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Tag: vodka

Drink books of the year 2019

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by…

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by the fire with this Christmas. 

Well, it’s been a bumper year for drink books. There’s new offerings from old pros like Jancis Robinson and Tristan Stephenson, as well as debuts from Felix Nash and Eddie Ludlow. In fact, it was such a good year that we had trouble narrowing the list down so apologies if your favourite is missing. 

All of them will make great gifts for the drink lover in your life. And we can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays than with a roaring fire, a dram/ glass/ pint of something delicious and one of these books, and that includes watching Casablanca on Christmas Day with a belly full of Port and Stilton. 

A Brief History of Lager Mark Dredge

Lager is so ubiquitous, it’s the beer the world drinks, that it’s hard to imagine how 200 years ago it was a Bavarian speciality. At that time, beer in the rest of Europe was essentially ale. But slowly lager spread and along the way mutated from a sweet, brown beer to the crisp golden brew we know today. It’s a great story told with a real sense of fun by award-winning beer writer and TV regular Mark Dredge. 

Sample line: “Lederer kept contact with Sedlmayr and Dreher, and there’s a wonderful photo taken in 1939 of the three of them all wearing top hats and overcoats, each with a thick moustache, and all holding hands.”

The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson aka the Curious Bartender is the author of many excellent cocktails books. In this latest outing, he takes a journey across America sampling whiskeys from 44 distilleries both large and small including some real MoM favourites like Balcones 44, St George, and Michter’s  nice work if you can get it.

Sample line: “Tuthilltown is home to a huge cat call Bourbon (there another cat called Rye that we didn’t get to meet.”

Fine Cider Felix Nash 

You probably haven’t realised it yet but we are living through a golden age of cider. It hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet, but all over England, Wales and the cider-producing world (which is much bigger than you think), producers are waking up to the potential of apple-based goodness. Felix Nash, a cider merchant, has written a heartfelt, in-depth hymn to his favourite fruit and drink.

Sample line: “I wouldn’t be able to tell you about all the apples used to make cider or the pears used to make perry, and no one could. It’s not simply that so many varieties exist in the world, but that they can very localised”.

Sherry: Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent! Ben Howkins

We’ve written a fair bit on the blog about how much we like sherry, so this was a book after our own hearts. Written by a man with more experience in the wine trade that he would like to admit, this is a love letter to one of the world’s great wines. Reading this, you can almost smell the bodegas of Jerez. Warning, it’s almost impossible to read this book without developing a serious sherry habit. 

Sample line: “Olorosos are the wines that will emulate rugby players, rather than ballet dancers.”

Spirited: How to create easy, fun drinks at home Signe Johansen

You might know Johansen (the lady in the header) as Scandilicious, evangelist for all things Scandinavian and delicious. Originally from Norway, now living in London, she’s just as good on drinks as food. This book makes a great introduction to cocktails, tips for non-alcoholic drinks and all round guide to stress free non-nerdy entertaining. 

Sample line: “Life is too short to worry about what anoraks and bores think so now I happily enjoy whichever drinks I’m in the mood for.”

The Whisky Dictionary Ian Wisniewski

Someone who is certainly a bit of an anorak but never a bore is Ian Wisniewski. He’s the one on distillery tours who will always be asking more questions than anyone else. We know as we’ve been round a few with him and we always learn a lot. This book, which we have already found an invaluable reference guide, is a testament to that insatiable curiosity. 

Sample line: “Do enzymes ever get the applause they deserve? Rarely. If ever. It’s time to make up for that with a standing ovation.”

Whisky Tasting Course  Eddie Ludlow

Like many of the best people in the drinks business, Ludlow began his career at Oddbins. Since then he’s become an expert at opening up the often confusing world of whisky. In this book, Ludlow breaks it down into easily digestible segments, explains why whiskies taste as they do, and talks the reader through the most common styles of whisky such as single pot still Irish, small batch bourbon and Islay single malt. Before you know it, you’ll be saying “bonfires on the beach” or muttering “mmm, Jamaica cake” like an old pro.

Sample line: “Your mouth and tongue are actually quite inefficient at detecting all but the most basic flavours.”

The World of Whisky – Neil Ridley, Gavin D. Smith and David Wishart

Lavishly-produced guide to the every-expanding world of whisky by three of the best writers in the business. And you do really need three to cover what is now such an enormous topic. Inevitably the majority of the book is on Scotland with a page devoted to each malt distillery, but the Irish, US and Japan sections are also impressive.

Sample line: “Would even the most discerning of palate be able to detect a differences made using barley grown in Mr McTavish’s bottom field and the one, over yonder hill, behind the tree and the babbling burn?”

The World Atlas of Gin Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley

Another book part-written by Neil Ridley! How does it do it? We suspect that he has actually cloned himself to spread the workload. There’s a lot of gin out there and it’s expanding all the time, meaning that this book can only be a snapshot of what’s available but you know with these two that everything in here is going to be worth drinking. Also extra points for not being afraid to put in the big names, like Beefeater, rather than going for hipster obscurity points.

Sample line: “France has embraced the gin revolution with a charismatic style and charm of its own.”

The World Atlas of Wine Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson

This is the 8th edition of an all time classic book, first published in the 1970s and updated every few years. Originally just written by Johnson, Robinson joined the team in 2003. It’s hard to think of a better looking book with its lavish photos and intricate maps of the world’s greatest wine regions. The words are pretty nifty too as you’d expect from (probably) the world’s top two wine writers. 

Sample line: “For centuries, Hungary has had the most distinctive food and wine culture, the most varied grape varieties, and the most refined wine laws and customs of any country east of Germany.”

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The Nightcap: 15 November

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap. We all have our personal…

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap.

We all have our personal moments when we start to feel just a little bit festive. For some, it might be when the town lights come on, for others it might be that first bag of turkey and stuffing-flavoured crisps. At Master of Malt, however, there’s a very clear sign that it’s safe to get out the reindeer jumpers, start stocking up on mince pies and trying to think of amusing puns based on the word Yule: it’s the first sighting of #WhiskySanta! And lo, he has been spotted, and verily he’ll be giving away all kinds of boozy goodness. Yule be mad not to get involved (see what we did there, first yule-based pun of the season). Right, that’s enough Christmas dad jokes, nothing is going to hold back this week’s Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we heard the sound of sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too as he returned. That’s right, #WhiskySanta is back at MoM Towers! Elsewhere, we launched another fantastic competition, this time with the fab folks at Starward! Henry then managed to pin down Dave Broom to chat about his new whisky film The Amber Light, before he enjoyed a sacrilegious gin liqueur, and made the classic The Corpse Reviver No.1 our Cocktail of the Week! Annie, meanwhile, looked at the future of flavour and cask whisky investment, before Adam talked Comte de Grasse with its founder Bhagath Reddy and uncovered the magic behind the latest bar menu at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congrats to you, David!

Isle of Arran Distillers names Lochranza distillery manager

Lochranza Distillery, the second spirits-maker of the Isle of Arran, has a shiny new distillery manager! Say hello to David Livingstone, who is set to touch down on the island to take on the top job. He’s hot-footed it over the water from Islay, where he was previously assistant manager at Laphroaig before he helped in the set-up of Ardnahoe distillery. Sounds like the ideal candidate to oversee Lochranza operations, a site that will produce around 600,000 litres of spirit per year when it’s fully up and running. James MacTaggart, who has been master distiller at Isle of Arran Distillers since 2007, will take on a new role as director of production and operations, overseeing both the Lochranza and Lagg Distillery sites. “It’s an especially exciting time to take on this role at such a remarkable whisky company and I’m very proud to be given the opportunity to look after the future of these great spirits,” Livingstone said. “Being from the islands myself, I recognise how important distilleries are to island communities and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about.” MacTaggart added: “As the company continues to grow and develop, it’s necessary that we have the best whisky people around us. We’re delighted to have David on board for the next part of our journey and know that we can learn plenty from his wealth of knowledge and experience.” Bring on the whisky!

