellen Distillery. Even among all that content, there was still time for a couple of new arrivals, including Bob Dylan’s own whiskey and a single malt from Yorkshire, as well as a fruity little number for Cocktail of the Week. Oh, and Dram Club returned for 2020.

Phew, talk about blog-mageddon! Now, for the first time in 2020, let’s enjoy the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The Cat and Fiddle Inn opened in 1813 and is 1,689 ft (515m) above sea level

Funding secured for UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery

There’s another new distillery on the way, folks! This one’s got a pretty cool story, too. Take one historic pub, The Cat & Fiddle, situated 1,689ft above sea level in the Peak District. It’s beautiful but didn’t do so well as a pub (the whole driving a long way to it thing wasn’t really working…). It opened in 1813, but ‘reluctantly’ closed its doors in 2015. Business was far from booming. But step in the Forest Distillery team! Eager to expand production, and to find a space for casks to mature, it teamed up with the pub’s Robinson family to kick off a crowdfunder to refurbish and transform the pub into a whisky distillery. An initial crowdfunding exercise raised £55,000, and now the team says it’s well on the way to reaching its eventual £250,000 goal. The site will be renamed The Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, after the adorable motif on the Forest Gin bottle. As well as the pub and distillery, there will also be an onsite shop with takeaway options for picnics and a visitor centre. And the best bit? The Forest Distillery team reckon the new site will be ready to open come August! We’re VERY excited. Wondering the elevation of the current highest whisky distillery in the UK? That title goes to Dalwhinnie, perched at an altitude of 1,164ft. The only way is up!

The Nightcap

The AF Bar features 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness

BrewDog launches ‘world’s first’ alcohol-free beer bar

Sound the ‘Dry January’ sirens, folks, we’ve got a big one here. BrewDog has launched a bar dedicated to alcohol-free beer. A whole bar. 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness. Launched this week in Old Street, London, it’s the first time the independent Scottish craft brewer has featured a line-up solely devoted to drinks without alcohol at a bar where visitors will be able to enjoy activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo, Famous First Words, and more. But, perhaps most excitingly for the thrifty among us, BrewDog will also be running the ‘Drink All You Can Jan’ programme across all its bars, which will offer drinkers unlimited refills of its alcohol-free beers for the entire month. BrewDog previously dipped its toes into low-ABV waters with the release of Nanny State in August 2009, which is now the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free craft beer. It followed that up with an alcohol-free version of the flagship Punk IPA, Punk AF, and two new additions, Wake Up Call, a coffee stout, and Hazy AF, an alcohol-free take on its existing New England IPA, Hazy Jane. BrewDog referenced a UK Beer Market Report from Mintel in 2018 that said that 24% of beer drinkers are choosing more low- or no-alcohol options, and that 28% of beer drinkers are cutting back on consumption because of health concerns, so the brand clearly feels this is a timely initiative. “Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that’s just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it,” said James Watt, who is apparently the ‘captain’ of BrewDog (lame). “We are going to change that. We exist to be a point of difference, and our first BrewDog AF Bar is just that. It is a beacon for anyone in London after an alcohol-free alternative. Alcohol-free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. ‘Drink all you can Jan’ is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn’t mean compromising on quality or taste.”

The Nightcap

The new-look Powers range

Powers Irish Whiskey unveils new look

Powers Irish Whiskey has revealed a new bottle design for its range of premium Irish whiskeys, which will debut on core expression Powers Gold Label in the USA from March 2020. The makeover was undertaken to reach a new generation of drinkers to the classic Irish whiskey brand, which is made by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery, and follows the launch of Powers Old Fashioned, the brand’s first-ever pre-mixed cocktail and the Powers Quarter initiative, a collaboration between six Dublin bars to tell the story of Powers and its history. The updated design for the bottle shape is inspired by the distinctive pot still silhouette from the brand’s historical home at John’s Lane Distillery and the label is styled on the Powers ‘diamond P’, which was one of the first-ever trademarks registered in Ireland. Each whiskey will also have a different colour label, with Powers Gold Label in red as an homage to the original red Powers diamond marque, Powers Three Swallow in blue as a nod to the bird’s feathers and Powers John’s Lane Release in metallic ink, to reflect the industrial nature of the original distillery established in 1791 on John’s Lane, Dublin. “Powers sense of identity has always focused on the diamond P; that became very clear to me as I worked my way through the historical archive. The diamond P was everywhere; on the casks, stationery, on bills and receipts, emblazoned on everything that left the distillery, and notably on the wonderful Powers mirrors that still hang in Ireland’s pubs today,” says Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers. “Workers at the old John’s Lane distillery even took to wearing a diamond P pin on their lapel, such was their pride to be part of the Powers family.  For me it’s wonderful to see the diamond P front and centre on this new label, symbolising all the history of this great whiskey since 1791.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, added: “We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”

The Nightcap

The future is bright in the Cotswolds

Cotswolds Distillery raises £1m in crowdfunding campaign

The award-winning Cotswolds Distillery has been feeling the love this week at it delightedly reported that its recent fundraising had already raised £1 million. In early December 2019, the producer of delicious English spirits (we’re big fans of its whisky) launched the campaign through its Angel’s Share 2 fundraising platform in order to “maximise whisky production and continue its brand-building programme”. It’s little surprise that the initiative attracted such interest from investors, as back in 2018 the distillery successfully raised £3m of equity which was subsequently invested in building the brand and senior management team. “We pride ourselves on creating award-winning English whiskies that are enjoyed across the world, and, are always looking for new investors to join us on this journey,” says Dan Szor, founder and CEO of the Cotswolds Distillery. “It is a very exciting time for them to be involved with the company and we’re hoping that this new investment will carry us through the next chapter in the distillery’s evolution and help support us in creating even more delicious whisky!” If you fancy investing yourself, you can do so here before 13 January 2020.  

It’s Alissa!

The Balvenie kicks off Stories tour

Single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie is poised to take its Stories tour of bar takeovers on the road, with stops including London’s Lyaness (Sunday 12 January) and The Artesian (13 January), as well as Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Café (15 January). And there’s an antipodean twist: six of Australia’s leading bartenders are coming along for the ride. Alicia Clarke of Jangling Jack’s in Sydney; Jessica Arnott of Foxtrot Unicorn in Perth; Nicola Dean of Maybe Mae in Adelaide; Kayla Reid of Nick and Norah’s in Melbourne; Chelsea Catherine of The Black Pearl in Melbourne; and, Alissa Gabriel of Mjolner in Sydney will all make drinks using The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old. Serves have been based on stories shared with the group of bartenders by Kelsey McKechnie, The Balvenie’s apprentice malt master, and creator of the expression. “I’m thrilled to be welcoming such an incredible cohort of bartenders onto UK shores to share stories and these special drinks with UK consumers,” said Alwynne Gwilt, UK ambassador. “Our new whisky series, The Balvenie Stories, is all about connecting through storytelling and I’ve no doubt this latest event series at these leading bars will give us some great tales to tell as the year goes on!” It’s not just about the booze – 10% of drinks sales from the tour will be donated to charities fighting the devastating bushfires in Australia. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in London or Glasgow, head on down!

