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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: whiskey

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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New Arrival of the Week: Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about? Michter’s whiskey has something…

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about?

Michter’s whiskey has something of a convoluted history. It was originally founded in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in 1753 by John Shenk who began distilling rye. He was a Mennonite, a religious sect like the Amish, think beards without moustaches, putting up wooden houses quickly and strictly no motor cars. Especially in 1753.

This was pre-independence when the 13 original colonies of British America were still part of the mother country. During the War of Independence, George Washington is said to have purchased Shenk’s whiskey for his troops to keep their morale up. It seems to have worked as the rebellious colonists won the war and thus the United States of America was born.

Shenk’s distillery was bought by Abraham Bomberger in the 1860s and became known as Bomberger’s. Then in the 1950s, the name was changed again by the distillery’s then owner Lou Forman by combining the names of his sons Michael and Peter: ta da, Michter’s!  Pennsylvania was once famous for its rye whiskey but by the 1980s rye as a category was dying and the venerable old distillery closed in 1989. It’s now a National Historic Landmark but sadly in a state of severe dilapidation. Ominously, according to Wikipedia: “The distillery closed in 1989 and may have since been demolished.” 

Happily the brand was revived by a company called Chatham Imports. There’s been some legal argie bargie over the name Bomberger’s since but we won’t go into that now.  The Michter’s magic now happens at the Fort Nelson distillery (see image in header) in the heart of bourbon country Louisville, Kentucky under the watchful eyes of master distillery Dan McKee and head of maturation Andrea Wilson. Last year it opened a visitor centre on the famous Whiskey Row. 

The standard rye whiskey is a benchmark, particularly popular with bartenders, while there are all kinds of bourbons and whiskeys produced too. Which brings us on to this week’s New Arrival. Because of its unusual grain bill, it can’t be categorised as either a rye or a bourbon (which would have to be at least 51% rye or corn respectively.) In the sour mash process a portion of the last ferment is added to the next to get things going rather like with sourdough bread, only better because you end up with whiskey. This is produced as with the standard Sour Mash but then it undergoes secondary maturation in, according to Michter’s: “a second custom made barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 18-month air-dried wood and then toasted but not charred.” It’s bottled at a nice punchy 43% ABV and only produced in limited quantities. You’ll probably want to sip this neat to appreciate those fancy casks but you can also channel your inner Mennonite with an Old Fashioned

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Golden Grahams, orange peel, soft oaky smoke and a hint of menthol.

Palate: Honey on toast, salted butter, vanilla pod earthiness and white pepper heat.

Finish: Cinnamon, floral grains and another waft of smoke.

Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish is now available from Master of Malt.

 

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Cocktail of the Week: Spiced Hot Apple Punch

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some…

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some WhistlePig Rye. If that won’t keep out the cold, then you need a new coat.

Hands up who likes mulled wine? I mean really likes mulled wine. Yes, when made properly it can be a fine thing but it’s usually much too sweet, made with terrible wine and over-boiled so that it loses its alcohol and the spices have turned bitter. Not very nice. Hot cider is much more my cup of tea. Partly because if someone is serving you a mulled cider, it is usually a sign that they have put some thought into it.

My wife, who is American, introduced me to the joys of hot cider. It’s something of a holiday season tradition over there. Beginning with Halloween and taking in Thanksgiving and going up until Christmas, in the colder states there will always be hot cider on offer. But it’s not exactly what it sounds like because in the US cider means apple juice, if you want proper cider you have to ask for hard cider. The recipe my wife makes involves taking lots of apple juice, good quality cloudy stuff, and mulling it gently with lots of spices, fruit juice, etc, and then adding alcohol in the form of bourbon or rum at the end. She also adds butter which sounds a bit mad but it gives the cider a lovely creamy quality. 

What’s more fun though, is to use proper honest-to-god English cider. The stuff that contains real booze and then spike it at the end for added merriment. The big question is what cider to use. It’s sad but true that cider in this country is often a pale imitation of the real thing. To be legally called cider you only need to have 35% apple content, the rest can be sugar, water and flavourings. And that 35% can be concentrate made from apples grown anywhere. You’ll be very lucky if your cider contains any English fruit. Of the widely available brands, Old Rosie from Westons, Dunkertons and Orchard Pig are all good. If you’re lucky enough to live in a cider producing part of the country like the West Country or Kent, visit your local ciderist. And please avoid flavoured ciders which are essentially alcopops.

Whistlepig-Autumn-JustinDeSouza-1

Couple of these will keep the cold out

The recipe below is an approximation. It will depend on how sweet your cider is. The most important thing is don’t boil it or it will become bitter and lose alcohol. And finally don’t forget the pièce de résistance, a good slug of Whistlepig 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey. 