The Nightcap

The special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky

Man rides motorbike into whisky tasting, nobody hurt

“I’m getting TCP, I’m getting wood smoke, I’m getting petrol.” Petrol? From a whisky? No, from that enormous throbbing motorbike being ridden indoors. Don’t worry our whisky event hadn’t been invaded by Hell’s Angels, we were at the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club in London’s fashionable Shoreditch district for the unveiling of a special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky. We were sipping delicious Smoker cocktails made with Smokehead, lemon juice, honey syrup, ginger liqueur, and activated charcoal (so much nicer than deactivated charcoal) when the beast arrived. Also called The Smoker, it’s a Ducati twin built by Edinburgh-based bike customiser Tyler Lunceford. From the sound of the machine, the crowd were expecting Meat Loaf crossed with Beelzebub to get off, but in fact, the bike’s builder is a mild-mannered American, who after switching off the noise, quietly told us about his creation. For those struggling to see the connection between a motorcycle and an Islay single malt, Lunceford explained: “Smokehead whisky is not for everyone and neither is The Smoker – it’s bold, it’s intimidating and it’s loud. It’s really loud. It attracts a certain crowd. It’s certainly not for everyone.” Makes sense.

The Nightcap

The wonderful St. Vincent will be hosting the bar

Veuve Clicquot launches Souvenir Bar with St. Vincent

Give us great music and a good glass of Champagne, and we’re happy. If that sounds good to you, then you’ll want to head over to Veuve Clicquot’s very own bar in Covent Garden, Souvenir, opening from 22 to 23 November. The Champagne house has teamed up with American musician St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), who will be hosting the bar, though this isn’t any run-of-the-mill establishment. The bar is described as a part speakeasy, part sensory space, aiming to transport visitors far away from reality with a glass of Veuve Clicquot in their hand. The bar will be filled with a unique mix of sounds, specifically designed to trigger memory, and feeling of past, present and future. Consider our interest piqued. To create the space, St. Vincent collaborated with a collective of creators, designers, and mixologists. Every detail has been thought through, with St. Vincent determining what people will eat, drink, see and hear. It also looks like there will be a few unexpected twists and turns throughout the night, as she will also play with the notion of unexpected characters and appearances… It’s all very mysterious, though we’re thoroughly intrigued. What’s the souvenir then, we hear you ask? It’s the memories created when you’re in the space, of course! Plus maybe a slight headache the next morning. Remember folks, sip don’t gulp.

The Nightcap

The great whiskies will raise money for a great cause.

Islay whisky collected on 110 miles row up for auction

This weekend, 16/17 November, you can take part in a very special auction to get your hands on some Islay whiskies and raise money for the RNLI. The Islay Sea Collection is a collection of whiskies from each other island’s coastal distilleries gathered by a team of enthusiasts who rowed from Northern Island, stopping off at each distillery to pick up the goods. Yes, rowed, talk about commitment to the cause. It took over nine hours to row the 110 miles to Islay and three days to collect all the whiskies. We imagine they probably stopped for a dram or two to keep out the cold. A film has been made about their amazing voyage. The collection is made up of Bowmore 15 Years Old Feis Ile 2018 bottling, Caol Ila 12 Years Old, Bruichladdich Scottish Barley The Classic Laddie, Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Small Batch Distilled, Laphroaig 10 Years Old, Ardbeg An Oa, and Lagavulin 16 Years Old, plus a special cask created with wood from each distillery. Graham Crane from the auction site Just Whisky commented: “This is a really exciting collection and we are honoured to have been asked to auction it in support of the RNLI. We are in awe of the journey these men took and hope to fetch £XXXX for the charity. We look forward to seeing the bids rolling in.” Keith Gilmore lifeboat operations manager at Portrush Station added: “This is a really exciting and novel way to raise funds for the two stations. We often have to work with Islay, and this is a great way to work with one of our neighbours and local supporters to raise funds for the RNLI.” So a worthwhile cause and a unique collection of whisky. Auction closes on Sunday 17 November at 8pm.

The Nightcap

Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s swanky new menu has launched at Lyaness

Seven-ingredient new Lyaness menu is pretty damn tasty

Last week we hightailed it up to London to check out Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s shiny new menu at Lyaness. Taking a cook’s approach to bartending, it’s the result of playful experimentation – you can try a twist on a classic, or you can go “off piste” and base a drink around a favourite flavour profile. And it’s all focused around seven core ingredients, each prepared in the Lyaness kitchen: Infinite Banana, Lyaness Tea-mooth, Peach Emoji, Vegan Honey, ONYX, Golden Levain, and Purple Pineapple. The whole shebang is very much designed as a guide book, not a rule book, or as the team describes it, “a mechanism, to help people think differently about cocktails”. And the hours that go into the prep for each is unreal: the Peach Emoji, for example, is designed to “pull a peach apart, dissect it and put it back together again”. The stones are roasted then steeped, the flesh is rested in enzymes until it becomes a liquid, while the rest is lacto-fermented. Fancy. Lyaness recognises that drinking can be creative, fun and unique, and that success should be in the palate of the beholder, rather than in the eyes of someone dictating the rules. Go check it out!

The Nightcap

Get involved, guys!

The Benevolent launches 2019 Online Silent Auction

Following the success of the “Thanks for Giving” Online Silent Auction in 2017, the wonderful folk at The Benevolent are launching a new silent auction to raise £10,000, and they need your support! The online auction will start on Friday 22nd November at 9am and run until 5pm on Friday 6th December. The charity seeks to help those within the UK drinks industry who are in need of support. The auction also provides an ideal opportunity to buy some exceptional Christmas presents, as items available range from Michelin starred restaurant vouchers, coveted sporting memorabilia, tickets to prestigious events as well as several incredible items generously donated by members of the trade. You will be able to browse the lots before the auction goes live in order to plan your bids. Whilst this auction is primarily aimed at people in the drinks trade, nonetheless, it is certainly available to anyone, whether involved in the trade or not so there’s no excuse not to get involved. In order to bid, you will need to register first. To do so, as well as browse and prepare to place your bids, click here. Good luck!

The Nightcap

Porto Protocol is taking action against climate change and environmental degradation.

Drink Port, plant trees

Here’s a charitable initiative we can all get behind, drink Port and help fund a reforestation project in the Douro Valley. When you buy a bottle of Taylor’s Select Reserve Port from the Co-Op, some of the money will go to a charity that plants trees. It’s part of Porto Protocol, an organisation mentored by Taylor’s to take action against climate change and environmental degradation. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s CEO commented, “we are delighted to have Co-op’s support for this important project. By allowing us to plant more trees, Co-op’s investment will significantly increase the positive impact of the reforestation. As custodians of the unique environment and landscape of the Douro Valley, we understand the importance of extending our environmental initiatives beyond the vineyard itself.” Co-op wine buyer, Sarah Benson, added: “We’re thrilled to be exclusively supporting Taylor’s on this important project through the sales of this brilliant Port, which will help bring new life to the Douro Valley.” The Co-Op expect to sell enough Port to plant 2,500 trees, that the size of four football pitches so the more Port you buy, the better it is for the environment. Everybody wins.

The Nightcap

The vodka was inspired by events Hudson hosted at her former home on King Street in New York

Welcome to the celeb booze club, Kate Hudson!