The Nightcap

The Impact Fund is a commendable cause

Symington Port launches environmental initiative 

2020 has seen Port producer Symington Family Estates off to a flying start, celebrating some rather impressive milestones with the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port and the 350th anniversary of Warre’s Port. To celebrate, the Symington family didn’t just throw a massive party and sip on the delicious fruits of their own labour (who wouldn’t?), but created a force for good in the world! The family has created a new Impact Fund with an initial pledge of a whopping €1 million euros. The purpose of the fund? It’s threefold: community wellbeing and health, environmental protection and conservation, and cultural heritage and education, all in the Douro and Greater Porto regions as well as the Alto Alentejo. They’re currently working with Volunteer Emergency Services of the Douro region (they’ve donated 13 ambulances so far) and Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that provides education and opportunities for underprivileged children in the Douro. “We have always sought to run our family business in a way that benefits people – be they our employees or the wider community. We are also committed to protecting the beautiful natural environments where we produce our wines,” said Rupert Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates. “We have consistently reinvested in the Douro region and have a long history of supporting social initiatives in the areas where we work. The Symington Impact Fund is a way of formalising this commitment and ensuring we support projects which are most aligned with our values and where we can have the maximum positive impact.” What a way to celebrate! 

The Nightcap

George Duboeuf, the man who turned Beaujolais into an international sensation, died this week at 86.

The King of Beaujolais dies at 86

This week the wine world lost one of its greats: George Duboeuf, known as the King of Beaujolais. Duboeuf was a marketing genius who took the annual release of the young wine, generally enjoyed only in local bars, and made it a global news story in the 1970s and ‘80s. On the day the wine was released, always the third Thursday of November, there were races to be the first to bring that year’s vintage back where it was sold with the slogan: ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’. At a time when in Britain wine was still seen as something elitist, Duboeuf made it unpretentious and fun. He was born in 1933 into a vine-growing family in Burgundy and set up his own merchant business in 1964. It came to dominate the region through its own-label wines, with the pretty flowery labels, and by producing wines for retailers. Dominique Piron, head of Inter Beaujolais, commented: “Through his vision and his work, he gave life, colour, aromas and joy to the wines of Beaujolais. He was a catalyst, taking with him other merchants and other winemakers which made Beaujolais the first vineyard in France to make the headlines in newspapers and televisions, in France and around the world.” He went on to say: “The family business is in good hands with his son, Franck Duboeuf, at the helm and the adventure will continue.” Au revoir, Monsieur Duboeuf, and thank you for all the wine.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to WASE!

English start-up chosen for final of $1m Chivas Venture Fund

A London-based company WASE, which makes wastewater treatment systems, has won the England & Wales heat of this year’s Chivas Ventures. This annual competition run by the Scotch whisky company gives away $1 million to help with worthwhile businesses around the world. So far, Chivas has given away $5 million and, according to its figures, benefited over two million lives. WASE will now compete with 25 other companies in the global final in June. Before that, all 26 competitors will go to London for an intensive three-day training programme with experts and industry professionals. Founder Thomas Fudge commented: “I’m super excited and honoured to be representing England and Wales in The Chivas Venture global finals. Can’t wait to show the rest of the world what WASE has to offer and fight for my spot in the finals. Watch this space!” According to the press release: “WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients and water in wastewater  providing sanitation and energy in under-served communities.” Sounds very worthwhile. Good luck to WASE for the grand final in June!

The Nightcap

The Calming Coral cocktail

The Coral Room and MEDA kick-off 2020 with CBD-infused zero-alcohol cocktails

The Coral Room is getting its zeitgeist on in 2020 by kicking off the new year with a range of cocktails made by head mixologist Stefan Pohlod that are CBD-infused and non-alcoholic. The core ingredient in each serve is a drink from lifestyle brand MEDA’s range, GLOW, CALM, RECOVER and Espresso Medatini SKUs, which were created by blending of 5-15mg of liposomal CBD (cannabidiol) with synergistic ingredients. The offerings include the Glow Spritz which combines lime juice, cardamom bitter and elderflower syrup, the Calming Coral which features lemon juice, peppermint cordial and strawberry purée, the Recover & Revive which mixes Seedlip grove with grapefruit and lime shrub and the Wake Up Call which sees caramel cream, chilli bitters and coffee tonic paired together. The cocktails are priced at £10 each and the brand claims that they are “the perfect way to detox after the prolonged festive celebrations whilst restoring the balance of both body and mind through the inimitable benefits that CBD has to offer”. Apparently. Essentially they should appeal to anybody partaking in an alcohol-free start to the new year and those who are buzzed about CBD cocktails.

 

And finally…  Tottenham Hotspur and Beavertown launch collaboration beer

Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘Official Craft Beer Supplier’ (I didn’t even know that was a thing. Is this a thing now?) Beavertown has launched a new beer in collaboration with the club just in time for the first home game of 2020. Fans of the club (ok, my dad) have described the development as “much needed”, given the team’s performance so far this season. The beer is called One Of Our Own, a name chosen by Tom Rainsford, a Spurs fan who recently joined Beavertown as marketing director, presumably inspired by the North London side’s chant for star player Harry Kane. A Tottenham fan (again, my dad) has described the timing as “typical”. Jokes aside, One Of Our Own is a significant launch as the classic British IPA was crafted with purely European hops (Callista, Mandarina Bavaria and Barbe Rouge) in the microbrewery operated by Tottenham-based Beavertown inside the Club’s new home – a world-first for any football stadium. The beer is said to have notes of stone fruit and malt-sweetness, matching the flavours thirsty supporters have favoured since the stadium opened last April. “Beavertown’s Neck Oil is already a half-time favourite, and we wanted to add to this by offering something new at the start of 2020,” says Rainsford. “Supporting a club is in your bones, and this beer feels the same. It’s familiar, yet distinct. A satisfying pint that makes you feel at home. We see Spurs as the beating heart of the Tottenham community, a central hub for football fans and residents alike. We both share values of bringing people together, creating revolutionary experiences and even world firsts like our microbrewery inside the stadium.”  One Of Our Own will be sold exclusively at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be available at tomorrow’s huge Premier League clash against Liverpool. Will it bring them luck?!

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #19: Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

The Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar features something a little different from a familiar name today… There’s a lot of stress and mayhem that seems to come with…

The Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar features something a little different from a familiar name today…

There’s a lot of stress and mayhem that seems to come with Christmas. But, underneath it all, it really is a very comforting, familiar celebration. The iconography, the food, the soundtrack – it’s pretty much the same year on year. You know exactly where you are with Christmas, and this has its merits. Change can be jarring.

However, change can bring out about new wonderful discoveries, as The Balvenie found out not long ago. The Speyside spirit-makers, renowned for making sublime Scotch whisky filled with those classic honey, vanilla and fruit notes, decided to trail drying its barley with peat for the first time in 2002. Not iodine-heavy, hardcore Islay peat, mind. The Balvenie favoured an earthier, more subtle peaty profile. The result was ruddy delicious. 

Which is good news, because behind window #19 is Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat!

As you might have guessed already, The Week of Peat is an evolution of The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old and was launched as part of the Stories range in May 2019. This expression remembers when Stewart and former distillery manager Ian Millar experimentation with the smokier style for the first time after a week’s gap in the distillery’s production schedule provided the opportunity to use peat. 

We caught up with Gemma Paterson, global brand ambassador for The Balvenie, to talk more about this tale and more…

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

Say hello to Gemma and Ian Miller (more on him coming up…)

So, we understand that this is a whisky with quite a story…

Yes! Back in 2002 our distillery manager at the time was Ian Millar. After having worked in the industry managing distilleries for a number of years already he was very excited to take the helm at Balvenie with our floor maltings (a big toy as he calls them…) and begin a series of experiments at the point of distillation. He went on a bit of a journey around Scotland visiting distilleries and garnering inspiration. This journey led him to Islay where he spent a bit of time thinking about peat. On his return to Balvenie he introduced a peat burner to the kiln (the large black metal burner to the side of the brick kiln for those who have visited us). This allowed the team to segregate the peat from the anthracite and so the peat trials began. There was quite a buzz on site. This was September 2002 and we hadn’t seen thick black peat smoke billowing out of the kiln like that since the 1950s. Everyone came down to check out the peat reek. Mashman Jim told us his wife complained about the peat reek lingering on his clothes at the end of a shift! Here we are now 17 years later and we still have an annual Week of Peat at the distillery. And the team still complain about the peat reek every year! All thanks to Ian’s legacy…

What happens to the profile of Balvenie whisky when it is peated?

