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Tag: The East London Liquor Company

The Nightcap: 29 April

A forgotten cask sells for £1m, a dispute with the SWA is settled, and a scientist thinks whisky can be used to fuel cars. It’s all in the Nightcap: 29…

A forgotten cask sells for £1m, a dispute with the SWA is settled, and a scientist thinks whisky can be used to fuel cars. It’s all in the Nightcap: 29 April edition!

On Monday there’s another bank holiday, and with the extra one the country has this year to celebrate the Queen, talk has begun about making it a permanent fixture. We think this is a great idea. Like popping all the most important and interesting stories from the world of booze into one handy location. What a corker that was. Let’s all enjoy another Nightcap.

First, here’s the blog round-up: we made the case for Calvados, saw the charm in a tiny distillery on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, spoke to Inverroche Gin’s Lorna Scott, and shone a spotlight on some Armagnacs we think single malt lovers will enjoy. We also got into the spirit of Sakura season, rounded up our top ten vodkas with flavour, whipped up The Bronx, and set up a competition to help you win a VIP to the Seychelles with Takamaka Rum

Lots going on, but it doesn’t stop there. Onto The Nightcap: 29 April edition!

Macallan record cask

Whisky Hammer handled the illustrious sale

Forgotten Macallan cask sets new record

A rare cask of whisky has sold for more than £1 million at auction in what is said to be a new world record. The cask, originally filled on 5 May 1988, had been held in bond at the Macallan Distillery in Moray for almost 34 years and cost just £5,000 back when it was filled. Not bad given it sold for $1,295,500, or £1,017,000 in an online auction on the Whisky Hammer site. It breaks the record already established by a 30-year-old, re-racked, sherry hogshead from Macallan, which was sold in 2021 by Bonhams for £439,000. What’s truly amazing is that this new record-breaker was forgotten about for more than three decades by the ex-pat who bought it, and it wasn’t until they were reminded by Macallan that it was still maturing in the warehouse. The cask was bought by a private individual based in the US and, if bottled today, would yield 534 700ml bottles of single malt whisky. Anyone reckon they have that valuable lying around the house? I’ll never forgive myself for not hanging on to my original Pokemon cards.

Alan McConnochie from The GlenDronach retires

Alan McConnochie by the stills at The GlenDronach

Alan McConnochie from The GlenDronach retires

We’ve just heard that one of Scotland’s best loved characters is set to retire. Alan McConnochie, distillery manager at The GlenDronach as well as Benriach and Glenglassaugh, will be stepping down this year after nearly 50 years in the business. He began his career at White Horse Distillers in Glasgow in 1973 followed by stints at Plymouth Gin and Laphroaig, before joining Billy Walker’s dynamic Benriach Distillery Company in 2004. McConnochie, quoted in the Glasgow Herald commented: “It’s been an incredible privilege to oversee the distilleries of some of the industry’s finest single malt whiskies. The one element I will miss the most is the camaraderie of both the distillery team and the whisky industry as a whole. Being a part of the launch of The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years in January was a particularly proud moment, having personally helped to nurture those casks over the years. I couldn’t be happier to hand over the reins to Laura, who is very well suited to continue to build the future of our skilled and passionate distillery team.” Current production manager Laura Tolmie will be stepping into his enormous shoes later this year. We feel very fortunate enough to have been shown around The GlenDronach by McConnochie and tasted some fine whiskies with him. 

Anna-Paquin-x-The-Glenlivet_Credit-Jamie-Nelson

Whisky isn’t just for men, apparently

Glenlivet tears up rulebook in new ad with Anna Paquin

Another whisky brand is seeking to disrupt the whisky marketing narrative but it’s not some scrappy upstart, it’s The Glenlivet, the oldest of them all. A new film directed by, according to Ad News, “Jamie Nelson on location at her 1968 Hollywood regency style home in San Fernando Valley” features Oscar winner Anna Paquin who you may know from such films as The Piano. According to CEO of ad agency Emotive, Simon Joyce: “We set out to deliver a campaign that flipped the script on preconceived ideas of how it should be drunk and advertised. Gone are the tumblers, fireplaces, oak barrels, reconstructions of Scottish life in 1822 and dark brooding men with facial hair.” Perhaps he’s thinking of this Glenlivet advert from 2020. He continued: “In their place is Canadian born, New Zealand actor Anna Paquin, a blue tiger head and all kinds of whisky drinking blasphemy.” It’s called ‘Whisky Doesn’t Care What’s Between Your Legs’ and it opens with Paquin tinkling on a pink piano (that’s not a euphemism) before literally tearing up the rules in the form of a piece of paper headed ‘Old Boys Whisky Club’. She then, and stale old men look away now, adds ice, tonic, and a squeeze of orange to her Glenlivet 12 Year Old! So disruptive. 