All aboard the celebrity booze bandwagon! The latest passenger to jump aboard? Actor and entrepreneur Kate Hudson, who this week launched her King St. Vodka in the US. The spirit has been ‘distilled seven times’ in Santa Barbara, California, is gluten-free (like all spirits), and is made with alkaline water, said to result in an ‘insanely smooth and clean’ tipple. Hmmmmm. According to Hudson herself, it was inspired by the evenings she used to host at her former home on King Street in New York. “I have always found the spirits industry fascinating, and I love Dirty Vodka Martinis,” she said. “The creative side of me thought it would be a fun challenge to develop a vodka for my palate, and in a beautiful package that I would love to have on my bar and share with friends. The business person in me is now looking forward to the challenge of building a brand in an entirely new industry.” She’s previously co-founded Fabletics activewear, and recently launched her own clothing label, Happy X Nature – so booze really is a new venture. She should be in safe hands though; also involved in King St. Vodka is David Kanbar, the spirits entrepreneur behind the likes of Skyy Vodka and Bulldog Gin.

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out on the MoM Blog for the full story on this one…

Sir Ranulph Fiennes gets his very own rum

In the week that Kate Hudson launched her very own vodka, top explorer Ranulph Fiennes has unveiled his very own rum made in conjunction with English Spirit. You’d think that they would have checked the celebrity product launch calendar. Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, as it’s called, is a bit unusual. It’s distilled from molasses but rather than being aged in casks, different woods representing Fiennes’s adventures such as sequoia from Canada, pine from Norway and date palm from Oman have been added during distilled. What strange alchemy is this? Distiller Dr John Waters explained: “This launch represents a milestone for British rum production. We are putting a marker into the ground that Britain can produce a premium, quality rum and it’s the perfect testament to a legendary British expedition leader.” Sir Ranulph commented: “Rum has always been associated with exploration and adventure, but I only wanted to work with a distillery that was daring and determined. When Dr John told me of the world’s doubt that Britain could make a truly great rum, well, that sealed the deal. From that moment, we aimed to tread new ground”. We have the full story coming soon in an interview with Sir Ranulph (Kate Hudson, though, has not returned our calls).

The Nightcap

Is this the best story we’ve ever had on the Nightcap? Yes. Yes it is.

And finally… Early Times’s dogbassador Earl ‘graduates’ service dog programme

Yes, we love whisky. And yes, cats are our collective first love of the animal kingdom. But there’s always going to be space for a good dog or two, too. And goodest boys don’t come much better than Earl, the ‘dogbassador’ for Early Times whiskey! The one-year-old hound just graduated from the K9s For Warriors programme, which sees dogs trained up to become service animals for military veterans in the US. The specialist pooches don’t just look cute – they also help those who have served post-9/11 and are suffering from PTSD, brain injuries and other trauma. The programme is part of a four-year partnership in which Early Years has donated more than US$225,000 to K9s for Warriors. “The minute our team met Earl, we knew he was special and we had high hopes he would graduate and be matched with a veteran,” said Dallas Cheatham, Early Times senior brand manager. “50% of the dogs who begin training do not complete the programme due to medical or behavioural incompatibilities. It takes a specific personality to become a service dog.” Not only does Earl respond expertly to verbal cues (the typical ‘sit’ and ‘down’), but the training also improved his focus and sensitivity to touch. He’s now been paired with a veteran and, after three weeks of side-by-side training, the new pair will head home for their happily ever after. Just look at Earl’s face. We’re not crying, you are.

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Future flavour

Whether it’s with curious kit, unorthodox botanicals or futuristic thinking, new world spirits producers have harnessed the latest technology to create liquids that taste anything but traditional… For the tastemakers…

Whether it’s with curious kit, unorthodox botanicals or futuristic thinking, new world spirits producers have harnessed the latest technology to create liquids that taste anything but traditional…

For the tastemakers of tomorrow, flavour comes first. Join us as we take a peek through the looking glass to uncover the weird and wonderful, the unfathomable and the unnamable – from Willy Wonka-esque “world’s first” bottlings to space-age production and maturation methods…

Empirical Spirits

Empirical Spirits

Leading the charge of this rebellion is Copenhagen’s Empirical Spirits, helmed by Lars Williams and Mark Emil Hermansen, alumni of renowned restaurant Noma. Using a base spirit made using biodynamic barley, koji, and Belgian Saison yeast, the duo approach ingredients in a way only world-class chefs know how. Oysters are a botanical. Roasted chicken skin, wild roses, too. But don’t get your wires crossed, this isn’t about the shock factor. Empirical isn’t a fad or a gimmick – it’s a flavour company.

If you only try one product, make it… Charlene McGee Blend 

Juniper berries are smoked with their own wood, lightly crushed, macerated, and distilled at low temperatures before the resulting liquid is matured in oloroso casks. Flavour-wise, expect fresh juniper, fruity blackberries, and fragrant juniper sap that gives way to a smooth, smoky finish.

Comte de Grasse

Comte De Grasse

In the heart of Grasse – the so-called “fragrance capital of the world” – you’ll find French distiller Comte de Grasse, which set out to “start with creating flavours rather than with raw ingredients”. Headed up by master scientist and innovator Marie-Anne Contamin, the team uses lots of clever perfume tech (think ultrasonic maceration, cold vacuum distillation and CO2 supercritical extraction) to extract and preserve targeted flavours from each botanical without damaging the molecule.

If you only try one product, make it… 44°N

Named for the geographic coordinates of Grasse, 44° is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Côte D’Azur’s botanicals, with cade, bitter orange, verbena, everlasting, rose, alexanders, samphire, honey, juniper, angelica, coriander, lemon, orris, everlasting, lavender, mimosa, rose, grapefruit, jasmine, patchouli and pepper Sichuan.

Sweetdram

Sweetdram co-founders Daniel Fisher and Andrew MacLeod have been producing “progressive, flavour-driven spirits” on a custom-made copper pot still at their Edinburgh distillery since 2014. The duo met at university some three years earlier while studying for their master’s degrees in brewing and distilling and resolved to focus on flavour rather than established categories or trends. Exhibit A: Scotch single malt and grain casks blended and infused with botanicals and local honey. Exhibit B: Caribbean rums distilled with grains of paradise, lapsang souchong and smoked figs.

If you only try one product, make it… Escubac

Exhibit C, if you like. A spicy, citrusy, juniper-free botanical spirit – caraway, cardamom, nutmeg, bitter orange, orange, lemon, cloves, orris, coriander, cubeb, cinnamon among them – distilled and then infused with raisins, vanilla and saffron. 

Amass Spirits 

Billed as “the world’s first nomadic distillery”, Amass collaborates with independent craft spirit makers from around the world to release spirits with an authentic sense of place. Working to a “grower to glass” philosophy and creative by native distillers, each bottling (there are two in the series so far – Los Angeles and Copenhagen) seeks to capture the natural terroir and landscape that surrounds its production in flavour form.

If you only try one product, make it… Copenhagen Vodka

Said to be inspired by the city’s long summer evenings and longer winter nights. Marigold, chamomile and lemon zest are distilled on a traditional aquavit still as a nod to Scandinavia’s rich drinking history, creating “a heart with subtle layers of flowers folded around fresh, hand-grated citrus”. Delightful.

Lost Spirits Distillery

The team at LA’s Lost Spirits Distillery create high-ester rums and heavily peated malt whiskies, but not as you’ve ever tasted them before. In 2015, co-founder Bryan Davis developed a reactor that could flash-age his spirits, mimicking the flavour achieved by 20 years of maturation in just six to eight days. Yes, really. The distillery itself – which features a boat ride, a jungle, and a floating carousel with dragons – has been described as “Disneyland for adults” on more than one occasion.

If you only try one product, make it… Lost Spirits Abomination Chapter 2 – Sayers of the Law

A heavily-peated malt spirit that has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for 12 to 18 months, before ageing in the reactor with charred American oak seasoned with late-harvest Riesling. Absolute magic.