We’ve experimented with a few different methods. Malt master David Stewart’s first foray into introducing a peated Balvenie was the 17yo Islay cask released in 2001 using an ex peated Islay hogshead to drive in that peated character, then in 2009 the 17yo peated cask we saw the first experiments using our own peated whisky, again another finish with that whisky having spent the first 17 years in a traditional American oak barrel to then be transferred to a barrel that had been seasoned with 7yo peated Balvenie. We find the profile of Balvenie in the American oak really still shines through – characteristically honeyed, malty and sweet with just a wee wisp of smokiness lingering there. The malt itself was peated to 28ppm but once in the bottle it’s mellowed right down to 5ppm.

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

It was Ian’s experiment all those years ago that led to this delightful creation.

The Balvenie operates a working floor maltings, what impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Every batch of Balvenie has a small percentage of our homegrown and malted barley blended into the mash bill, paying tribute to the legacy of generations of farmers and maltmen who have nurtured the barley in the fields and tended the malt on the floors from one generation to the next. When it comes to style we have a number of special casks that have been laid down over the years resulting from many experiments originating from the floor maltings. A few of these have been released and a few we will hopefully be able to share in the years to come!

What have been your 2019 highlights at The Balvenie?

What a year! The most exciting thing about 2019 has been the launch of our Stories Range. A year of discovery, working with our craftsmen, listening to their stories and having the opportunity to travel across the world and share them with our whisky community. We recorded podcasts for each of the whiskies, each one taking the listener on the journey of the whisky and meeting with the people who made the dram. So if you want to hear all about this whisky from Ian himself and the team who have nurtured the spirit in cask over the years then I would recommend seeking out the podcast online either via our website or searching your favourite podcasting platform.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

I’ll be spending Christmas back home on the Isle of Lewis where the days this time of year are short and the nights are long. I’m looking forward to sitting around the table with friends and family and sharing stories with each other until the wee hours. Top of my list for dramming has to be the Balvenie 26 Year Old – A Day of Dark Barley. I also love some eggnog. Maybe I’ll try my hand at making some this year with some Balvenie DoubleWood….

Thank you very much to Gemma for taking the time to join us. Now go and enjoy your dram!

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat Tasting Note:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey.

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey.

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #1: Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak

Forget pinch, punch, first of the month – today is all about drams! That’s right, we can finally open our Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar and enjoy what’s…

Forget pinch, punch, first of the month – today is all about drams! That’s right, we can finally open our Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar and enjoy what’s behind window #1.

The wait is over. Advent is here. 

On the one hand, this is not good news. It’s come around too quickly again. You need to start making your Christmas shopping list (#WhiskySanta might be able to help with that). You need to start mentally preparing yourself to untangle the impossible ball of Christmas lights and awkwardly hoist the old tree down from the attic. It’s also worth working on that inevitable explanation/apology for when your family points out that you were adamant that tree had another year in it. In your heart, you always knew it didn’t. It’s more brown than green.

On the other hand, though, it is good news. Very good news. Brilliant news, in fact. Why? Because we finally get to rip open the first window of our Advent calendars. Because you’re totally rad, you’ve ditched boring old chocolate and got the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Which means a delicious Scotch whisky awaits…

What’s behind window number #1?

It’s Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak!

The first dram of this Advent season is part of the recently launched The Balvenie Stories range. As the name suggests, the classic Speyside distillery made this selection to celebrate the tales behind the tipple. The Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak, for example, was created to demonstrate what happens when ancient techniques and fresh ideas are blended, and was apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie’s experiment. Matured in twice-toasted virgin white American oak casks from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky, The Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak was bottled at 43% ABV.

Balvenie 12 Year Old - The Sweet Toast of American Oak

Look – it’s McKechnie (L) and global brand ambassador Gemma Paterson in Kentucky!

Happily, we had the chance to catch up with McKechnie to find out her story.

Master of Malt: Talk us through the creation of your own dram for the Stories range.

Kelsey McKechnie: It was so exciting. Working on something and being able to tell the story right from the very first point of conception, when we had this idea to do something different with virgin American oak barrels, has been great. It’s so exciting, especially when we’ve had the liquid for such a long time and we’ve tasted it a lot. I definitely want it to be more of an opening into people understanding a little bit more about what a malt master does as well. As far as a narrative, for me, it’s an opening for people to talk more about how we actually make the spirit, how we mature it and why finishing times are so important. It sparks a lot of those questions and gives people an answer to the question of what is it you really do in this role.

MoM: What was the profile you were going for? Why virgin American oak barrels?

KMcK: With the virgin American oak barrel, we wanted to give a big flavour boost to the spirit and experiment with how would we go about, in effect, exhausting a virgin American oak barrel and a single finish. We really wanted to ramp up the flavour of the 12-year-old spirit. The fact that we get things like the big toffee and the sweetness and that candy fruit flavour really jumping to the forefront, it’s exactly what we were looking for, so to find it with the virgin American oak is perfect.

Balvenie 12 Year Old - The Sweet Toast of American Oak

The Balvenie Stories Range

MoM: What are your own personal taste notes on your dram?

KMcK: There’s an upfront, syrupy sweetness of toffee and caramel. Off the back of that, once the sweetness passes a little bit, there are notes of spice and citrus coming forward. Then it will leave us with that classic mouthfeel, which we call the ‘marzipan effect’ and the coconut burst that we get with Balvenie.

MoM: How would you describe the Balvenie profile?

Our new-make spirit has a cereal sweetness. As soon as the pure spirit runs off the still, every time we nose the vats, every distillation run, we want cereal sweetness. Almost like a loaf of bread. When the spirit matures, there’s more of richness that comes forward, coconut, marzipan, citrus. These flavours really jump to the forefront with Balvenie. Although we can do a lot of different finishes, we always want to layer them on the true DNA of Balvenie so that these notes always jump out at us. If we were to lose any of that character or the depth of the spirit, we wouldn’t be doing justice to the distillery.

MoM: How has your first year as the Malt Master apprentice gone?

KMcK: Amazing! It’s definitely been a lot of fun. I’ve been really lucky that this has in a lot of ways been my second year because we almost had that little silent year. It’s been fantastic working alongside David, learning all these little nuggets about when the cask-finishing becomes absolutely perfect or how we know when the spirit is just right. It’s been a fantastic year and I’ve learnt so much, I’m having a great time. 

Balvenie 12 Year Old - The Sweet Toast of American Oak

Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak

Thank you very much to Kelsey for speaking to us. The only thing left to do is crack open the Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak and kick off this year’s Advent dramming!

Balvenie 12 Year Old – The Sweet Toast of American Oak Tasting Note:

Nose: Lusciously malty with some sweet fudge, followed by citrusy and oak vanilla aromas with layers of spicy oak notes of ginger and cinnamon.

Palate: Candied orange and lemon peel, vanilla toffee and butterscotch, layers of blossom honey, some melted brown sugar and oak spices at the end.

Finish: Rich and malty with gentle waves of oak vanilla and subtle spices.

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The Nightcap: 29 November

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing – it’s The Nightcap! If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did…

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing it’s The Nightcap!

If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did it get to be 3 o’clock?!” almost every day, you might be very surprised to find out November is almost over. You were probably getting ready to go to the beach or hide chocolate eggs in the toaster or something. Go dig out a Santa hat and glue it to your forehead so you’re constantly aware of what’s going on. And to keep your noggin warm. It’s quite chilly out there if you’re dressed for a spring morning stroll. We’re also ready to help bring you up to date. Behold, it’s another edition of The Nightcap, our round-up of booze news from the week that was!