It’s time to get mulling. Here’s what you need:

3 litres of good quality cider

150ml (or more) WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 3 oranges
1 tablespoon of orange zest
½ tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 knob of butter

Put all the ingredients except the whiskey and the butter in a large saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Do not boil. Taste, it might need some more sugar. Leave to infuse for as long as you can. Gently reheat. Add the butter and the whisky. Serve in Toddy or wine glasses, garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick to use as a stirrer.

 

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Kinahan’s Kasc Project

Resurrecting an historic spirit is no mean feat, particularly one revered for its pioneering and unconventional approach, but take it from us, the folks behind Irish whiskey brand Kinahan’s are relishing…

Resurrecting an historic spirit is no mean feat, particularly one revered for its pioneering and unconventional approach, but take it from us, the folks behind Irish whiskey brand Kinahan’s are relishing the task. We chat with Lewis Johnstone, global sales and marketing officer, as their most daring bottling to date, The Kasc Project, hits shelves…

“I think we’ve gatecrashed the party a little bit,” Johnstone says of Kinahan’s re-entry into the burgeoning Irish whiskey category. “If you ask some of the smaller privately-owned whiskeys who have been quite happily trotting along the last few years, they would probably say ‘where the hell did they come from?’. But we didn’t gatecrash it with the same kind of whiskey. We gatecrashed it with something a little bit different, and that is really our pathway to the future.”

If it’s proof you’re after, look no further than their first-of-its-kind creation, The Kasc Project. The unusual bottling sees a blend of malt and grain whiskeys aged in handmade hybrid casks made of five different wood varieties – Portuguese, American, French, and Hungarian oak, and chestnut – each selected for the flavours they impart into the whiskey. But then, Kinahan’s is no stranger to experimenting with wood. 

Kinahan's Kask

Krazy Kinahan’s Kasc

The brand first appeared in 1779 as a family-run operation, explains Johnstone, almost entirely exporting its creations to the US. “We were the first whiskey to start experimenting with wood types and use wood as a maturation device rather than just transportation, which is what everybody else was doing,” he says. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in particular took a liking to the liquid and insisted all casks were to be marked with L.L. – a practice acknowledged today across Kinahan’s Heritage Collection.

He wasn’t the only fan. The brand was also the whiskey du jour of esteemed bartender Jerry Thomas, who referenced Kinahan’s in his various cocktail tomes alongside Jamesons. Unfortunately, even Thomas’ backing was not quite enough to protect the brand once Prohibition reared its sobering head. Since 98% of its exports were US-based at the time, Kinahan’s would be resigned to the history books for the best part of a century. Fast-forward to now, and the team, led by distiller Quinzil du Plessis, have harnessed the renegade attitude of the whiskey-makers who came before them to bring the brand back to life. 

“We have arguably the biggest selection of different barrel types than anybody in the business, certainly in Ireland and maybe even beyond that, because that’s who we are and that’s what we do,” says Johnstone. “When we restarted the Kinahan’s project, we had stock in a variety of warehouses all over Ireland, and the first thing Zac [Oganian, managing director] had to do was to find it all and make an audit of everything, what he could use, what he couldn’t.”

They pooled their stash into three third party warehouses and Quinzil set about altering the barrels to confuddle prying eyes and disguise the product inside. “He writes about 20 letters and numbers across the top of the barrel and only half a dozen of those letters or numbers might mean something, and only to him,” says Johnstone. 

Kinahan's

Kinahan’s, goes beautifully with a fine pair of trews

As of next week, the team will start the process of moving each and every cask to a brand new purpose-built Kinahan’s warehouse, away from curious noses. “Now Quinzil can go absolutely nuts without tiptoeing around, because we use some quite significant characters’ warehouses,” he continues. “They’re always looking over our shoulder to see what we’re up to and trying to discover what’s inside the barrel.”

And with whiskeys as curiously compelling as The Kasc Project, there’s little wonder. Currently, the wider range comprises Kinahan’s Single Malt 10 and Kinahan’s Small Batch, which Johnstone refers to as “our nod to the past”, as well as an annual single cask bottling that goes by The Special Release Project. Armagnac and amarone barrels are just two of the casks the team is experimenting with.

As for a distillery – well, Kinahan’s does own one, the Birr Distillery, established in the 1820s in the centre of the Republic of Ireland. Whether the team will fire up the stills remains to be seen, but for now, they’re pretty content making waves with wood. “At the moment we acquire whiskey from two or three distillers of note and then we bring [the casks] in and do what we want to be famous for – making great whiskey with our wood expertise,” says Johnstone. “Others might be doing it differently, but for us, a distillery isn’t critical to that end game.”