Rebel Rabbet

It’s almost strange to think a spirits line as progressive as Rebel Rabbet could be inspired by a 103-year-old Irish whiskey mash bill recipe, but that’s the Rabbet way – whatever you’re anticipating, expect the opposite. When Matt McGivern and Dylan Bell launched the business in December 2018, they had one goal: alternative spirits “made from the grain up”. So they took ye olde recipe, fermented the mash with saison yeast, triple distilled it, and ran amok with the new make – in the best possible way.

If you only try one product, make it… Rebel Rabbet RES3: End of Austerity

A white Alba truffle, Beluga caviar and orris root ‘vodka’ described as “a flamboyant ride through the Michelin stars”. Flavour-wise, it’s every bit as intriguing and complex as it sounds, with salty maritime notes, floral parma violets, subtle spices and a dash of citrus.

 

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Discover Glenrinnes Distillery with Team MoM!

You would be forgiven for thinking our recent trip to Speyside was for more whisky-based adventures, but you’d be wrong. Instead, we went to discover the only distillery exclusively producing…

You would be forgiven for thinking our recent trip to Speyside was for more whisky-based adventures, but you’d be wrong. Instead, we went to discover the only distillery exclusively producing white spirits in the region – Glenrinnes!

Talk of a new distillery in Speyside is always going to pique any spirit-lovers interest. But the distillery that sits at the foot of Ben Rinnes on the Glenrinnes family estate has an intriguing point of difference. It isn’t making Gin and Vodka just to fill time before releasing a whisky. High quality, 100% organic white spirits are the focus.

We decided to pay them newcomers a visit to find out more about the family behind the project, why they focused on white spirits and more. Over the course of several exclusive videos, shot on-site at the distillery itself and its surrounding grounds, we breakdown the story of Glenrinnes Distillery and the Eight Lands brand through interviews and a magnificent in-depth tour. Enjoy the footage!

Just to whet your appetite, here’s our preview of the swanky new Glenrinnes Distillery in exciting video form!

To talk us through the history of the distillery, from the Glenrinnes Estate and organic farm to the decision not to create whisky, is founder Alex Christou!

In this video tour with Glenrinnes Distillery, you’ll meet operations manager Meeghan Murdoch and distiller Katrina Stewart and learn all about how the distillery creates its signature white spirits.

Meeghan Murdoch, the aforementioned operations manager, gives us a snapshot in the day of the life of a spirits-maker.

Next, the distillation process is broken down in further detail by Katrina Stewart, who talks us through the family values of the company and more.

Founder Alex Christou returns to talk about the creation of the Eight Lands brand, what gives the spirits a point of difference and what the future holds.

Glenrinnes Distillery

The fabulous Glenrinnes Distillery in Speyside.

Thanks for watching and be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Eight category defying spirit drinks

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight…

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight bottlings that colour just outside of the lines of traditional category boundaries…

It’s easier to explain spirit drinks by highlighting what they aren’t, rather than list all the potential things they could be. Spirit drinks are alcoholic beverages that fall outside of classic category boundaries. This could be for a number of reasons, i.e. the ABV is too low, the liquid is too young, the category has a geographic indication (which means production is tied to a specific region or country) and so on and so forth. 

Where once this might be seen as a detractor – most regulations are, after all, devised as a commitment to preserving the quality of the spirit – today, experimental producers are using the term as a means to deviate, albeit slightly, from the trappings of a given category. Below, you’ll find eight spirits that err on the side of ambiguity, and are no less delicious for daring to do so.

Martell Blue Swift

The oldest of the big four Cognac houses, Martell, launched Cognac-based spirit drink Blue Swift back in 2018. The bottling, which sees its VSOP Cognac finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks, celebrates the brand’s historic ties with the US – Martell became the first house to ship its barrels to America in 1783. Combine Blue Swift, sugar syrup, Peychaud’s bitters and Pernod Absinthe to make a top notch Sazerac.

Distillerie de Paris Agave Spirit Drink

The first distillery to open in France’s capital city in more than a century, Distillerie de Paris has released more than 90 unique and unorthodox spirits, including this non-Tequila, non-mezcal agave spirit drink, made with agave nectar from Mexico. J’adore. Sip neat, stir into a Tommy’s, or go rogue with an agave twist on a Negroni  – whatever floats your boat.

Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum Spirit Drink

Even the most dedicated rum drinker will admit that the category, while compelling, is hardly known for its conservative regulations. And yet, this spiced Bacardi bottling still doesn’t fit the bill. How so? It’s all in the ABV – at 35%, Oakheart isn’t boozy enough to be called rum, but that’s no barrier to a cracking Cuba Libre. Some of the rums within have been matured in ex-bourbon oak casks, giving inviting brown sugar, honey and burnt vanilla notes.

Luxlo

Luxlo Spirit

At first glance, herbaceous Luxlo is a gin in every conceivable way. Juniper-led? Check. Plenty of botanicals? Check. Pairs perfectly with tonic? Check. ABV? Ah, right – at 20%, it’s a lower-alcohol alternative to traditional gin styles. Sub your full-strength favourite for Luxlo in any gin tipple (though you can’t go wrong with a classic G&T).

Absolut Extrakt No.1

Billed as a modern interpretation of traditional Swedish “snaps”, Extrakt sees Absolut’s signature spirit combined with cardamom and a few secret ingredients. Since it’s no longer vodka and lacks the sugar content to be considered an herbal liqueur, it’s eligible for this list.

Ketel One Botanical Peach & Orange

To make this delectable Peach & Orange creation, the team at Ketel One redistilled their signature spirit and infused it with white peaches and orange blossom – bringing vodka and botanicals together in a category-defying 30% ABV bottling. Serve spritz-style in a wine glass, topped with soda water.

Whyte & Mackay Light

While Scotch whisky and sherry has long been a match made in heaven, now Whyte & Mackay has taken the concept one step further with its 21.5% ABV Light bottling, which sees the two blended together before marrying in former sherry casks and bourbon barrels. Enjoy neat, over ice, or stirred into your favourite mixer. Lovely stuff.

Nc’nean Botanical Spirit

Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery Nc’nean redistilled its light, fruity new make with 10 botanicals – including juniper, coriander, sorrel, heather, and bog myrtle – to create, well… Not whisky, not gin, but in our humble opinion something altogether more special. Pair with tonic and a dash of Angostura bitters, then garnish with a slice of grapefruit.

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The Nightcap: 11 October

Dig into The Nightcap this week for stories on a new Keeper of the Quaich, architectural awards, and a surprising amount of basil. It’s cold. It’s officially cold. There have…

Dig into The Nightcap this week for stories on a new Keeper of the Quaich, architectural awards, and a surprising amount of basil.

It’s cold. It’s officially cold. There have been laboured hints and knowing nods towards the weather turning, and while we’ve been staring cautiously at the amassed pile of knitted jumpers and fingerless gloves on that chair in our own respective bedrooms, there’s been the voice in the backs of our heads saying “No, not today.” We continue to walk outside without a jacket, as if trying to will the weather into staying at least tepid. But, despite our valiant efforts, it’s cold. While this may be disappointing to some, this does mean you can cosy up before the weekend kicks off proper with The Nightcap! Maybe wear some warm slippers or something.

The week the MoM Blog kicked off in style with a Cognac masterclass from Eric Forget from Hine. Henry also found the time to write about a triple-distilled new release from the English Whisky Company and learned all about Irish Coffee with John Quinn from Tullamore DEW! Where does he find the time? Meanwhile bartender Nate Brown didn’t like the dress code or the Martinis in a famous London bar, Annie visited the East London Liquor Company and we announced the lucky winner of our fabulous Mackmyra competition. Oh, and there’s a special offer on six sensational gins, buy one, get a second bottle half price. Bargain. Right, that was the week, now this is the news!