On the MoM blog this week you probably noticed that #WhiskySanta announced that he was giving away an Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar worth nearly £1,000. That wasn’t only the bargain on the blog, however, as we rounded-up some of our best Black Friday deals. Ian Buxton returned to investigate a curious phenomenon while Adam caught up with Billy Walker, owner and master blender at Glenallachie Distillery. Elsewhere, Annie looked at a blended Scotch you’ll want for your next Highball, and talked over 400 years of distillation with Sandie van Doorne at Lucas Bols. Henry’s week involved a lot of Martini-based fun, from enjoying its predecessor The Martinez, to interviewing Alessandro Palazzi from the esteemed Dukes Bar, although he did find time to make a Kentucky whiskey aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred our New Arrival of the Week.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you David!

The Balvenie’s David Stewart MBE nabs top gong at IWSC

Last night saw the glittering International Wine & Spirit (IWSC) Awards Banquet take place at London’s Guildhall (the most Harry Potter-esque venue you ever did see). It was the 50th anniversary of the awards, which celebrate all kinds of things, from tip-top wine and spirits producers and their wares (obvs), but also communicators, and outstanding achievers, too. And step forward The Balvenie malt master David Stewart! He was honoured for his Outstanding Achievement in Scotch Whisky over his whopping 57-year career, garnering praise from peers and whisky drinkers right across the globe. Other big winners include Ryan Chetiyawardana who scooped Spirits Communicator of the Year, and William Grant, which bagged the Outstanding Spirits Producer 2019 gong. Congrats all!

The Nightcap

You can find out what your ‘perfect dram’ is now!

Diageo sets AI What’s Your Whisky quiz

We’re sure many of you whisky-lovers have a selection of favourite expressions, from go-to bottles to desert-island drams. But have these preferences been verified by the wonders of technology? Because Diageo has created a ‘digital experience’, said to help people find their perfect whisky based on their preferences for certain flavours. What’s Your Whisky uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse a user’s personal palate, asking eleven questions to understand their preferences, such as “how often do you eat bananas?” and “how do you feel about chillies?”. The data collected is then used to create a ‘Flavour Print’, which matches the user with a single malt whisky that the AI thinks they will love. “We are using our extensive consumer knowledge, whisky expertise gathered over hundreds of years and cutting-edge AI to help consumers discover, explore and enjoy Scotch in new and exciting ways,” said Dr Adeline Koay, principal scientist, research and development for Diageo. Andy Parton, senior regional manager for Diageo, added: “We’re excited to roll this out at scale and help many thousands of people find their perfect Whisky based on the innovative FlavorPrint AI technology.” I took the test and found the questions amusing, but slightly limiting. It did recommend Talisker, which I admittedly do love. So maybe it does work. Although if your dream dram isn’t made by Diageo I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of it coming up… What’s Your Whisky launched on 28 November in nine countries (UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands) – check out the website or scan a QR codes in participating bars, restaurants and shops. 

The Nightcap

The inimitable Ronnie Cox, as drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, red socks and all!

Berry Bros. & Rudd launches Ronnie’s Reserve

Ronnie Cox has worked in this industry for 43 years, spending more than three decades of that at Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR). He’s a Master of the Quaich and a member of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. He’s also part of the seventh generation of the Cumming family, which previously owned Cardhu distillery. Now, as BBR’s legendary brands heritage director “edges towards retirement”, he’s been tasked with curating a range of single malt Scotch whiskies. The seven single cask bottlings are all from one undisclosed distillery (it’s very easy to figure out if you know the brand’s history). Two of the bottlings are from casks laid down in the 1990s, one is from the ‘80s, two are from the ‘70s and two are from the ‘60s, including the remarkable Tempus Fugit 1968 Cask No. 13497, which produced 65 bottles and is priced at £3,800 (this is the one that you’ll have to wait until June 2020 to purchase). Cox explained that he had his eye on these for many years, and he counted himself “incredibly fortunate to be able to select these whiskies to bottle under my name”. The first six bottlings will be launched on St. Andrew’s Day (30 November), available from Berry Bros. & Rudd. The illustrations on the bottle were drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, a lifelong friend, who depicts Cox wearing his classic red socks, which he’s made something of a trademark. If you do happen to get your hands on a bottle or two, do be sure to don your best scarlet stockings as you imbibe. 

The Nightcap

It’s a wintery dose of Swiss-esque bliss in London

Möet opens Alpine Lodge in Soho

Many people like the idea of apres-ski. Think cosy cabins, Last Christmas I Gave you my Heart knitwear and wintery drinks, without all the palaver with snow, salopettes and chair lifts. Möet has cleverly spotted this by opening an Alpine lodge, not in Gstaad or Whistler, but in London. Located in 100 Wardour in Soho, it’s open now and runs until the end of January. We popped in this week and can confirm that it’s just like being halfway up a mountain in Switzerland, only much easier to get to from Tottenham Court Road Underground station. On arrival, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and got stuck into the cocktails; as you might expect from the world’s largest Champagne company, they were pretty good. We were particularly taken with the Snowed Under which combines Tanqueray Export Strength, Möet & Chandon Impérial, lavender syrup, lemon juice, and icing sugar; and the Ice Ice Baby, made with Antica Formula, Campari, Möet & Chandon Impérial, plum bitters, crusta sugar, and a dried orange. Nothing says ‘Christmas is coming’ like a dried orange. And then rather than having to cross country ski home, like they do in the Alps, we took a train. Much more civilised. 

The Nightcap

Things are getting festive at the German Gymnasium!

Maker’s Mark reveals gingerbread pop-up at German Gymnasium

Sticking with Christmas for a moment, and we’re spotting a micro-trend for all things gingerbread this season. After Fentimans unveiled a life-size gingerbread house at London’s Skylight, bar and restaurant German Gymnasium has opened its very own tasty terrace, this time in partnership with bourbon brand Maker’s Mark. Described as a “sugar-filled wonderland”, the space features wooden huts, lights and lanterns galore, cosy blankets, and, of course, a mouthwatering, sweet-themed cocktail list. Serves include a Gingerbread Old Fashioned (made with Maker’s Mark and gingerbread syrup, topped with toasted marshmallow), and Maker’s Milk (Maker’s Mark, Kahlua, rum, vanilla, double cream and egg white, served in a milk bottle). Hot serves will also be on-hand in case of chilliness. Head to King’s Cross with haste if you’ve got a sweet tooth this December and January!

The Nightcap

This should put a stop to people judging a dram by its colour…

Glencairn releases black glass for Black Friday

In honour of Black Friday (which for better or worse, is now very much a thing), top Scottish glassmakers Glencairn has released a limited-edition glass that might be the blackest thing on the planet. It’s blacker than Darth Vader’s helmet, blacker even than Back in Black by AC/DC, the previous holder of this title. The colour not only looks very metal, but will stop you judging your dram by its colour, putting your olfactory system firmly in charge. Each glass costs £7 and comes in a black box, naturally. Only 1,000 have been produced and they go on sale first thing on Black Friday (so may be already gone by the time you read this). This season, black is very much back. 

The Nightcap

Good things come in small pubs

Guinness opens pint-sized pub for a cosy Christmas

Guinness is opening a tiny pub in Flat Iron Square in London from Thursday 5 till Sunday 8 December. From 1pm until 11.30pm, punters will be able to enjoy food, fire and more Christmas tunes than you can shake a stick at. There will also be a certain famous Dublin stout on tap. Here’s the best thing: it won’t cost you a penny. That’s right, free Guinness! Before you book your travel to central London though, we should let you know that it’s a very small space indeed so there’s only room for five people (not including the bartender) and you have to book.  Simply sign up via Design my Night and you can reserve the entire pub for you and a few friends. Oh, and you’re only allowed two pints each. Still, it sounds pretty ace. So gather your nearest and dearest, huddle into a tiny pub, and enjoy free beer. If you can think of a better way to keep out the cold, we’d like to hear it.