MiltonDuff

That’s some massive capacity at the new Miltonduff distillery. We hope you’re thirsty

Chivas splashes £88 million on Aberlour and Miltonduff expansion 

Distillery news just in, hot off the press: Chivas is planning to spend £88 million on two of its most important single malt distilleries: Aberlour and Miltonduff. It’s a major vote of confidence in the continued growth of Scotch whisky by the Pernod Ricard subsidiary. Aberlour’s capacity will double to 7.8 million litres of pure alcohol per year in order to keep pace with the demand for its whisky, which is the bestselling single malt in France. Visitor facilities will also be updated. Meanwhile, Chivas is planning a brand new distillery to sit alongside the current one at Miltonduff, adding 10 million litres to the capacity to fulfil demand for blends such as Ballantine’s. But it’s not just about oceans of new make, the investment aims to make both distilleries more environmentally friendly too as part of the company’s aim to make distillation carbon neutral by 2026. To achieve this new bio plants will be installed alongside energy recovering technology known as Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR). We love a high tech acronym we don’t really understand here at Master of Malt. Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers commented: “Scotch has demonstrated its resilience as a category over the past few challenging years and in the process has opened new avenues for growth. This expansion will allow us to increase our volume to capitalise on the increased demand and interest in Scotch, but also supports our drive to reduce emissions in line with our sustainability ambitions. We’re once again betting big on the future of Scotch so we can bring in new consumers to the category and continue to shape a sustainable future of whisky.” Work is expected to be completed by 2025. So it looks like we won’t be running out of whisky anytime soon.

Imbibe Live

We’ll see you there, hopefully!

Imbibe Live is back! 

The UK’s leading drinks industry event is back and returning to London this July!  From Monday 4 to Tuesday 5 July 2022 the Olympia Grand Hall will reunite those of us in the drinks community and beyond once again with its mix of exhibitors, partners, tastings, and masterclasses, providing visitors with a welcome chance to taste and learn after a challenging few years. And it’s not just for those who buy, sell or serve drinks, this year will welcome visitors from across the on- and off-trade to discover the latest products and take advantage of invaluable networking opportunities. As usual, there will be an array of talks offering expert advice with the likes of Aleesha Hansel, Ian Burrell, Jane Peyton, Gabe Cook, Laura Willoughby, and Lorraine Copes in attendance. Tickets cost £15 which covers access to the event on both days, with a portion of the profits from ticket sales being donated to Imbibe Live’s two partner charities for 2022, The Drinks Trust and Only A Pavement Away. We hope to see you there.

Macaloney Distillers

We’re glad to see the dispute has been resolved

Macaloney Distillers resolves dispute with SWA

You might recall that Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd (MBD) and the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) had a branding dispute not too long ago. The SWA filed a lawsuit filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court on 5 March 2021 which expressed concern over the use of various branding terms ‘evocative of Scotland’. Now, a settlement has been reached after both parties agreed to the re-labelling of Macaloney Brewer & Distillers’ Canadian whiskies. The news has come just in time for the brand to start shouting about its impressive haul at the World Whiskies Awards. Dr. Graeme Macaloney, MBD’s president and whiskymaker, who is described as ‘a native Scot and proud Canadian’, said the brand is “delighted to announce that we have come to an agreement with the SWA. As a result, we will be rebranding our distillery and its associated tours and beer garden to ‘Macaloney’s Island Distillery & Twa (sic) Dogs Brewery’.” He added that he was “doubly pleased” to take home the prizes for ‘Canadian Best Single Malt’ for its signature expression formerly known as Glenloy, ‘Canadian Best Triple Distilled Potstill Whisky’ for its ‘Killeigh’ whisky, and ‘Worlds Best New Make-Young Spirit’ for its seaweed-peated spirit”. We’re glad to see it all worked out. For some interesting perspectives on the case, we recommend checking out this feature published last year on our blog.