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Small distillers are the real losers in the EU/ US trade dispute

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been…

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been affected. Industry expert Ian Buxton looks into the rights and wrongs, winners and losers in the battle of the tariffs. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the price of some American whiskeys has been going up. And some craft whiskeys which we hear about on this side of the Pond seem unduly hard to find. What’s going on? 

It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Well, the Donald would blame someone else, of course, and he’s been quick to point the finger at Airbus Industries and the European Union. But he may have a point.

Just over a year or so ago the World Trade Organisation (WTO – an acronym you’ll hear a lot more frequently if the UK does indeed finally execute a no-deal Brexit) determined that EU aid to Airbus constituted an illegal subsidy that disadvantaged Boeing, its main competitor.  So, seeking to Make America Great Again and punish the EU, President Trump imposed stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

Rather than backing down, the EU retaliated with its own new tariffs, including a stinging 25% rate on American whiskies. As some cynical commentators observed, this may not have been unrelated to the fact that much US distilling takes place in the Southern states that tend to vote Republican.  Politics, eh – it’s a dirty game.

As a result, prices have risen and major European importers have cut back their orders. In fact, for the 12 months to July, US whiskey exports to the EU fell by a massive $160m as around one-fifth of the sales just dried up. The folks at Brown-Forman, who make around 60% of the US whiskey we drink, have been especially hard hit. We’re talking about Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Early Times – all fine products and justly popular. In their most recent financial results, Brown-Forman reckon they’ve lost around $125m in sales. Even for an industry giant that’s got to hurt. 

This dispute has been grumbling along for nearly 15 years but, under Trump, the American response has been increasingly robust. In fact, reports suggest his administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 100% on $1.8 billion worth of European spirits and wine, with potentially dire consequences for Scotch whisky and British gin (never mind Cognac; the French can look after themselves!)  The US distilling industry trade body DISCUS is urging restraint, fearing tit-for-tat European retaliation. “American whiskeys have become collateral damage,” said Chris Swonger, DISCUS’ head honcho.

major fire at Jim Beam

The big boys will probably be ok

Brown-Forman is big and profitable, it’ll get over it. It’s a rather larger problem for small craft distillers who add such variety to the scene, especially when they’ve invested in new bottles and packaging. Well, according to Mountain Laurel’s owner Herman Mihalich (they make Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, but his European distributor has stopped ordering) “we went from a marginally profitable business to breaking even.” Prior to the new tariffs, Europe accounted for around 10% of his sales but these dried up almost overnight.

That feels bad enough, but consider the plight of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Virginia, who have thousands of unfilled bottles just waiting for their tasty rye whiskey. What’s the problem: just fill ‘em up and sell them in your own backyard, you say. Well, there’s the rub – they can’t. Owner Scott Harris was all geared up for a European sales drive and, just ahead of the tariff spat, invested in 70cl bottles for Europe.  Sadly, they’re useless in the USA where the law says spirits must be sold in 75cl containers The difference is only the size of a mini but means a mountain of expensive glass that he can’t use.

As he told the Reuters news agency: “We had one distributor we signed a deal with. He just stopped returning our phone calls. We’ve been trying very hard to get into the UK and France, and we can’t get any distributor to talk to us right now.”

Well, as the poet would have it,
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

For you and me all this means little more than not getting our favourite craft bourbon or rye this Christmas, or having to pay more. For employees of US distilleries affected by this trade war, it could get worse – DISCUS are warning of thousands of job losses if the dispute continues. But I have a plan. As I note in the recently-released latest edition of my 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Canadian whiskies are a steal. You can thank me later.

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New Arrival(s) of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company X Balcones Distilling

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That…

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. You’ll want to taste them to believe them, but until then, we’ve captured their essence in four words: upside-down cask maturation…

Hello, curious whisky drinker. We thought the words ‘upside-down cask maturation’ might just lure you in. Those clever folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company are back at it again – and by ‘it’, we mean bottling the contents of compelling, rare, and/or downright bizarre casks from across the globe, this time from the Lone Star state: Texas. 

Now, the team behind Balcones Distilling aren’t shy about “testing the waters of what’s possible”, as head distiller Jared Himstedt so eloquently puts it. They’re the creators of the first Texan whisky since Prohibition, the pioneers of blue corn whisky, and the only distillers bold enough to create a smoky whisky by smoking the distillate, rather than the grain. If they can’t find a space for these barrels in their existing range, the contents must be – and we mean this as the highest possible compliment – extraordinarily weird.