The Nightcap

The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated will be at MoM Towers soon…

The GlenDronach reveals its new release, Traditionally Peated

GlenDronach is showing us its smoky side with a brand new peated single malt! The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated harks back to the days in 1826 when the distillery was founded, and it was common practice in the Highlands to burn peat in the kiln towards the end of the barley malting. For the whisky, the distillery has kept it traditional sherried style, marrying liquid from a range of Pedro Ximénez, oloroso sherry and Port casks, all bottled up at 48% ABV. “The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated offers connoisseurs a rare opportunity to explore the distillery’s rich depths of sherry cask maturation, while paying homage to the robust peat-smoked earthy character of the early 19th century, that James Allardice himself would likely have enjoyed,” says master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie. “This wonderfully complex single malt presents notes of Highland toffee, dark honey and coal-smoked barley. Burnt orange and treacle glide over the palate, on a base of cloves and smoked bramble. Liquorice and dark fruits linger and intensify into the rich and earthy finish.” Sounds like a smoky Highland lip-smacker to us! Keep an eye out, it should be landing on our shores very soon…

The Nightcap

Getting your haircut so often you’re basically bald for the free Metaxa is most certainly a ‘mood’

Come for a shave, stay for a drink

There are few things more pleasurable than getting your haircut while enjoying a drink. Now, this could be some Wray & Nephew overproof rum drunk out of a teacup at Kyrie’s in Kensal Rise, or a single malt Scotch at Blades in Soho. Both we would highly recommend. But there’s a new contender in London town for best drink/cut combo. From now until the end of December, you will receive a free Metaxa Ginger Rock, a combination of ginger ale and Metaxa 12 Stars, when you book a haircut or a shave at Sharps Barber Shop in Great Windmill Street. For those who have never been to Greece where no meal is complete without a little glass, Metaxa is a blend of brandy, Muscat wine and botanicals, and, especially in 12 Stars form, is utterly delicious. We can see ourselves going for repeat utterly unnecessary haircuts just for the free Metaxa. 

The Nightcap

Sobar. Sober. So-bar… Oh, yep. I get it. Nice one, guys.

And finally… A snack bar claims it can make you less drunk

It’s not that we’re sceptical here at MoM Towers, but a piece of news reached us from across the pond this week that had our eyebrows raised pretty much to the roof. Sobar, a brand of snack-sized protein bars, is claiming it’s found a magic formula that will make us less giddy after one too many drams. Sort of. Apparently a study has found it reduces alcohol absorption, and, in comparison to other similar foods, it was about twice as effective per calorie. Each Sobar weighs in at 210 calories, and apparently it works because a thing called Alco-HOLD keeps the booze in your stomach for longer so it can be “inactivated”. “This research project started after I had too much to drink on an empty stomach at a wedding,” said SOBAR inventor Joseph Fisher, MD PhD.  “After that experience I thought that there was a huge need for a specialised, low-calorie snack that could efficiently and effectively reduce alcohol absorption.” Or you could. . . sip not gulp in the first place? Just a thought. 

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The Nightcap: 27 September

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! September has almost…

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

September has almost concluded. Soon it will be October, which means Halloween. We all know what follows that. It’s all moving too fast, isn’t it? You need something to take your mind off things, something to relax you. Ten bite-sized pieces of boozy news, for example. All rounded up in one handy location. With a snazzy drink-inspired name. That should do it. You need The Nightcap, folks.

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, the blog welcomed the return of Nate Brown, who took a rather dim view of cocktail competitions, before Adam championed a delightfully sherried English single malt whisky for our New Arrival of the Week, as well as the good work done by the Gorilla Spirits Co. on World Gorilla Day (24 September). Elsewhere, Annie talked all things Irish whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub and then looked at how the worlds of coffee and alcohol collide now more than ever ahead of World Coffee Day (1 October), while Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a cold, fruity little number that features a unique Polish vodka.

But the world of booze has even more to offer. It’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The sixth batch from the popular series will be available here soon…

The Balvenie Releases Batch 6 of Tun 1509 Series

The Balvenie’s mighty fab and highly collectable Tun 1509 series has returned with Batch 6, a non-chill filtered whisky that comprises liquid from sherry refill butts, ex-bourbon American oak barrels and DoubleWood refill sherry butts (which were used once to finish previous DoubleWood) before being filled with new make and aged. The latest addition to The Balvenie Tun 1509 continues malt master David Stewart MBE’s exploration of the Speyside distillery’s aged stocks. He brought together a total of 21 unique casks to marry in the Tun, where it was left for three months before being bottled at the distillery at 50.4% ABV. Every bottle of Tun 1509 Batch 6 will come complete with a breakdown chart showing in-depth detail of the whisky, with visual representations of the flavour profile of each of the 21 casks and the overall character of the resulting single malt. “The liquid presents a beautiful depth on the palate with a touch of maple syrup, candied orange and runny honey,” Stewart said. “It is delightfully rich on the nose with soft brown sugar, toffee, blossom honey and ginger oak spices, and presents a sweet and malty finish featuring swathes of oak vanilla alongside a spicy layer. Batch 6 is a truly remarkable liquid that showcases gorgeous character and rich depth produced during the marrying process. This expression is sure to have whisky enthusiasts excited, much like the last Tun 1509 series we released a year ago.” Batch 6 of Tun 1509 is available at MoM Towers right now, so hop to it!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, folks!

Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inducts new members and bestows lifetime achievement award

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame has had a busy week. Not only did it induct six individuals into its hallowed ranks, but it also presented a certain icon with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order, Katrina Egbert, visitor centre marketing coordinator at Wild Turkey; Wesley Henderson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Louisville Distilling Co.; Larry Kass, the former director of trade relations, Heaven Hill Distillery; Charles W. Medley, master distiller at the Medley Distilling Co.; and Peggy Noe Stevens, founder and president of Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates. Congratulations are in order for all those lovely folk, but a glass or two should also be raised in particular in the direction of the recipient of the lifetime achievement award, Even G. Kulsveen, the executive director of Willett Distillery. The award was attributed to his work resurrecting one of the state’s most historic distilleries and helping to return the family-owned brand to global prominence. “Even has demonstrated disciplined leadership, strategic decision-making and bold forward-thinking,” said Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association’s board of directors. “He has built a family legacy that will last for generations to come, and we thank him for his significant contributions to Kentucky’s booming Bourbon industry”. In accepting the award, Kulsveen observed, “How many of us would have thought, 30 years ago, that we would be here today”, but daughter and Willett president Britt Kulsveen added that “We have always said that he is lifetimes ahead of his time with all of the innovative, genius creations he has imagined and brought to fruition. This award is a long time coming.” The induction ceremony was held on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, one of the state’s most revered historic sites and each inductee was presented with an engraved miniature copper still. Their names will also be added to the Hall of Fame display at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown.