East London Liqour

The new-look ELLC whisky

East London Liquor Company reveals new bottle with reduced carbon footprint

The East London Liquor Company has revealed a whole new look to its whisky, as well as two new expressions. The previous bottle, while distinctive, was heavy and impractical for bartenders. Now the lightweight glass allows for easy speed rail and back bar use, while most importantly representing a dramatic reduction in the carbon footprint of the product. “The new bottle and natural cork stopper achieved a 60% reduction in the carbon footprint of those parts of the pack, which is a great start, but we have much more do to as a company and many more plans to improve our environmental credentials in the pipeline,” says Tom Hills, operations director and head distiller, who led the project. “The whisky we are producing is as delicious as ever, only now it’s available in a bottle that’s better for the planet and better for your wallet.” The news comes as the distillery launches this year’s edition of its signature London Rye, which will be closely followed by the East London Single Malt in June. Both were made using new fermentation techniques enabled by major investment in new equipment and capacity over the last four years, following two highly successful crowdfunding campaigns, and the volume of whisky will only increase over the coming years. Having had a chance to taste both this week, we can attest to the fact that these are very welcome developments all around. 

new cocktails

The El Camino (left) was a highlight

[email protected] launches new bar menu

Across from the five-starred Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites, Residences, and within the red brick courtyard of St James’ Court you’ll find the newly opened [email protected] bar, which has a cracking new cocktail menu. We were able to get a chance to taste the selection, which is centered around the earth’s biomes. Designed by bar manager, Riccardo Lupacchini, previously at Scarfes Bar at The Rosewood, the cocktail menu celebrates our planet’s diverse and often fragile ecosystems and uses ingredients found in them. The drinks are spilt into different sections, each representing the earth’s macro biomes, from the great deserts and lush forests to the vast oceans and snow-tipped mountains. You can expect all the fancy bartending techniques, from fat washing, cold infusions, and decoction, as well as a selection of exciting bar snacks, Our highlight is the El Camino, featuring Mesquite-smoked Casamigos Blanco Tequila, pineapple tepache, agave, grapefruit, and tamarillo. If you get a chance, it’s not to be missed.

whisky biofuel

A draff truck. Could it be transporting precious fuel?

And finally… could whisky be used to fuel cars?

The future is now. Possibly. A biofuel scientist reckons they have discovered a way to use the byproducts of whisky to fuel your car. For those who don’t know, there is a byproduct made in the creation of whisky called draff, which is the residue left once liquid wort is drained off to be fermented and distilled. It’s often recycled as animal feed, but there are still plenty of distilleries that haven’t found a sustainable solution so it can be dumped in rivers or the ocean and find its way to landfills. However, this intrepid scientist has devised a fermentation process to transform the byproduct into biochemicals to replace some oil-based products, including diesel used in cars. The scientist who made the discovery says whisky waste can be used for more than just biofuels, including as an alternative to oil in plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and electronics. The challenge is scaling up this potential, as biofuels only account for about 3% of fuel used globally. Given the whisky byproduct can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%, it seems like an idea worth exploring.

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Inside the East London Liquor Company

The East London Liquor Company only began distilling back in July 2014, but it’s already made quite the impression. We headed to the creator’s home to find out how it…

The East London Liquor Company only began distilling back in July 2014, but it’s already made quite the impression. We headed to the creator’s home to find out how it supported independent spirits in the capital, carved a space for itself in English whisky, and why it has only scratched the surface.

When Alex Wolpert left drama school in 2006 he began working behind bars in East London, eventually getting to the point where he was running a group of pubs for the family shareholders at Barworks. It was during this time that he noticed a gap in the market.

“I worked in the on-trade for years and was amazed by the lack of championing of spirit made by the underdog,” he explains. “There was so little from independent producers, in a city with the best bars in the world. I felt that the spirit space was empty and couldn’t understand why”. 