The Nightcap

Dr Rachel Barrie, in all her glory!

Dr Rachel Barrie inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’

Dr Rachel Barrie, the master blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh has received the prestigious accolade of being inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’. At a private ceremony held at Blair Castle on Monday 7 October, the first female Scotch whisky master blender to receive an Honorary Doctorate and be inducted into Whisky Magazine’s illustrious ‘Hall of Fame’ was invited into the international society established by the Scotch whisky industry to celebrate the outstanding commitment of those who produce and promote the spirit. It’s fair to say that over 27 years in the industry working with the likes of the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, The Glenmorangie Company, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Morrison Bowmore Distillers, tasting in excess of 150,000 casks of whisky in the process, Dr. Barrie has met those requirements. “Being inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich is a very proud moment in my career. The society brings together those leading the way in Scotch whisky from all corners of the world, and to be part of this highly revered body is an honour, as we continue to push boundaries in perfecting our magnificent spirit,” said Dr Barrie. “My ambition has always been to unlock the secrets of Scotch whisky-making and provenance, to develop and nurture richness of character and celebrate it with the world; it’s an honour to be recognised for this and to be in such esteemed company.” Congratulations Dr Barrie!

The Nightcap

The Macallan distillery: award-winning and somewhat hard to spot.

The Macallan Distillery and visitor experience wins architectural award

The Macallan can’t seem to stop winning awards and receiving plaudits. Now it can even boast recognition from the world of architecture! The firm that worked on its impressive new(ish) distillery and visitor centre, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP), has taken home this year’s Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). This year’s judges visited and assessed the shortlisted buildings against a range of criteria including architectural integrity; usability and context; delivery and execution; and sustainability, saying of the Macallan Distillery and visitor experience that, “The attention to detail and the consistency and control of aesthetic decisions in this building is incredibly impressive. A worthy winner.” The owners of Macallan and RSHP client, Edrington, had wanted a building that could reveal the production processes of its single malt Scotch whisky and welcome visitors, all while respecting the idyllic landscape of the Speyside region, and RSHP created the structure’s profile to resemble ancient Scottish earthworks. “We are thrilled that The Macallan distillery has been awarded the Doolan for 2019,” said Toby Jeavons, associate partner and project architect of RSHP. “It was an incredible project to have been a part of and which was only possible due to our forward-looking and ambitious client in The Macallan.” George McKenzie, head of UK engineering at Edrington added that “The RIAS’ Doolan Award is an extremely humbling honour to be bestowed on the team that created The Macallan Distillery Experience. The award is testament to the vision, and collaboration from our team and our partners. Together, we have been able to deliver this unique and striking piece of contemporary architecture.” It’s certainly an impressive structure, as we found out ourselves when we invited for a sneak-peak tour.

The Nightcap

Manchester United fans have really scored with this Chivas bottling.

Chivas celebrates the 20th anniversary of Manchester United’s treble

Last week it was Irish whiskey and rugby and now it’s Scotch with another one of those ball games that have proved so popular in recent years. The Chivas Ultis 1999 Victory Edition has just been released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Manchester United winning the treble. For those who don’t know, this is when they won the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, all in one season! That’s a lot of silverware. To chime with the three theme, this special Chivas is a blend of three single malts distilled in that memorable year. Sandy Hyslop, Chivas director of blending, said: “The treble-winning season of 1999 is a historic moment in world football, and we’re honoured to be marking it with a new moment in Chivas’ history – our first-ever 20-year-old blended malt Scotch.” He went on to describe the taste: “The three single malts artfully come together to create a wealth of flavour characterised by notes of milk chocolate, orange and a delicate sensation of spicy ginger and cinnamon.” So if you love football and whisky, and have £199 burning a hole in your pocket, then this might be for you.

The Nightcap

10 points to whoever can spot the hidden bottle of Smirnoff…

Smirnoff unveils global advertising campaign

In a move that likely to enrage language purists, Smirnoff has unveiled its latest advertising campaign called “Infamous Since 1864.” We think they mean famous. Anyway, enough pedantry, the campaign is subtitled: “Invention, Intrigue and Survival Against the Odds – the Extraordinary Story of Smirnoff Vodka”. And what a story it is! Founded in Moscow in 1864 by Pyotr Arsenjevitch Smirnov, following the October Revolution the business moved to Turkey, followed by Poland and then opened a distillery in France. In 1933, production began in the US which is the beginning of Smirnoff’s (somewhere along the way the spelling changed) rise to becoming the number 1 vodka brand in the world. To celebrate this 155-year history, Rupert Sanders has directed a film tracing the Smirnoff’s journey. Parent company Diageo developed the worldwide campaign with ad agency 72andSunny. Neil Shah, global marketing director of Smirnoff, said: “This will be the first truly global campaign on the brand in more than 25 years and will launch with significant media investment in markets including: North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa. It’s been a privilege to work with renowned director Rupert Sanders, who shared our bold ambition for this campaign, and we are thrilled to soundtrack the film with an original composition of El Michels Affair’s cover of the iconic hip hop track “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. Sounds great, but surely it can’t be as good as the Ol’ Dirty Bastard original?

The Nightcap

No matter how much you love Bond, please don’t shake or stir this Bollinger.

Bollinger celebrates 40 years as Bond’s Champagne

James Bond has been sipping Bollinger Champagne ever since Moonraker starring Roger Moore was released in 1979. Since then there have been three more Bonds, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig, some highs, Casino Royale, and some lows, Die Another Day (sorry Pierce) but the Champagne has been consistently excellent. Etienne Bizot from Bollinger commented: “It brings me an immense amount of pride to be celebrating 40 years of partnership between Bollinger and James Bond, it is a testament to the friendship started in 1979, between my father Christian Bizot and James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli. A friendship based on our shared values such as excellence and elegance.” To celebrate this beautiful friendship, Bollinger has released a Tribute to Moonraker Limited Edition consisting of a magnum of Bollinger 2007 in a Saint Louis crystal ice bucket housed in a pewter and wood veneer case by Eric Berthes inspired by the space shuttle from the film. Only 407 have been produced with an RRP £4,500. If that’s out of your price range, there’s also 007 Limited Edition Millésimé 2011 to mark the release of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die. It’s an unusual Bolly as it’s made entirely from Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ. Yours for £150. The film doesn’t come out until April 2020, but the Champagne is available now so you have something to drink while you wait. 

The Nightcap

Filey Bay, making history and looking suave by the sea.

Spirit of Yorkshire distillery launches the county’s first single malt

Three and a half years ago, the very first spirit flowed from the stills of Spirit of Yorkshire distillery. You know what that means, that spirit has been having a swell old time in casks for all that time, and is now a whisky! Launched on 5 October, Filey Bay is the county’s first single malt and is inspired by the bay that you can see from the distillery. “From our very first distillations, we have always set out to create a defined house style and a light, fruity whisky,” says Spirit of Yorkshire’s whisky director, Joe Clark. “Our First Release is a combination of our two distillate styles matured in select oak casks to produce a whisky that is creamy, light and fruity with flavours of vanilla, honey, citrus and caramel.” Spirit of Yorkshire co-founder, David Thompson notes, “you only get to release the county’s first whisky once and we’re thrilled to now share it with customers old and new.” Only 6,000 bottles of Filey Bay First Release have been produced, with the bespoke bottle boasting the distillery’s mascot, the gannet, bringing together land and sea through the decoration. Rest assured, bottles will be landing at MoM Towers soon, very soon…

The Nightcap

BCB says goodbye Station Berlin, and hello Berlin Messe in 2020!