The Nightcap

There’s plenty of options for those who want to celebrate World Sake Day

Celebrate World Sake Day

We know you’ve probably got a big red circle around the date in your calendars already, but here’s a reminder that it’s World Sake Day on Tuesday 1 October! Recent years have seen sake become increasingly popular, though if your knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch you can check out our blog. To celebrate the occasion, we decided to give you a little round-up of where to celebrate the day in style. If you’re in London, then Dinings SW3 over in Knightsbridge places sake right at the heart of its cocktail menu (which we went and tried out back in June). Take the Dinings SW3 Negroni for example, which switches things up with the addition of juniper and yuzu sake. If East London is more your scene, then there’s Nobu Shoreditch, with its landscaped terrace and Kampai happy hour from 4pm-6pm every day, which showcases the team’s favourite Japanese tipples and nibbles. Finally, if you happen to be near Manchester, the wonderful Peter Street Kitchen is hosting an exclusive World Sake Day masterclass on 5 October, so you can really get stuck in! Held in the Rikyū Bar, you’ll get a taste of hot, cold, sweet and sparkling sake, along with some tasty Japanese cocktails and canapes of course. Mind you, if you can’t make it to these spots, then we might know of a certain online retailer who could help you out with some lip-smacking sake right to your door…

The Nightcap

It’s quite the accolade for Matteo Monotone to receive

Matteo Montone wins World’s Best Young Sommelier

Being the best at something in the world is a pretty big deal. Having your best-ness be confirmed by a panel of judges is just next level. That’s what it’s like being in Matteo Montone’s shoes, Head Sommelier at Berners Tavern at The London EDITION hotel, who was crowned Best Young Sommelier in the World at the International Final of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs competition in Seoul! Of course, this achievement didn’t come out of nowhere. Having moved to London in 2013, Montone has had an impressive career in restaurants such as Aqua Shard, the Ritz London and Locanda Locatelli before he joined Berners Tavern. Then in March this year, Montone was also crowned Great British Young Sommelier of the Year. Now, just six months later and he’s achieved world domination! A huge congratulations from everyone at MoM Towers!

The Nightcap

More delicious English whisky is always a good thing…

East London Liquor Company launches three new whiskies

East London Liquor Company has proven once again why we love it so much with not one, but three new distinct whiskies! There’s the East London Single Malt, the first single malt from the English distillery, a double-pot distilled expression which was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma and ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky for a minimum of three years. It said to have notes of milk chocolate, peanut butter, fresh hay, biscuits, bitter almond and a slightly vegetal finish of green tomatoes and light tar. It’s joined by another newcomer, ELx Sonoma, a blended whisky made in collaboration with owner and whiskey maker Adam Spiegel of the aforementioned California distillery, Sonoma. It features the delightful London Rye, the first-ever whisky release from the distillery, which was aged in a variety of casks, including ex-peated and ones that held its barrel-aged gins and finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks. This was then married with Spiegel’s own unique blend of Sonoma bourbons. Expect notes of toffee, brandy-soaked cherries, almond butter, hay, clover, black peppercorn, dried apricots and honeysuckle. The final bottling of the three is the second release of London Rye, which was matured first for a year in virgin oak before it rested in ex-Sonoma and Kentucky bourbon casks for two years before spending six months in an ex-peated cask and then finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez. Toffee, sarsaparilla, dark chocolate, dried cherries, tahini, sea salt, leather, peat, bouillon, porridge and peanut butter notes are to be expected. “We’re unbelievably excited for not one, but three new whiskies to be hitting people’s glasses at the same time,” said Andy Mooney, whisky distiller at the East London Liquor Company. “Working with Adam Spiegel of Sonoma Distilling Company, I really appreciated his sentiment of ‘making whiskeys in a small way for a big world’. I like to say that, as a distillery, we’re incredibly lucky to be making whiskies that we want to drink ourselves, and then getting to share them with the rest of the world so people can find their own perfect dram.”

The Nightcap

Apparently there’s gin in this photo. We’re yet to spot it. Look at him, ffs.

David Gandy joins the juniper fray with Savile Row Gin

Just when you think you’d seen every gin launch imaginable, one comes along that genuinely catches your eye. Yes, of course, it was the liquid that… ahem. Yes. New gin. Last night, our Mariella headed up to London Town for the launch of Savile Row Gin! It’s made with 12 botanicals – including the signature kumquat – by Rob Dorsett (the chap behind the likes of Palmers 44 Gin and a host of others via the Langley Distillery). Oh yeah, and actual David Gandy (model, writer, driver and all-round beautiful human) was revealed as an investor in the brand – and its ambassador, too! He’s involved in the gin on a “day-to-day” basis, apparently. “I look to invest in British start-ups that I believe to be of superior quality with inspirational teams,” he said. “As a lover of gin, Savile Row Gin stood out from the crowd with its smoothness and flavour. I loved the fact it is a quintessentially British product, produced in the UK and curated on one of Britain’s most iconic streets, one that stands for craftsmanship and quality. I’m excited to be part of the team to help expand and grow the brand.” Founder Stewart Lee (not that one) seems chuffed: “David embodies the refined elegance and style of Savile Row and I am delighted to have his support, both as an ambassador and investor for the brand.” The best news? You can snap up Savile Row Gin right here!

The Nightcap

It may not be Guinness, but it’s still dark and beautiful.

Guinness launches limited-edition coffee 232 Brew

Inspired by a shared passion for rugby, the creators of the famous pints of the black stuff have teamed up with coffee company Tiki Tonga, which was founded by current Saracens captain and former British and Irish Lions player, Brad Barritt, to create a called ‘232 Brew’. The delicately balanced, full-bodied coffee should make those early morning kick-offs at the 2019 Rugby World Cup a little easier to handle (it’s held in Japan this year). The name comes from the fact that the coffee was roasted at 232°C, which is the same temperature as the barley used to brew Guinness, which is pretty neat. It should be made very clear, this not an alcoholic drink. Nothing is stopping you from making that coffee truly Irish, however. 232 Brew is said to have notes of fruit and nut chocolate leaving you with a rich mouthfeel and a long-lasting distinguished chocolate finish, and will also make a delightful Americano, cappuccino or flat white. The delicious blend will be available at selected venues across the country including Flat Iron Square (London), Oasthouse (Manchester) and Brigadiers (London). “The next six weeks are set to be some of the most exciting weeks of the year for fans of rugby, but we know that for many the early morning starts are far from ideal,” said Niall McKee, head of Guinness Europe. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Brad and the team at Tiki Tonga to create the ultimate coffee. We want to be there with rugby’s biggest fans for those early morning starts – bringing belief and team spirit.”

The Nightcap

Even adventurous spirits need to be enjoyed responsibly.

McQueen Gin gets told off by ASA

It wasn’t a great week for McQueen Gin’s parent company Trossachs Distillery. It was scolded by advertising watchdog the ASA for airing a TV ad that was declared “irresponsible”. The ad in question shows a group of three mates having a jolly good time in the Scottish Highlands, climbing mountains, swimming in lochs and taking in the view at the top of a rocky peak. The only trouble is that they celebrated the climb with a cheeky G&T – which very much implied that the return journey would be undertaken post-booze. Tricky, when you’re not allowed to suggest that physical activities are a good idea after alcohol (legal types would refer you to BCAP Code rule 19.13 (Alcohol)). “In this case, we considered the ad suggested that the activities would be undertaken after the consumption of alcohol and were therefore irresponsible,” an ASA statement reads. Best leave the gin back at the ranch and toast the day’s achievements after both legs of the journey are complete.

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call autumn!

Dalloway Terrace Transforms for Autumn 2019 with Æcorn Aperitifs

The wonderful Dalloway Terrace (yes, that’s a Virginia Woolf reference) over at The Bloomsbury Hotel has gone through quite the seasonal transformation embracing all things autumn! To do this it’s rather appropriately teamed up with Æcorn Aperitifs. Expect oodles of golden leaves, brushed gold butterflies and a wonderful flower-filled terrace, to evoke the feeling of dining under a magnificent oak tree. Everyone’s dream. It’s not just the visuals that have been autumn-fied; the drinks menu has had a seasonal reboot, too. Expect wonderful aperitifs such as the Æcorn Elderflower Spritz, with Æcorn Dry, elderflower cordial and English sparkling wine. There’s also a unique Afternoon Tea menu inspired by Æcorn’s three alcohol-free aperitifs, and it’s totally autumn-inspired. I mean come on, there’s ‘Conkers on a String’, which isn’t really a conker, but chestnut and milk chocolate cream laced with Æcorn Aromatic. So seasonal! If the colder months are your thing, then Dalloway Terrace is definitely the spot for you.