Of the four Boutique-y releases, three are single malts made from Golden Promise malted barley from Scotland – aged for various timescales in Tequila, oloroso sherry, and Balcones’ own Brimstone casks – while the final spirit is made from blue corn and finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Each one spent more time in the finishing cask than it did in the original – hence ‘upside-down cask maturation’.

“We haven’t really released anything like these on our own,” says Winston Edwards, brand ambassador at Balcones Distilling. “We haven’t done a Tequila cask single malt at the distillery, we haven’t done a Brimstone cask at the distillery – we have done a sherry release, but not with our blue corn spirit. They’re unique to Boutique-y.”

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

Balcones 3 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Well, well, well, what have we here? A Tequila cask-aged Texan single malt whisky; bold and vegetal, with a glorious dried fruit sweetness. “I don’t know what distillery this Tequila cask came from,” says Himstedt. “[Cask] Brokers can be weird – sometimes they don’t want you to know because then you can just start calling the distilleries and bodegas on your own. 

The team has always used Tequila casks, right from the beginning, in the mix for Baby Blue Corn Whisky, he continues. “We’d buy all the Tequila casks that were about to break down and they would make them into smaller barrels for us – they’d get shaved and re-charred and all that. I wanted to see what big Tequila casks would do for Baby, and when we got our first truckload in, we probably had 14 or 15 different isolated spirits recipes, so we threw everything in one – just to see.”

After 12 months ageing in a virgin French oak barrel, the single malt was scooted across to the ex-Tequila barrel, where it remained for 37 months. “I don’t know what you call it when you reverse the process,” says Himstedt. “We didn’t ‘finish’ it – we started it in one barrel and then it really matured in another.”

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Malt Company)

The more astute among you might’ve noticed something unusual. That Boutique-y Malt Company? Eh? “We’re not allowed to call it whisky in the UK if it’s under three years old,” Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company explains. “This is just two years old, so we’ve put a little flag over the whisky logo and renamed it ‘That Boutique-y Malt Company’.” 

After 14 and a half months ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel, this single malt was switched to a Balcones Brimstone cask for a further 16 and a half months’ ageing. The name Brimstone refers to a corn whisky of the same name, which is smoked using scrub oak. “It’s actually not a different species of oak, but in Texas where it’s really dry the tree grows twisted, almost like a Bonsai version of what an oak tree would be,” Edwards explains. “It’s so dense, we’re talking about something that has spent 60 to 80 years just to grow four feet tall, so lot of the compounds and aromas are really concentrated.” Think: smoky bacon and campfire deliciousness.

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Malt Company) 

The third single malt – again, bottled as a malt spirit rather than a whisky – spent 11 months in ex-bourbon casks before maturing for a further 14 months in an oloroso sherry cask, with all the rich plum fruit and mouthwatering spicy treacle you’d expect. Fun fact: This will be the joint-third Balcones release that has spent time in a sherry cask – the other two being the distillery’s 10th anniversary single malt and a dark rum finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask. *Italian chefs kiss* 

We say joint third, because soon (quite how soon is still under wraps) there will be another spirit joining this experimental line-up: a 100% blue corn spirit finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. If your whistle has been thoroughly wetted, you’ll need to get a move on – a very limited number of bottles are available, priced at £69.95 per 500ml bottle. Hey, we told you they were extraordinary. 

 

 

 

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5 minutes with. . . Peter Lynch from WhistlePig

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how…

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how nobody can fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes.

The drinks world lost one of its greats last year when Dave Pickerell from WhistlePig died at the age of 62. Pickerell set up WhistlePig in 2009 and was instrumental in the revival of the original American style of whiskey – rye. We feel very fortunate to have met and tasted with him last year when he was over in London. Pickerell has left behind quite a legacy in WhistlePig, not least in the form of barrels and barrels of delicious maturing rye whiskey.

The buyers here at Master of Malt persuaded WhistlePig to sell us one of these barrels: an exclusive oloroso butt of 12 year old whiskey, which has been bottled recently and is on sale now. To tell us a bit more about it, we managed to get some time with master blender Peter Lynch.

Whistle-Pig-landscape

Behold! The WhistlePig 12 Year Old oloroso cask finish, exclusive to MoM

Master of Malt: Hello! What can you tell us about this oloroso-finished rye whiskey?