He went to his bosses with the idea for The East London Liquor Company and they backed it, today still lending support through a large portfolio of sites. With that investment and the money he got borrowing against his Hackney flat, in 2014 Alex set up The East London Liquor Company in the site of a disused glue factory warehouse he found while cycling by the waterways of East London. 

He then ordered two copper pot stills from Germany, assembled a small team, and got to work. In the first year, the team was producing 1,000 bottles of gin a month for local bars and restaurants. “We spent six months distilling gins in order to find the perfect recipe,” Wolpert says. “Everything we made was always thinking about how people will enjoy it, removing as many barriers from that moment as possible”. 

East London Liquor Company

Say hello to Alex Wolpert!

East London booze without boundaries

White spirits were the platform from which ELLC launched, but this was never simply a means to fund future whisky projects. The plan was always to have a range of booze, beginning with gin and vodka. This approach is exemplified by its gin selection, consisting of a classic juniper-forward expression that sells like hotcakes. There’s also Louder, a savoury, oily, and slightly saline gin that works great in a Negroni or a Dirty Martini, as well as Brighter Gin, the perfect base for a Gin Sour or Fizz with its bright, fresh, high-ABV character that lets Darjeeling and grapefruit notes shine. In 2020 the ELLC was even appointed to create the next generation of Royal Botanic Garden, Kew’s range of spirits.

Then there’s a selection of sourced rum made up of a vibrant, estery blend of spirits from three well-known Jamaican distilleries, and the sweet and tropical Rarer made with Demerara sugar cane. There’s even a range of canned cocktails, bolstered by the acquisition of Longflint Drinks Ltd. in 2020. “What we love about our canned serves is that you get a tactile understanding of what East London is about for a couple of quid. The cans aren’t just self-serving in that they generate more can sales, but they get people in contact with the brand who then realise how much we have to offer,” Wolpert says.

But, this is Master of Malt so we know what you’ll be most interested in is ELLC’s whisky. Things kicked off in 2018 with London’s first rye whisky in over a century. But this distillery is a hive of innovation. “For the first four years of us making whiskey we’ve been extremely experimental. What we worked we’ve bottled,” says Wolpert. “We’ve got an understanding now of what our London Rye and Single Malt are but along the way, there will be a lot of experimental products to show people what we’re about”.

East London Liquor Company

The East London Liquor Company

Making whisky ELLC style

What they’re about is difficult to define in one article. So let’s start from the beginning. The ELLC sources grains (barley, rye, wheat) from Crisp Malt in Great Ryburgh, Norfolk.  Fermentation is a long 96-120 hours in open-top stainless steel fermenters, with one to two days of acetic acid rest following to encourage diacetyl, a compound that encourages funky, tropical notes. 

Arnold Holstein made the 2000-litre wash still and 650-litre spirits still (as well as a 450-litre gin still), the latter being unique in that it’s a hybrid pot/column still. After distillation, the spirit is diluted down to 55-62% ABV and popped into a cask. Operating at a relaxed, Monday-Friday rota, the capacity sits around 30,000 LPA, tiny still in the grand scheme of things.

The new make is slightly heavy and funky with lots of rich chocolate and fruit, while master distiller and blender Andy Mooney creates a slightly cloudy wort to get those biscuity, bolder flavours. He makes use of both pot and column still, the latter providing lighter profiles to make sure he’s getting the whole spectrum of flavour. When I toured the distillery with Wolpert I also got a chance to pick Mooney’s brain, and frankly, I needed some kind of industrial crane to get everything out from him. 

East London Liquor Company

Andy Mooney, hard at work

A thoughtful, methodical and uber-geeky worker, Mooney breaks down the ELLC process in delightfully technical terms, for example: “We have a lot of control over fermentation to play around with different yeasts, like Saison (common in lambic or sour style beers). Where typical yeasts will eat maltose, fructose etc. these guys will eat everything including dextrins (larger sugar molecules) and that creates more acetic acid and diacetyl which leads to more esters, which develop awesome characteristics in the ageing process”. 