BCB bids farewell to Station Berlin

Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) probably the biggest bar trade show in Europe took place in Berlin this week, and we were on hand to take in some of the action (we’d love to say all, but it’s genuinely so huge you’d probably need five lives and 13 livers to get round all 1,200-plus brands from 446 exhibitors, numerous seminars, and the fiesta of parties and bar takeovers in the evenings… phew). People from more than 48 countries were there, either showing off the newest boozes (or non-boozes as well as all the low- and no-alcohol drinks, there’s a dedicated coffee section, too), or seeking out said newness for their own bars and shops. It was a lot of fun. We spotted ALL the rum (2020 really could be the year), heaps of botanical spirits (could gin be on the wane?), and a bizarre amount of basil. Yes, basil. Seminars ranged from how climate change will affect drinks and looking at spirits through a diversity lens, to social media how-tos and future trends. One of our favourite quotes was from Samson & Surrey’s Kyle McHugh in a session on work/life balance, when he literally shouted: “it’s ok to be happy!” Truly relevant whether you work in drinks or not. And the biggest newsy news from the show? BCB is relocating to the sizeable Berlin Messe for the 2020 edition, to allow it to grow even bigger. See you there, drinks pals!

The Nightcap

Head over to the Rum Kitchen to try out Bacardi Legacy serves.

Tails Cocktails bottles Bacardi Legacy serves for LCW

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s London Cocktail Week (heading down and want some ideas? It’s still on this weekend, and you can check out our post right here). Well, batched drinks brand Tails really is bringing the party, and has become the first to bottle serves from renowned cocktail competition Bacardi Legacy! Global champion Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn’s winning ‘Pink Me Up’ Bloody Mary twist (with rum as a base), and UK winner Chelsie Bailey’s ‘Rum Reverie’ have both been immortalised (or as good as) in pre-mixed form especially for LCW. We went along to check them out, and can confirm they are DELICIOUS. “Batching finalist cocktails from the Bacardi Legacy competition is a real game-changer,” said Tails Cocktails founder, Nick Wall. “Since I started the company, it has always been our vision to elevate drinking experiences by making high-quality cocktails more accessible to a broader audience. Batching some of the world’s best rum cocktails brings this vision to life.” Check out both serves at The Rum Kitchen in Soho before 13 October!

The Nightcap

The quality of froth on that cocktail is pure wizardry!

Gabriel Boudier Wizard finalists announced

We’ve all fancied making our own booze especially at this time of the year when the hedgerow fruits are out but not many get a chance to have their concoctions adopted by one of France’s greatest liqueur companies, Gabriel Boudier. Which is just what will happen to the winner of the annual Gabriel Boudier Wizard competition. This week, the company announced the names of the finalists. The chosen three were: Lorenzo Gavelli from The Chambers at The Chamberlain Hotel in London with his pandan leaf liqueur, Luke Bensley from Legna in Birmingham with his beetroot liqueur and Matthew Cusworth from Hoot the Redeemer in Edinburgh with a nori seaweed liqueur. Each entrant also had to come up with a special cocktail based on their liquor. The finalists dubbed Wizards of the South, North and Scotland respectively will go on to a grand final in Dijon. But the judges were so impressed with other entry, a chipotle & pineapple liqueur from Dominic Saunders from the Royal Academy of Music, that they’re sending him to the final too as a wild card. The eventual winner’s liqueur will sit alongside such former winners as Lime Leaf Liqueur by Samuel Boulton (2015) and Dijon Mustard Liqueur by Maria Vieira (2017) in the Gabriel Boudier range as well as £1000 in prize money. Congratulations to all the three and may the best liqueur win.

The Nightcap

You can be sure a few of those glasses didn’t make it back in this year’s Oktoberfest…

And finally… Disappointing Oktoberfest: beer sales down on last year

Oktoberfest, Munich’s festival of all things Bavarian, well mainly beer, sausages and lederhosen (is lederhosen good, though?), has just finished, and in thorough German fashion the numbers have been crunched and the stats are in. The most notable being that beer enthusiasts tried to steal nearly 100,000 glasses. 96,912 (love that Teutonic precision) glasses were confiscated by eagle-eyed stewards. That sounds like a lot but apparently, it’s fewer than last year. Those famous steins were also used as weapons 32 times. Ouch! But most shocking of all, beer sales are down too, visitors drank 7.3 million beers, that’s 200,000 fewer than in 2018. Very disappointing. Must do better next year Bavaria.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hemp Highball

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the…

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.

You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.

“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”

William Borrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr William Borrell!

Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.

Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:

40ml Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum
20ml Giffard Triple Sec 
20ml Lime Juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Sekforde Rum Mixer (or tonic water if you can’t get hold of it) 

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Mango Mule 

This week’s cocktail is a cold, fruity little number that highlights a very special Polish vodka made with old oak-aged fruit brandy.  Cast your mind back to the steamy days…

This week’s cocktail is a cold, fruity little number that highlights a very special Polish vodka made with old oak-aged fruit brandy. 

Cast your mind back to the steamy days of late July. Temperatures in London were in the mid-30s but it was the humidity that was taking its toll on our spirits. It felt like monsoon season in the tropics. Fortunately, we found the answer, ice-cold cocktails courtesy of new vodka brand Kavka. While the air got thicker and the sky darker, we just sipped and chatted on the terrace at Ognisko restaurant in South Kensington.

The Polish Hearth Club (Ognisko Polskie), a grand stucco townhouse in Exhibition Row, has served as a home from home for London’s Polish community since 1939. During the Second World War, it housed the Polish government in exile. Jan Woroniecki, who has run the venue’s bar and restaurant since 2012, remembers the club’s heyday in the 1960s when the wartime generation were still in their prime. Woroniecki himself is an Anglo-Pole, his father was in the Polish army during the War and took part in the D Day landing. Following the Soviet occupation of his country, he decided to remain in London and married an Englishwoman.

According to Woroniecki, the club began to decline as that generation aged and their children weren’t so interested in looking after the place. The building, which must be worth a fortune, was nearly sold to property developers in 2012. When Woroniecki took over the bar and restaurant, he modernised the menu and decor (though there are still plenty of paintings of fierce-looking Polish heroes), and now, he told me, “the restaurant is generating lots of income, it’s financially very stable.” The place was certainly heaving when we were there. 

Woroniecki originally worked as a photographer but moved into the restaurant business because, in his words, “it was just too much fun.”He’s the man behind Wodka (now closed) on Kensington High Street and Baltic (still thriving) in Borough. His latest venture is Kavka, a vodka brand which has just landed at Master of Malt. It came about following an investigation into how vodka was made in 19th century Poland. “Every distillery made a different spirit as a point of difference”, he told me, “I came across a method where you take rye and wheat spirit, and blend in small quantities of fruit spirits.” Jan Woroniecki discovered some 50 plus-year-old apple and plum pot still brandies in wooden barrels and adds a tiny amount, less than 1%, to column-distilled rye and wheat spirits. This then undergoes a very light filtration: “We can’t legally call ourselves a Polish vodka as we don’t know where fruit spirits came from,” he added. 

Kavka Mango Mule

Kavka Mango Mule, liquid air conditioning

The taste is smooth, spicy and sweet, with a subtle fruitiness. Kavka makes about the best vodka Martini I’ve ever tried but the cocktail that really refreshed on that hot night in July was the Mango Mule. Mule cocktails are usually based on the Moscow Mule and the common ingredient are vodka, ginger beer and, usually, lime juice. They are then usually served in a copper mug. This one is nothing like that but it is delicious and in the end, that’s all that matters. We’re not going to quibble about a man’s mule. The subtle fruitiness of the vodka going beautifully with the mango sorbet and lemon juice with a little bit of Campari providing bitterness. The tropical weather might be a distant memory, but one sip of the Mango Mule and you’ll be transported to sweltering South Ken. 

Right, let’s Mule!