Peter Lynch: It’s one of my favourite projects that I’ve been working on. It’s an extension of our 12 Year Old Old World, aged in Port, Madeira and sauternes casks. We took that one step further and at the moment we’re trialling 15-20 different finishing casks which could range from a specific wood or, on the other side of things, a couple of different olorosos from different soleras. Last summer you guys purchased an old oloroso sherry butt [around 550 litres] that had been in a solera for 10-15 years. As it didn’t see that much life in there it has kept keep those sweeter, fruitier, more vibrant notes with a little less of that rancio character, and some oak extracts too. When it comes to finishing barrels with American whiskey, I’m worried about extracting the fresh oak component. Because the way these casks are heat-treated for wine, less aggressively than for whiskey, I’m at risk of pulling all these tannin and other compounds, which isn’t a worry for the winemaker. These sherry butts are about three times the size of a regular cask, so we were able to let it sit for longer, so it finishes for about two months. Typically with regular barrels we would finish for two to four weeks. It has sweet fruity notes but it’s very much a rye whiskey. You’ll see that with all our whiskeys, we are trying to push the boundaries but we’re not trying to turn it into something different. We’re just adding a top note. 

MoM: How long have you been working with WhistlePig for?

PL: I started with them back in 2015. I started as a distiller. I then moved into distilling and blending in about 2016.

MoM: How did you get into distilling?

PL: I had been a home brewer for a while. A love of whiskey has been instilled in me for quite a few years. I was working on sales and retail side of things and got to know spirits quite well. Then I saw an ad on Craigslist, of all places, for the position at WhistlePig.

MoM: Did you learn on the job then?

PL: Effectively speaking, yes, plus all the resources you can find in books and online publications. I was learning everyday. I have spent quite a bit of money on whiskey throughout my life but the amount I have spent on literature pertaining to whiskey and spirits dwarfs that. One of the things about building a distillery is there will always be growing pains, no matter what. A great way to learn is when things break down, you learn how to fix them. Whether it’s new machinery having issues or different yeast strains giving you trouble, you learn as you go. When it comes to something like premium rye whiskey, you are almost, if not quite making it up as you go, we’re defining this category. We’re trying to set the stage here quite deliberately, so all eyes are on us. 

Peter Lynch WhistlePig

Peter Lynch helping himself to some whiskey

MoM: What’s it been like trying to fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes?

PL: I’m not trying to fill the shoes because they are very big shoes. People wonder what the line of succession is. They think, ‘oh my God, Dave’s gone, there’s a void’ but in reality that’s because people see Dave, they’ve met Dave, Dave had a huge personality, but they don’t see the everyday people on the farm, the warehouse guys who are grabbing the actual barrels, the distillers trouble-shooting on a day-to-day basis. We have a team who work on new products. It’s not something that we ever thought we had to prepare for, of course, but at the same time, we’ve got the infrastructure in place. But we definitely don’t have that kind of larger-than-life personality anymore. They’re definitely going to be tough shoes to fill. 

MoM: Which other distilleries do you think are doing interesting things with whiskey?

PL: That’s a tough one. I could give you 50 examples. People like Balcones or Corsair, pushing the boundaries with grains that we wouldn’t think of as whiskey grains. Balcones using different corn varieties: who cared ten years ago that 99% of bourbon whiskey was made from the same corn variety? If we change that one simple ingredient which is making up the bulk of that whiskey, you can get a totally different flavour profile. Balcones corn-forward whiskeys are going to be earthier than you might imagine, spicier with more herbaceous notes. That idea of terroir, and speaking of terroir, look at my buddies over in New York at Hillrock. They’re breaking it down even further, and focusing on different fields. They distill and mature it all in the same way, how is it going to taste in four years time? 

MoM: And finally, do you have a favourite rye cocktail?

I have a favourite cocktail but if I told it to you you would a) laugh in my face b) the person who told it to me would kill me for revealing the secret. It’s a two ingredient cocktail that has Farm Stock Crop 001 and another ingredient that I can’t tell you but it’s a very silly ingredient. Because it’s summer, I’m grabbing a highball right now. Nice and refreshing, it brings out a lots of different notes in the whiskey. If you try a highball with Whistlepig 10 Year Old or 12 Year Old or 15 Year Old, if you put them side by side you will notice incredible differences. It’s really the perfect summer drink. 

Thank you Peter! And we promise we won’t divulge the secret cocktail recipe only to say that it is surprising, and delicious too.

 

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World spirits: fabulous flavours from far off lands

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you…

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you are!

Travelling the world is fun. This is something we generally all agree on. However, quite frankly we just don’t have time to visit each and every continent and try the local boozy delicacies, however much we’d like to. Enter our fabulous compilation of spirits from many lands, including gin, rum and whisk(e)y! We’ve gathered this wonderful selection to tickle your tastebuds and transport you to all corners of the globe, all without leaving the safety of your sofa. Because sofas are nice, and sometimes they have cats on them, and cats are always a good thing. Anyhow, we digress. Onto the spirits!