The whisky is matured off-site in a huge range of barrels, including new American and French oak, chestnut, mulberry, acacia, ex- wine, rye, bourbon, Cognac and vermouth. I tried samples of Hungarian oak-matured rye, the same whisky matured in Pomerol casks, and then London Rye initially aged in ex-Laphroaig casks before spending time in chestnut wood. They were all spectacular in their own regard, demonstrating the spirit of experimentation and a competency in utilising different styles. They would work as single releases, although I imagine Mooney could use them to great effect in blending.

He tends to bottle whisky at 46-49% ABV, as he feels this highlights a bit of every aspect of the spirit profile. “If you go lower it can be too sweet and lose bitterness, go too high and you can get too much cask influence. If you want to water it down yourself you can do that. There will be cask strength in the future in all likelihood, but we want to establish our style first. That’s also why nothing is chill-filtered,” Mooney explains. 

East London Liquor Company

The distillery is one of the leaders of the English whisky category

Single malt, rye and blend

As Mooney communicates the process with a distiller’s eye, Wolpert is consistently painting the bigger picture, describing the dual responsibility and opportunity an English whisky distillery has to make its own definitions. “What does it mean to make a London Rye? How do we make it specific to us? It’s open for us to make our own path,” he says. “I do get people saying ‘how do you make a single malt outside of Scotland?’, and if I had any hair I’d be tearing it out because we know that doesn’t matter. But we get to be at the forefront of the changing conversation”.

As we’ve covered the London Rye before, let’s talk single malt. It’s 100% malted barley (obviously) and was matured in a combination of bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma, red wines casks, STR casks and its own London Rye casks. The combination of casks was chosen because Mooney is somebody who is passionate about bringing as much to the spirit as possible, maximising the variety and clarity of flavour. “None of our whiskies are single cask for the reason, because we think it’s rare to get everything we want from just one cask. In the single malt, for example, the red wine cask lifts the fruity notes and adds some tannic bitterness,” Mooney explains.

As for the blend, this transatlantic collaboration was made by combining Sonoma whiskey and ELLC’s London Rye. “We used a high rye and wheat bourbon that was atypical of the classic styles you’d usually get, which allowed us to get a flavour profile we can’t create in the UK and what they couldn’t get in the US,” Wolpert says. “It’s what a blend should be all about, it’s greater the sum of its parts. Two entirely different processes coming together. It also shows we’re willing to stick our neck out and not take ourselves too seriously, and we’ve priced it at the same as the single malt to communicate that’s how vital we see blends. People have a narrow perception of blends so we have to work doubly hard to make sure people realise how special blends are and a real pinnacle of whisky production”.

East London Liquor Company

The future is very bright for this brand

A spirits brand for everyone

At present, ELLC distils, imports and serves a range of award-winning gins, whiskies, vodkas, rums and canned cocktails at a rate of 15,000 bottles a month to over 20 markets. For Wolpert, the ambition was to be a spirits brand for everyone, with sophisticated liquid but an accessible, transparent branding. “Andy left his recipe book out once with botanicals and weights etc. and someone on a tour said ‘what if I took a picture?’ I said ‘take one, it’s a huge compliment’. There’s so much smoke and mirror in this industry that it’s disarming for people. That’s why you can see the distillery from the bar. It’s a very different message to the educational process you get in a visitor centre, which we do provide, but we give customers a chance to chill out and have a couple so they feel looked after and engaged.”

The bar itself is not purely ELLC booze, it’s curated in such a way that the staff fill it with brands they respect, which speaks to the sense of community they feel within drinks and a confidence in their own product. Wolpert is very passionate about his local area, but also feels connected to world whisky as a category and a part of the growing English whisky scene. “We really relate to all the people who are interested in new ways of making and understanding whisky, as well as being interested in attracting new whisky drinkers. People get obsessed with the label and not the liquid, so we’re fighting against that and attempting to be at the centre of a conversation that understands what English, and London whisky is”. 

It’s a conversation I very much enjoyed having with Wolpert and Mooney, while witnessing first-hand the care and focus that goes into the process. It’s a distillery I’ve always had a lot of time for, with its exceptional value for money white spirits and comfortable bar setting. But the nerdy and curious approach to whisky is what gets me really excited. If Wolpert had this range of booze to hand back in his bartending days, he would never have needed to create The East London Liquor Company at all.

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