50ml Kavka vodka
15ml Campari
5ml lemon juice
1 scoop of mango sorbet

Shake the ingredients hard in a shaker and then strain into an ice-filled Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with a piece of orange peel. 

 

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Talking ethical booze with Gorilla Spirits

Given that today (24th September, if you’re nowhere near a calendar) is World Gorilla Day, we thought it was ideal timing to chat with Andy Daniels, founder of Gorilla Spirits…

Given that today (24th September, if you’re nowhere near a calendar) is World Gorilla Day, we thought it was ideal timing to chat with Andy Daniels, founder of Gorilla Spirits Co. about creating an ethical business, founding a distillery, and why he was moved by the plight of the mountain gorilla.

For every bottle of gin, vodka, rum or liqueur you buy from the Gorilla Spirits Co., £1 goes to The Gorilla Organization. The business model is simple: you purchase delicious booze, and support a great cause at the same time. “Everyone’s a winner: the consumer gets a great product; our company benefits from the sale of that product and the gorillas benefit greatly by additional resources being put in that direction,” explains Gorilla Spirits Co. founder, Andy Daniels.

Daniels had spent the best part of 35 years in corporate life, but during that time he’d always been drawn to the wonderful world of food and drink. He brewed his own beer, became a hobbyist cider maker, and even distilled for many years before he started a spirits company. The motivation to create his own brand came back in 2008.

“I got wind of what the Sipsmith guys were about to do, who are an important part of every craft spirit story in the UK today, and it sparked the idea,” Daniels says. “I spent a couple of years learning about the industry and formulating plans to start the business. From early 2011, I set about a formal project to get the company going, and it wasn’t until December 2015 that we actually launched our first project. It took a long time. Not only did we design our first commercial gin, but we also designed, from the ground up, a small but industrial-class distillery.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Gorilla Spirits Co. founder Andy Daniels

With the Gorilla Spirits Co., Daniels was determined to demonstrate that placing corporate social responsibility at the heart of a business not only serves society and the world at large as well, but it’s also positively good for business. “Very close to my heart is a strong belief that businesses should be more than just about making money. Businesses need to recognise that you can’t continually focus entirely on profit while taking out of the world’s resources,” Daniels says. “Many major organisations today have corporate social responsibility agendas. But I don’t believe that many, if any, really put it at the core of their business. I don’t think that’s a sustainable business model.”

When Gorilla Spirits Co. was founded, mountain gorillas were facing extinction with only 880 in existence. For Daniels, it was obvious to him that the focus of his social responsibility should be their conservation. “What shocked us about that was not just the fact that there were 880 mountain gorillas in the world, but the fact that the people who look after them knew that it was 880. It wasn’t 881 or 882, it was 880. When you can count the numbers of an entire species to that level, then clearly we’re in trouble,” explains Daniels.

In order to do his bit for the cause, Daniels struck up a partnership with UK-based charity The Gorilla Organization, which works with communities at the forefront of gorilla conservation through innovative and award-winning projects in Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo. “We had some conversations with them about what they were doing and were really impressed, particularly because, for such a tiny charity, they’re able to do some amazing work,” Daniels says. “We entered into a formal contract with them which obliges us to pay one pound from every bottle that we sell. There is no termination clause in the agreement, so regardless of whether I’m running the business or whether anyone else is running the business, it remains committed to making that donation.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Mountain gorilla numbers have thankfully increased in recent years

In November 2018 the IUCN announced that mountain gorillas have been moved from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’. “The most recent census of the mountain gorilla puts its numbers at 1,004,” says Daniels. “The governments of Rwanda and Uganda have recognised the value of conservation, particularly when it comes to their gorilla populations. It just goes to show that when you get governments, charities and businesses all focused on supporting something and making something happen, you truly can make things change.”

It’s a promising message, given that brands based around conservation efforts have become increasingly common, with the likes of Elephant Gin and Snow Leopard Vodka also fighting the good fight. “We are not exclusive in this; they’re doing some amazing things,” explains Daniels. “It’s quite incredible that there are a few brands like us in the spirits industry who take a similar approach and I know full well that it’s as good for their businesses as it is for ours. As I said, it’s not just about philanthropy; it’s positively beneficial to business.”

It was important for Daniels that this model of ethical practice didn’t just concern its central cause, but also extended to the local community, “I was delighted that we were recently awarded an international corporate social responsibility excellence award for the work that we do not just with gorilla conservation but also in the way that we engage with the community,” he says. “For example, at the distillery, we have an onsite shop that we don’t open for anything other than booked visitors. So if somebody turns up here, we send them to our village shop. We do that because we want to be part of the community and we want to encourage the local rural economy.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Mugwaneza, the 200-litre Gorilla Spirits Co. still

The spirit of social responsibility played a large part in the location of the Gorilla Spirits Co.’s distillery. It is found in Upton Grey, in the northeast corner of Hampshire where it borders with Surrey. As Daniels explains, “One of the areas of the national economy that’s suffering particularly badly is our rural economies. Setting up where we are, we do have the potential to add money to the local economy.” The distillery has a visitor centre which regularly houses tours, tastings and cocktail masterclasses, as well as a ten-station gin school, all of which have proved popular. The gin school holds particular appeal, and Daniels describes it as “the ultimate experience really for a gin lover”. Given that participants make enough of their own gin (from a choice of over 60 botanicals) to bottle most and have enough left over for a G&T, it’s not hard to see why.

The main attraction remains the 200-litre still, an entirely digitally-connected and software-driven beauty called ‘Mugwaneza’. “When you go around the country, many stills have got very quintessentially English names like ‘Constance’ and ‘Patience’. Because we’re a bit different and because of our links with gorillas and with Africa, our still is named ‘Mugwaneza’,” says Daniels. “Translated into English from the language used in Rwanda, it means ‘she who is content’. In my long experience of life, whenever ‘she’ is content – whoever ‘she’ might be – then the world is quite a happy place”. All of the gin school’s ten stills likewise have names drawn from the Rwandan language, so if you make a bottle of gin with Gorilla Spirits, your label has the name of the still that it was produced in.

The Gorilla Spirits Co. doesn’t just manufacture its own spirit product. It has a contract distilling business on the side, and is currently making four brands with another three or four lined up over the next few months. “That’s the side of the business that we’re actively growing. That has been fantastic actually; to work with some other start-up brands and be part of their growth,” says Daniels.

Gorilla Spirits Co.

The Gorilla Spirits Co. portfolio

The current Gorilla Spirits Co. range consists of three gins, one vodka, one liqueur and one spiced rum, but there’s more to look forward to. “We’ve always got some exciting things going on in the background. We are doing some ageing at the moment, so I think in the next few months or so we’ll see some interesting aged products,” says Daniels. “We’re also looking to expand our rum portfolio and we’ve done some whisky trials.”

We look forward to seeing what’s to come, but for now, there’s plenty to enjoy from Gorilla Spirits Co.!

The first product the Gorilla Spirits Co. released was Silverback Mountain Strength Gin, which was produced back in December 2015. It’s London Dry in style and was crafted from seven botanicals which Daniels splits into two groups. The first is filled with classic ingredients, juniper, coriander, angelica root and sweet orange, and then the three additionals are calamus root, acacia blossom and lemongrass. “We describe Silverback as being a ‘citrus-led’ gin. So three of the seven: you’ve got coriander which gives us that spicy citrus note; orange for a nice warm citrus note; and then lemongrass which accentuates the high notes,” says Daniels. “Giving it its full title ‘Silverback Mountain Strength Gin’ the ‘mountain strength’ is actually not connected with the ABV but it is another nod to the strength and power of the gorilla”.