The Nightcap

The future is here, and it’s boozy!

And finally… Spotify soundtracks cocktails while Diageo headsets predict your fave

Fifty-four of the world’s best bartenders and industry luminaries gathered this week for the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Global Final 2019 in Glasgow’s West End, which was won by the amazing Bannie Kang from Singapore! But that’s not the only thing that caught the eye as the drinks giant has announced a couple of startling new initiatives. The first, a collaboration with Spotify, led to the creation of six data-driven playlists curated for signature cocktails. Using social data and keywords related to specific Diageo Reserve brand cocktails, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service was able to identify key tracks and music that best encapsulated the mood and spirit of the cocktail. Rak Patel, head of UK sales at Spotify said: “Together with Diageo, we’re tapping into these insights to set the mood as they sip their favourite cocktails while creating a delightful and impactful connection with the brands they love.” Also on show was a headset linked to a sensory experiment that could be the answer for gin lovers unsure what to mix with their Tanqueray No. Ten. The Head vs Heart activation recommends personalised serves based on the results from the EEG sensors, essentially reading your mind to find the perfect cocktail. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out personalised and immersive experiences in our category,” Benjamin Lickfett, said Diageo’s head of futures, who has clearly never watched any films with AI or advanced mind-reading robots before. “Head vs Heart is just one example of an emerging technology enabling consumers to explore their own taste preferences and the flavours of our award-winning Tanqueray No. 10 as part of an engaging, sensory and surprising experience”. Stu Bale, director of London’s experimental creative bartending hub ‘Crucible’ also demonstrated the use of ‘weird machines’ like rotavaps, centrifuges, and ultrasonics to express different aspects of flavour and texture. World Class really sounds like a who’s who of ‘what the hell?!’ this year. You can visit www.theworldclassclub.com for more info.

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The Balvenie Stories launches with three special whiskies

Three key figures at the classic Speyside distillery have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise. These are their stories. We love a great Scotch…

Three key figures at the classic Speyside distillery have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise. These are their stories.

We love a great Scotch whisky. We also love a good story. So it’s always a pleasure to witness when the two are combined. That’s the case with The Balvenie Stories, a range of three expressions made to bring tales from the distillery’s illustrious history to life.

The selection includes The Sweet Toast of American Oak, a whisky Kelsey McKechnie matured in Kentucky virgin oak to make a fruitier Balvenie, a story of a new apprentice malt master innovating and making her mark. The Week of Peat and A Day of Dark Barley, meanwhile, are two expressions that tell the stories behind two classic whiskies you may have enjoyed before, from former distillery manager Ian Millar’s introduction of Speyside peat or malt master David Stewart MBE using dark roasted malted barley.

The Balvenie Stories

Three tales of character written in whisky: The Balvenie Stories

As well as new liquid to enjoy, The Balvenie has also provided whisky enthusiasts with a chance to experience these tales outside the glass. Specially-recorded audio conversations and guided whisky tasting content will be available via an NFC-enabled neck tag, that people connect to using their smartphones, as well as in podcast format.

An accompanying book ‘Pursuit – The Balvenie Stories Collection’, a collection of short tales by acclaimed writers from around the world was edited by award-winning author and journalist Alex Preston, will also be published in the autumn by Canongate. The notion of storytelling informs the design of The Balvenie Stories packaging too. Each tale is represented on the whisky’s tube and label in bespoke illustrations from British artist and printmaker Andy Lovell.

David Stewart MBE summarised: “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie distillery. They make up the fabric of who we are and what we do. The Balvenie Stories collection tells these tales in liquid form, giving whisky drinkers across the globe a special glimpse into the unique and very human nature of how we produce our whisky. Each expression in the collection reflects this by telling its own story via first-hand accounts and recollections of the many people involved.”

But that’s enough storytime, let’s take a look at these three expressions:

The Balvenie Stories

The Sweet Toast of American Oak

The Sweet Toast of American Oak

What’s the story?:

A whisky conceived to demonstrate what happens when ancient techniques and fresh ideas are blended. Appropriately, this was recently-appointed apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie’s experiment. The 12-year-old whisky was matured in twice-toasted virgin white American oak casks from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky to produce an even fruitier, sweeter tasting Balvenie that was bottled at 43% ABV.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Lusciously malty with some sweet fudge, followed by citrussy and oak vanilla aromas with layers of spicy oak notes of ginger and cinnamon.

Palate: Candied orange and lemon peel, vanilla toffee and butterscotch, layers of blossom honey, some melted brown sugar and oak spices at the end.

Finish: Rich and malty with gentle waves of oak vanilla and subtle spices.

The Balvenie Stories

The Week of Peat

The Week of Peat

What’s the story?:

As you might have guessed already, The Week of Peat is an evolution of The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old, which was launched back in 2017 to add a touch of smoke to the Speysider’s selection. This expression remembers when Stewart and former distillery manager Ian Millar trialled drying barley with peat for the first time after a week’s gap in the distillery’s production schedule provided an opportunity back in 2002. The resulting dram, which was bottled at 48.3% ABV, has all the hallmarks of a classic Balvenie expression with an extra layer of delicate smokiness.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

The Balvenie Stories

A Day of Dark Barley

A Day of Dark Barley

What’s the story?:

A 26-year-old dram, A Day of Dark Barley is the oldest expression in the range and is another familiar face. An edition of this whisky was released in 2006 as the Balvenie 14 Year Old Roasted Malt. However, casks were retained for extra maturation and the result is a sublime aged Balvenie that was bottled at 47.8% ABV. The story here references Stewart’s and The Balvenie distillery team experiment with a heavily roasted dark barley back in 1992 and celebrates two Balvenie legends, mashman Brian Webster and maltman Robbie Gormley.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Big malty notes, soft brown sugar, vanilla toffee, blossom honey and a mild oaky spiciness.

Palate: Syrupy with a toffee sweetness, some citrussy notes of tangy orange peel, followed by oak vanilla and a touch of cinnamon and ginger spices at the end.

Finish: Enduring gentle waves of vanilla and oak spices.

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Celebrating Speyside!

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region. Speyside is…

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region.

Speyside is home to some of the best distilleries in all of Scotland and to some of our favourite drams. From Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenlivet and more, the region boasts some of the industry’s biggest names as well as a variety of styles – not just the classic honeyed and sherried single malts (though it does have plenty of those, and they are mightily marvellous, of course).

With The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on the horizon, it seemed only right that we took the time to celebrate the most prolific whisky-producing region in Scotland with a selection of some of its most magnificent whiskies. Enjoy!

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

Macallan produces some of the most revered, sought-after Scotch whiskies in the world that can sell for eye-watering sums. The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak might not grab the headlines like some its older, rarer drams, but it’s one of the most impressive bottlings around in its age group and makes for a perfect introduction into what has become the modern Macallan style.

What does it taste like?:

Sultanas, fresh apple blossom, tropical fruits, golden syrup, hot pastries, barley sugar, marmalade and a solid oaked notes.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

A terrifically tasty and well-rounded single malt from The Balvenie, the distillery perhaps best known for its use of secondary maturation (or finishing). This bottling was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held a select blend of Caribbean rums chosen by malt master David C. Stewart MBE, imparting additional notes of toffee, spice and dried fruit.

What does it taste like?:

Tropical fruits, creamy toffee, sweet vanilla, apples, baking spice and mangoes.