Angostura 7 Year Old

Where’s it from?

Trinidad and Tobago

What is it?

A classic, tasty molasses-based rum from the Angostura company, produced in a continuous still. The liquid is aged in bourbon barrels for seven years before it’s filtered. The ideal dark rum for whacking into a cocktail, be it a Mai Tai, Daiquiri or even a Rum Old Fashioned! If you fancy it neat, definitely serve this one with a good wedge of juicy orange to balance the richer creamy notes.

What does it taste like?

Bittersweet dark chocolate balanced by cinnamon, burnt caramel, mocha, creamy crème brûlée, vanilla fudge and a hit of spice on the finish.

St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Where’s it from?

France

What is it?

An iconic elderflower liqueur made with fresh elderflowers hand-harvested only once a year, for a few weeks in the late spring. Each bottle contains around 1,000 elderflower blossoms! The flowers are macerated, and the infusion is then strained and blended with eau-de-vie de vin, water, sugar, and neutral grain spirit. Splash it in a glass of Prosecco for a floral fizzy treat.

What does it taste like?

Sweet and floral notes of elderflower (of course), supported by lychee, tart lemon, a hint of buttery sweetness and a lengthy elderflower-filled finish.

Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Where’s it from?

Japan

What is it?

An incredibly delicious, award-winning blended whisky from Nikka! It marries single malt and grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo and coastal Yoichi distilleries. The liquid is aged in a massive range of casks, including bourbon barrels, sherry butts and refill hogsheads.

What does it taste like?

Full of chai spice, buttery caramel and vanilla cream, with sweet cereal notes, raspberry, orange peel and drying oak spice alongside a spicy, warming finish.

Basil Hayden’s

Where’s it from?

Kentucky, America

What is it?

Distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s Bourbon really was created by master distiller Basil Hayden himself, all the way back in 1796. He added rye into a traditional corn-based mashbill, and this innovative risk certainly paid off. The sweetness of corn balances brilliantly with the spiciness of rye, making for a brilliant Whiskey Bramble.

What does it taste like?

Fairly light and spicy, with vanilla and honey balanced by pepper and peppermint, with corn and dark berries on the finish.

Le Tribute Gin

Where’s it from?

Barcelona, Spain

What is it?

From the family-run distillery in Vilanova, a tiny fishing village close to Barcelona comes Le Tribute Gin. It’s a tribute (shocker) to the pioneers, processes and the heritage behind the spirit, and is inspired by the distillery’s history. There are seven botanicals, all distilled separately: juniper, lime, kumquat, lemon, pink and green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, bitter and sweet oranges and lemons, and the seventh is lemongrass. Wow, that was a lot. All are distilled in wheat spirit except lemongrass, where water is used in place of spirit to maintain freshness. 

What does it taste like?

Citrus and sherbet sweets, with an amalgamation of vibrant and loud fresh fruity notes. Juniper takes something of a backseat, but still plays a major role here.

Konik’s Tail Vodka

Where’s it from?

Poland

What is it?

It’s 20 years in the making and the vision of one man, Pleurat Shabani, who single-handedly harvests and bottles the vodka himself. Inspired by the elusive Polish Konik horses which, if they are spotted, will promise a good harvest (according to Polish superstition). Shabani had plenty of setbacks and harsh nights sleeping rough, but found a sense of purpose after buying a one-way ticket to escape the conflicts back home in Croatia. Determined to create something people would appreciate, he chose three grains to create this delicious vodka, Spelt (the happy grain), Rye (the dancing grain) and wheat (the smiling grain) – suggesting that the aim in life is to laugh, dance and smile.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, with burnt black pepper, spice and a sweet finish.

Lot 40 Rye Whisky

Where’s it from?

Canada

What is it?

A no-age statement rye whisky from Lot 40. The expression is in fact a revival of a whisky from the 1990s, and is named for the plot of land which used to belong to Joshua Booth, grandfather of the now-retired master distiller, Mike Booth, who created the whisky. In the 2000s, the expression was discontinued, but luckily it returned to us! The mashbill is 90% rye and 10% malted rye, so you can be sure this is sufficiently spicy.

What does it taste like?

A gentle floral start builds into all of those warming spicy notes, with black pepper, cardamom and oak spice, followed by roasted coffee bean and brown sugar on a finish of cigar box. 

 

Dancing Sands Dry Gin

Where’s it from?

Takaka, New Zealand

What is it?