The Old Tom Gin uses exactly the same ingredients as Silverback Mountain Strength Gin, but the number of botanicals that are put into the distillation are increased because Daniels wanted to capture the Old Tom style which much richer in flavour and it’s sweetened. “After distillation, we add a tiny bit of sugar to sweeten it. We make it largely because I think it’s bloody delicious! At the end of the day you have to please yourself before you please anyone else and it’s a style that I really like,” says Daniels.

Initially launched as a limited-edition product, Silverback Raspberry Gin has proved so popular demand it might become a regular. To create this flavoured gin, Daniels began with the regular Silverback Mountain Strength formula, reduced the ABV to bottle down to 38%, added Scottish raspberry juice and a tiny bit of sugar to balance the tartness of the raspberry. Why Scottish raspberries? “Because they are the best in the world. It’s as simple as that! So whatever we put into a product we try to ensure that it is the very best that we can buy. And Scottish raspberry, bar none, is the best raspberry in the world,” says Daniels. “It has a lovely vibrant colour that suggests that it’s going to be a very fruity, very sweet liquid. But people are always surprised that actually what you get is a really, really lovely gin with a little trace of fresh summer fruit coming through it.”

Blackback Mountain Strength is an entirely British wheat-derived vodka which features a pot still-finish to add depth and character. “It has a really lovely mouth-feel, a touch of spiciness about it and a little hint of sweetness. It’s absolutely perfect for something like a vodka tonic or you want it for a cocktail, says Daniels. “What’s interesting from a story point of view, is that you know that a silverback gorilla is the head honcho of the troop and the great protector. A blackback gorilla is a young adolescent male who may become a silverback in the course of time, although it’s not guaranteed. There’s a little bit of playfulness in our branding as gin is essentially flavoured vodka, so our Blackback could one day be a Silverback.

Maraba Coffee Liqueur was made from single varietal red bourbon Arabica coffee beans from small growers in Rwanda and takes its name from this coffee-growing district. In order for the process to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, Gorilla Spirits Co. exceeds Fair Trade pricing for the growers concerned. The beans are roasted and ground by a local coffee roaster called Moonroast before it is effectively cold-brewed with alcohol, “so we get these amazing buttery, chocolate notes in it, along with the higher floral notes and taste and aroma. Then, of course, we mix it up into a liqueur,” says Daniels. “So with Maraba, again, great for cocktails so things like the nation’s favourite right now, espresso martini, as well as white Russians and black Russians”.

The most recent addition to the range is Karisimbi Spiced Rum. In fact, it was only just released last week on September 19th, or as I’m sure you all know it as, International Talk Like A Pirate Day. The name was taken from the highest volcanic peak in the Varumba National Park, which is home to a troop of mountain gorillas. “It’s quite a complex blend of aged and unaged rums from a number of different rum distilleries. It’s really beautifully spiced with vanilla, blood oranges, ginger and cinnamon. I would pit it against any spiced rum on the market, I think it’s absolutely delicious,” says Daniels. “It is predominantly designed for mixing and goes particularly well with things like Fever Tree Smoky Ginger Ale or a good quality cola, ginger beer, that kind of thing. But the quality of the rum is so good that it really is a sipper as well.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Happy World Gorilla Day!

Don’t forget, for each bottle of gin, vodka, rum or liqueur you buy from the Gorilla Spirits Co., £1 goes to The Gorilla Organization, whose fantastic work you can check out by clicking the link. The Gorilla Spirits Co. has also just launched an app which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play Store, so if you want a directory of cocktails to play with, as well as more info on the distillery and its conversation work than it’s the place to go. Happy World Gorilla Day, folks!

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Five eco-friendly distilleries

From carbon emissions to wasteful byproducts, spirits production is a strain on nature, with the average 750ml bottle producing more than six pounds of CO2* (equivalent to a seven-mile car…

From carbon emissions to wasteful byproducts, spirits production is a strain on nature, with the average 750ml bottle producing more than six pounds of CO2* (equivalent to a seven-mile car journey), according to the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable. The second part of environmental series this week, we shine a light on five eco-friendly distilleries that take sustainability seriously…

Distilling is an art. It’s an expression of nature, creating complex flavour patterns – from delicate floral to powerful smoke – using little more than some combination of raw ingredients, yeast, water and occasionally wood. And yet, despite being au naturel in spirit, the production chain is liable to wreak havoc on mother nature. Generally speaking, the higher the ABV, the higher a product’s carbon footprint.

There’s the environmental impact of farming the base ingredient, be it sugarcane, grain, agave, grapes, or potatoes. This includes fertilising, watering, harvesting, processing and transporting the crops, as well as the impact on local wildlife and biodiversity. Distilling, as you’ll know, requires lots of energy (and creates plenty of waste) as does bottling, packaging and storing the resulting booze. Then, that precious liquid is freighted by air and sea across the globe – usually heavy glass bottles wrapped in plastic and cardboard boxes – for our drinking pleasure. Yikes.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. From multinational companies to fledgling distillers, spirits producers of all sizes are busy taking steps towards a greener future. Looking across renewable energy, water use, philanthropy and more, we’ve highlighted five spirits distilleries that are going above and beyond to make sure their craft is kinder on the planet without compromising on taste. That’s the spirit.

The absolutely lovely Absolut distillery in Sweden

The Absolut Company, Sweden

One of the most sustainable spirits-makers in the world, Absolut Vodka’s Åhus-based site only uses green energy generated by hydro power, and its entire distillation process is carbon neutral. The Absolut Company works with local farmers to ensure minimal amounts of fertilizers and pesticides and little-to-no irrigation. Wheat stillage, a byproduct of production, is sold to local farmers and feeds 250,000 pigs and 40,000 cows a day. The site aims to be entirely zero-emissions, zero-waste and 100% recycling by 2040.

Belgrove Distillery, Tasmania

Not only is Belgrove Australia’s first dedicated rye whisky distillery, it’s also home to the only biodiesel-powered still in the world (a type of biodegradable fuel made from waste cooking oil – in this case, sourced from a local chip fryer). Owner Peter Bignell grows his own grain, ferments, distills and barrel ages on-site. A reclaimed laundromat tumble dryer is used for malting and spent mash is fed to his sheep (apparently he’s thinking of using sheep dung instead of peat in the malting process – watch this space). The water used to cool his still is sourced from an on-site dam, while any waste water is either recycled or used for irrigation.

Square One Organic Spirits, US

From wind-powered energy to carbon-neutral labels, every aspect of Square One’s Wyoming-based distilling operation is organic and eco-friendly. Founded in 2006 by environmentalist Allison Evanow, each of its various spirits is made from 100% organic American-grown rye and water from the Teton Mountains, with no GMO yeasts, chemical additives or synthetic de-foaming agents used in the production process. Not only are the bottle labels paper-free – made with bamboo, sugarcane and cotton – but the ink is soy-based too.

Jimador harvesting agave for the Patron distillery

Patrón Tequila, Mexico

Hacienda Patrón is big on sustainability, being the first distillery to use a natural gas pipeline as its proprietary energy source in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions. The Jalisco-based site uses a reverse osmosis water treatment to recycle 70% of the stillage from the distilling process – used in its cooling towers and for cleaning – and creates more than 5,500 tons of compost every year in agave fibres, which it donates to fertilise agave fields and green spaces in the surrounding community. Oh, and since 2015, the distillery has reforested around 16,000 trees.

Greensand Ridge Distillery, UK

The UK’s first carbon neutral distillery, Greensand Ridge, works with local farmers to transform surplus produce rejected by supermarkets into delicious rums, gins and fruit brandies. They’re big on ‘reuse or recycle’ – the team’s total non-recyclable waste output is one bag every six to eight weeks, a remarkable feat – and pride themselves on using non-biodegradable chemicals. Any plastics used are plant-based. From heat recovery systems to chemical-free production, environmental savviness is a top priority. And they make some cracking spirits, too.

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