Scallywag

Scallywag from Douglas Laing is a blended malt made from a host of whiskies sourced from some of Speyside’s finest, including Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, many of which were matured in Spanish sherry butts. Some bourbon cask whisky is also in the blend for balance, making this a go-to expression for many Scotch whisky lovers. Also lovers of dapper little Fox Terriers. It’s wearing a monocle for goodness sake!

What does it taste like?:

Icing sugar, sultanas, candied ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, oak spice, nutmeg and cereal.

Tomintoul Tlàth

Tlàth (pronounced “Tlah”) means gentle or mellow in Gaelic, which gives you a clue as to what to expect from this non-age statement whisky which was matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The Speyside distiller’s Scotch is often described as ‘the gentle dram’ and this expression boasts plenty of distillery character and makes for a perfect introduction into all things Tomintoul.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet toffee, toasted vanilla, shortbread citrus peel, hints of mint leaf, lively white pepper and some oak-driven spiciness.

Mortlach 12 Year Old

The Mortlach distillery is known for its robust, muscular malts which proves a delightful reminder that Speyside is as varied as it is spectacular. Its 12-year-old expression, drawn from bourbon and sherry casks, features the subtitle The Wee Witchie, which comes from the name of the tiny still that distils a portion of the whisky.

What does it taste like?:

Warming oak, damson, soft raisins, toasted almond, cinder toffee and heavy barley with some lingering citrus oils cutting through.

Tamdhu 10 Year Old

Since its return to the Scotch whisky scene, Tamdhu has established a principle of ageing all of its whisky exclusively in Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks. That distinctive, well-sherried profile, and the fact that it’s rather lovely, makes Tamdhu 10 Year Old the perfect go-to dram for those who desire a classic sherried Speysider.

What does it taste like?:

Dried orange peel, red wine, pecan, soft red fruit, brown sugar, chocolate-covered Brazil nut, crystallised ginger, cacao, spicy clove and raspberry jam.

Speyside 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

That Boutique-y Whisky Company independently bottled this 26-year-old single malt from the Speyside distillery in the Speyside region. Imagine celebrating The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival with a dram of Speyside Scotch from a distillery actually named Speyside. That’s commitment, people. Oh, and it’s a seriously delicious whisky, in case you were wondering.

What does it taste like?:

Lemon peel, chocolate, oily barley, honey, strawberry jam, clove, ginger and apple strudel, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

Last, but certainly not least, is a classic of the genre. You say Speyside and many will immediately think of this long-time family-owned distillery and its magnificent 25-year-old single malt. Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, which spent its entire maturation period in 100% Oloroso sherry casks, is a refined, complex and delicately peated dram that’s sure not to disappoint.

What does it taste like?:

Sherry and creamy barley, hints of gingerbread and nutty chocolate, oak rich, smoke and cocoa.

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Train your nose with The Balvenie’s Alwynne Gwilt

Do you love whisky but struggle to put what you taste and smell into words? Then read on, as we have some tips from Miss Whisky herself Alwynne Gwilt on…

Do you love whisky but struggle to put what you taste and smell into words? Then read on, as we have some tips from Miss Whisky herself Alwynne Gwilt on how to get the most out of your olfactory system.

It was a tasting at Milroy’s of Soho in 2011 that changed Alwynne Gwilt’s life forever. Originally from Canada, she was not a whisky drinker but that fateful evening she fell in love with the spirit, and, rather as Peter Parker became Spider Man thanks to a bite from a radioactive spider, Gwilt was transformed into. . . Miss Whisky! She set up her own website that same year and began to immerse herself (not literally, of course) in whisky full time. Since then, she has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, appeared on TV and radio, and won awards including International Whisky Ambassador of the Year at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, She now works as a brand ambassador for William Grant, representing The Balvenie.

Alwynne Gwilt

Alwynne Gwilt in the still room at The Balvenie

We caught up with Gwilt at The Wigmore, a bar in London, for a nasal tune-up. Her view is that we don’t make full use of our sense of smell because we are so visually-oriented. But we do actually have a fine nasal system from our hunting and gathering days which just needs to be used properly. “Humans have become generally quite lazy when it comes to the nose, but our noses would have been a thing. Before we were cooking meat and we were processing food, we would have been much more aware of the wider environment around us and using our nose to help keep us safe,” she said. “Now our eyesight has taken over but the ability of the nose to learn things and to understand aroma is just as great as it always has been.”

Smells helps us remember things, Gwilt explained. “Your aroma receptors are close to the amygdala and the hippocampus, which is where you start thinking about emotion and memory. So, more than sight, more than sound, when you smell an aroma and you categorise that in your head, you’re much more likely to remember that moment, that time, that place.” What a piece of work your nose is! Now here are some tips on how to use it better:

Free your mind, and your nose will follow

Even people who’ve been drinking whisky for years can be extremely reticent about trying to describe smells. Gwilt explained to me:  “I can stand up there as someone who’s been drinking whisky for years and go, ‘I get aromas of raisins and chocolate’, and someone might look at you like you’re absolutely nuts because they’re like, ‘well it just smells like whisky!’.” So, don’t be embarrassed; try to put what you smell into words, and remember there are no right or wrong answers. A great way to do this, according to Gwilt, is to try to become aware of the smells around you when you’re out walking.

Alwynne Gwilt Balvenie

Building her flavour vocabulary

Build your aroma vocabulary

“Aroma is based hugely around vocabulary, “ Gwilt told me. “Just like we learn language, your brain does the same thing when it’s learning different aromas. If I were to say to you ‘this smells like curry leaves’, for instance, and you’ve never smelled a fresh curry leaf, then that’s not in your vocabulary. So you have to experience an aroma before you can then process it, understand it and recognise it in another scenario.” A great way to build that flavour vocabulary when you’re smelling whisky is to pretend you are in a supermarket, she said. “Imagine you’re walking through the fruit aisle and you’re picking out your fruit, and then you’re walking through the veg aisle. And then in each section, as you smell the whisky you think to yourself, ‘visualise it’. Say, ‘is this an orange, is this an apple, is this a banana, is this a carrot?’. Start going through those things individually, and if you go ‘no, no, no, I smell something sweet’, then go to the baking aisle. Is it a baked good? Is it a pastry? Or is it a Haribo?’. A lot of people will say, ‘I get sweet, I get spicy, I get smoke’, and it’s about continuously breaking everything down.”

Smell with your mouth open

You will look a bit like a goldfish but this really helps. “When you first start smelling whiskies, keep your mouth open, because that helps to circulate things,” Gwilt explained. “If you keep your mouth open, it helps to circulate the air, stopping you from just getting the alcohol.” We smell in two ways, she continued: direct olfaction (right up your nose), and retronasal olfaction (the back of the nose through the mouth).  If your mouth isn’t open, you’re not getting the full effect.

Hold it in your mouth  

You’ve seen wine tasters do it: swilling it around their mouths and making weird sucking noises. Well, it all helps get the flavour out. “A huge amount of what you taste is actually aroma; it’s the nose doing its job. It is not your taste buds,” she continued. “So when you go to taste a whisky, always hold it on your palate for ten or 15 seconds. That gives enough time for your brain to register what’s happening and start to pick out some of those aromas.”

Alwynne Gwilt at the Balvenie

Gwilt with this year’s must have accessory, the malt shovel

And finally, just to prove how hard it is to put smells into words without practise, Gwilt gave me a little test. I had to smell three essences which commonly crop up in whisky vocabulary.

The first was anise, which I correctly identified immediately. The second was coffee, which I guessed as roasted nuts. And finally, Gwilt gave me something to smell which initially smelt of vanilla, at least to me, and then of lemons. Apparently it was actually blackcurrant leaf. D’oh! C-, must try harder.  

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