This is the flagship gin from the Dancing Sands Distillery! The brainchild of husband and wife duo Ben and Sarah Bonoma, the gin takes eight hand-crushed botanicals, including manuka, almond, cardamom and liquorice, which are vapour infused. After it’s blended with water sourced from the Dancing Sands Spring over in Golden Bay, which the founders refer to as the ninth botanical, the spirit is bottled. The colours on the bottle represent each of the different botanicals. It also just looks amazing. 

What does it taste like?

Juniper straight away, followed by delicately floral manuka, warming cardamom and a subtle hint of chocolate, creamy nuttiness and a spicy peppery finish. 

Westerhall No.10 

Where’s it from?

Grenada, Caribbean

What is it?

Westerhall No.10 is, would you believe it, a 10 year old rum from the Westerhall Estate! We did not see that one coming. The estate is located on what’s called the ‘Spice Isle’ of Grenada, and this is certainly reflected in its flavour profile. If you happen to get your hands on any, try it with fresh coconut juice for a more local serve.

What does it taste like?

Spiced apple, waxy honey and rich maple syrup, creamy oak and fudge. 

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Jigger Beaker Glass bartender roadshow returns

Jigger Beaker Glass returns with a wealth of industry luminaries to explore the themes of creativity, hospitality and productivity – a.k.a. the holy trinity of bartending. We get the lowdown…

Jigger Beaker Glass returns with a wealth of industry luminaries to explore the themes of creativity, hospitality and productivity – a.k.a. the holy trinity of bartending. We get the lowdown from Rebecca Sides, London and South UK trade ambassador for Bacardi Brown Forman Brands…

The third instalment of Bacardi Brown Forman Brands’ bartender education roadshow Jigger Beaker Glass is very much upon us, and don’t quote us, but it might be the best one yet. Loaded with thought-provoking presentations, interactive sessions and the wise words of a few bonafide bartending legends, the UK-wide tour will make eight pit stops in total across the likes of Edinburgh, Bristol and beyond, beginning in Liverpool on 18 June and concluding in London, Leeds and Belfast in early 2020.

For the unacquainted, the annual roadshow has three core pillars – Jigger, which focuses on skills; Beaker, which covers innovation; and Glass, which shines a light on drink-making. Marking a departure from previous years, for 2019’s event the distinct disciplines have been split across three individual rooms to make the whole thing a little more immersive.

Rebecca Sides

Rebecca Sides in action

So, who’s on the roster? Joe Schofield – formerly of the Tippling Club and The American Bar at The Savoy – will be taking ‘creativity’; Paul Johnson, formerly of Annabel’s and Chiltern Firehouse, is the ‘hospitality’ wizard, and both Joe Stokoe, founder of Heads, Hearts & Tails, and Joseph Hall, of Satan’s Whiskers, will be channelling ‘productivity’.

As the tour gets well and truly underway, we chatted with Rebecca Sides, London and South UK trade ambassador for Bacardi Brown Forman Brands, to glean a few tips, tricks and takeaways about each theme. Here’s what we learned…

Master of Malt: What are the key tools or traits an ambitious bartender should possess if they want a career in the industry, whether by opening their own bar, becoming a brand ambassador, or simply being known for their creativity or progressive work?

Rebecca Sides: The wonderful thing about hospitality is that it’s an ever-evolving field, and so there’s always something to learn. You see time and time again that those who move fastest or furthest are those who are humble and curious; constantly striving, pushing themselves, self-disciplined and self-motivated. 

You need strong arms to be a bartender

MoM: As part of the Jigger Beaker Glass 3.0 tour, the Bacardi Brown Forman Brands advocacy team will ‘explore the theory behind the complex world of creativity’. Could you share some tips for unlocking creative potential behind the bar?

RS: As bartenders we don’t tend to work to the usual business hours – which is a good thing! The number one tip for harnessing your creativity is identifying your most creative time. We tend to not listen to our inner clock, but planning a creative session between a meeting and a delivery just because you have that hour free doesn’t really work and won’t result in the best ideas. Figure out when it is, use that time wisely, build your day around it and use the rest of your time for easy tasks.

MoM: There’s also a focus this year on enhancing hospitality for guests outside of direct interactions with them. Could you talk about some of the tips the Bacardi Brown Forman Brands advocacy team will share and how they reflect the ways in which bars are changing?

RS: Good hospitality meets the needs that they articulate; great hospitality anticipates those needs before they are articulated; and the best hospitality anticipates needs that guests are not even aware of. The key is knowing your guest, which is sometimes easier said than done. Without giving too much away, the session takes a pretty scientific approach to how we can engineer atmospheric hospitality. Did you know 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell? Or that there are four parts of the brain that interact with music? This knowledge is key to understanding your guests needs.

Tattoos help too

MoM: Finally, the roadshow will delve into the history, science and psychology of productivity. Could you share some pointers on staying focused and keeping your finger on the pulse in the bar industry?

RS: Staying focused and off Instagram is a constant battle, but did you know that battle is much easier to fight at the start of your working day than at the end? When we have a task to do, we’re often told to just “get it out of the way” and there’s some real science to that. We’ll learn in this session how willpower is a muscle to be trained. For now, the biggest tip to being productive is to start with your hardest task and end on the easiest or most rewarding.

 

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5 reasons why you should try a kegged cocktail

Kegged cocktails, draught cocktails, taptails or simply ‘cocktails on tap’; whatever you want to call them, pre-batched carbonated serves are slowly commandeering bar space where beer taps once dominated. If…

Kegged cocktails, draught cocktails, taptails or simply ‘cocktails on tap’; whatever you want to call them, pre-batched carbonated serves are slowly commandeering bar space where beer taps once dominated. If regular old cocktails really aren’t your bag, here are five very good reasons to consider ordering your next tipple on tap…

“We sat down with Jack Daniel’s about four years ago and said, ‘we’ve got this crazy idea, we want to take a Jack Daniel’s and Coke and put it into a keg and serve it like an Espresso Martini through nitro’,” explains Robin Honhold, head of operations at Mr Lyan and author of the Nitro Legacy Handbook. “They said, ‘that sounds like fun, let’s do it’.”

Tennessee Nitro Martini small

Simply everyone’s drinking the Tennessee Nitro Martini these days

Initially, Team Lyan “literally took a fridge, drilled a hole out the side of it and put some kegs inside”, he says, but the project soon transformed into a full beer system – with the help of “a few real science-y people” – and then eventually into a portable trolley that quite literally toured Europe. Now, the team is sharing the knowledge they picked up along the way with the launch of the Nitro Legacy Handbook; a guide to draught cocktails created by bartenders, for bartenders.

“All the learning we’ve done from, essentially, a standing start has been in conjunction with Jack Daniel’s,” Honhold continues, “they supported us in creating that knowledge in the first place, so we thought it was best to share it with the rest of the [bartending] community by putting it into a book. It should benefit all of us and benefit our customers as well.”

We’re all about bang for buck at MoM Towers, so we waded through the technicalities and fancy jargon in the Jack Daniel’s x Mr Lyan Nitro Legacy Handbook to ascertain whether kegged cocktails really are all they’re cracked up to be. Here’s what we learned…

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniel’s, that’s the stuff

  1. They’re served quickly

If you’re usually of the “I’ll just have a pint, cocktails take too long” school of thought, kegged cocktails might be the solution you’re looking for. When you consider the preparation time for your average cocktail – with all the measuring, pouring, shaking, straining and garnish-arranging – the draught variety is said to be twice as speedy, if not three or four times quicker than a super intricate and exacting drink. It’s literally as simple as pour, garnish and go.

  1. They’re sustainable

It might not seem like it at times, but your local bartender isn’t actually a wizard. They’re only human, and as such, make regular human mistakes, like grabbing the wrong glass or shaking a cocktail that’s meant to be stirred. Unfortunately, blunders like these result in waste, and lots of it. When it comes to kegged cocktails, the mix is pre-batched, so not a single drop will go to waste. Bonus points if the bar has already done away with straws, too.

  1. They’re consistent

There’s nothing worse than sinking a fantastic drink in a bar, only to be disappointed later down the line when a different member of staff makes it (and goes a little OTT with the simple syrup). Consistency really is king, and this is where the taptail shines. Since the ingredients were carefully measured out in the sanctity of a closed bar, there’s no room for error when the team are unexpectedly slammed on a Tuesday night.

  1. They’re interesting

Let’s be honest, designing a taptail recipe is a seriously advanced bar flex. As well as making a cocktail that, y’know, people actually want to drink, there are a bunch of really crucial scientific elements to consider, like how the alcohol and sugar within the drink will interact with the gas and evolve the flavour over time. You can’t just whack a classic cocktail in a keg, charge it with nitrogen and expect it to taste nice. Speaking of…

  1. They taste delicious

Whatever the serve – be it the Lyan Tennessee Nitro Martini or something even more madcap – you can order a kegged cocktail safe in the knowledge that the recipe has been tweaked and fine-tuned to within an inch of its life. If the bar you’re frequenting has gone to the expense and effort of installing cocktails on tap, rest assured they care enough to make that drink as perfect as possible by the time it reaches your lips. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy it.

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