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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: whisky

Family spirit: father and daughter/ son distillers

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we…

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we would be

One of my earliest memories is of my grandad (papa) showing me how to make beer in his garage, probably at a much younger age than I should have been. Luckily, there are some families who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to making drinks. Well-known brands from whisky like Teeling, Glenfarclas and Kilchoman trade on their family name, and there are plenty more out there from bourbon to brandy.

In celebration of this year’s Father’s Day, I’ve unearthed some of the father and daughter/ son distillers from around the wide world of drinks. From Florida to Manchester – and including a touching tribute to a recently lost father – they’re an eclectic bunch, and testament to the benefits of keeping their distilling and blending secrets in the family. Maybe it’s true: blood is thicker than whisky.

Jimmy and Eddie Russell at Distillery

Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey

First up is one of America’s most famous bourbons, Wild Turkey. Master distiller Eddie Russell and his father, the legendary Jimmy are a team with around 100 years of whisky making experience between them. And it was all down to Eddie’s mother, Joretta.

“I really wanted to move away as a young man, when I got the chance,” says Eddie. “I played football on scholarship at Western Kentucky University, but when I came home for my first summer break, my job options were the distillery or… the distillery. The mandate wasn’t Jimmy’s, but at my mother, Joretta Russell’s insistence.”

Eddie started at the bottom, rolling barrels, mowing lawns, painting houses before Jimmy moved him into the distillery to learn about yeast and mashing. Now Eddie sits alongside his father on the illustrious Bourbon Hall of Fame. Jimmy isn’t hanging his whisky making boots up any time soon either. “I’ve never thought of it as work. I’ve always said ‘the day it becomes work, I’ll retire.”

Where Eddie gets his father’s strong work ethic, Jimmy benefits from Eddie’s honesty: “When Eddie tells you something, it’s true. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell you!” Between the two of them, they’ve grown an empire that now Eddie’s son is getting in on, and there are now four generations working at Wild Turkey.

Until that day that working at Wild Turkey feels like work, though, Jimmy Russell will (for Eddie at least) always be the reigning patriarch: “For my dad, it took about 17 years before he became a master distiller. It was 34 years for me because my dad is still working – you should really only have one master.”

Father and son at Prestwich gin

Michael and Jack Scargill, Prestwich Gin

This Manchester born and bred gin was the result of a family dinner. “With my Dad approaching retirement, we were talking over dinner about what he was going to do with his spare time and the idea of starting our own gin cropped up,” explains Jack. “I didn’t think much of it but the next time I went round, Dad had bought a few books and a small still and started working on a few recipes and it went from there.”

With a background in chemistry, Michael takes on playing around with recipes and tweaking them as he sees fit, while Jack prefers tasting – as well as sales and marketing, which he has a professional background in.

The father/son duo’s love for gin came long before the gin boom, with birthday and Christmas presents often coming in the form of a bottle of the botanical spirit. Now, they can enjoy the fact that other people are giving theirs as gifts on special occasions – maybe a few fathers will receive one this Father’s Day.

Kristy and Billy Lark

Bill Lark and Kristy Lark-Booth, Killara Distillery

“Working with my Dad can be super amazing and at times very exasperating!” So says Kristy Lark-Booth, founder of Killara Distillery in Tasmania. Having spent years working at the family whisky business, Lark Distillery, with her father Bill, she branched out on her own in 2016 to set up her own venture.

Despite not working together as regularly day-to-day, Bill’s tutelage of Kristy on all this whisky distillation is testament to their working relationship: “I have learnt so much from him, not only how to distil amazing whisky but also a great work and personal ethic. Things like how to relate to people and to see the best in others, to follow your dreams and never give up. Working with him has given me the opportunity to explore and develop my own distilling style and certainly develop my palette.” 

Kristy’s integration into the family business wasn’t always a given. She had her eyes on a career in Air Traffic Control – and while she got a coveted place at the ATC school, having spent some time working at the distillery, she changed her mind: “They were, of course very supportive of that so I began learning whisky making from my Dad, and gin/liqueur making from my Mum. We worked closely together right up until Lark was taken over by investors.”

Looking to the future, Kristy and Bill will be working on a few projects that will see them come together again in a father/daughter – or daughter/father – capacity, including bringing back the old distillery school. Anything about distilling you don’t learn in there, ain’t worth knowing.

Wayne&Holly Bass & Flinders Distillery

Holly and Wayne Klintworth, Bass & Flinders Distillery

From the Bass & Flinders Distillery in Mornington Peninsula, Australia, head distiller Holly Klintworth produces gin, liqueurs and brandies, including a recent Maritime Gin with locally-foraged samphire, salt bush and kelp, as well as  Heartbreak Gin infused with Pinot Noir. The distillery started its life in 2009, but it wasn’t until a few years later that Holly decided to join her dad.

“Over the years dad would ask my opinion on a product or packaging, and here and there I would help out on weekends with bottling, or peeling oranges for our gins. I got a good feel for the passion my dad had for the craft spirits industry and I suppose it was pretty infectious.” Having previously spent time working in marketing in the wine industry, Holly joined her father’s distillery in 2016.

It didn’t come easy: Holly found getting up to speed so quickly a challenge without having a science background and not being initially too familiar with the production process. She was also one of few women working in the Australian distilling industry, although her father was keen to not let that deter her: “He would say to me, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t as capable as a man in production’… He really empowered me to take ownership of the still, of the spirit and of the product from start to finish.”

Sadly, Wayne Klintworth passed away in early 2020, but his mentorship and inspiration have fuelled his daughter’s love and passion for producing fine spirits. “My dad was a real mentor and inspiration for me as I stepped into the distilling world. Having him mentoring me and him also being my dad, meant I learned the ropes extremely quickly as I had access to his knowledge and expertise at all hours of the day or night and he was always ready for a chat about the business.”

Rollins Distillery, father and son

Paul and Patrick Rollins, Rollins Distillery

If you look closely at the Rollins Distillery logo, you’ll notice it’s two rams butting heads. Florida isn’t known for its rams, so it’s probably more likely that those rams represent Patrick and Paul Rollins, the son and father who distil their 100% Floridian molasses rum.

It all started with father, Paul, whose time at the Naval Academy saw him studying chemistry and growing an interest in distillation. Several years later, the family was stationed in Scotland, where Paul spent some time studying operations at the Old Fettercairn Distillery. Back in Florida, with grown up kids, Paul decided to take the plunge, being sure to utilise Florida’s agriculture in the process.

Patrick was more interested in beer when his father approached him with the idea of setting up a distillery. Dreams of a brewpub slowly faded when he started learning more about distilling and rum – attending lectures and seminars – and he fell in love with the craft.

For Paul and Patrick, two heads are better than one: “Dad is a very inside-the-box technical thinker. He sees the trees. I am a very outside-the-box creative thinker. I see the forest. Together we are able to create so much more than we could separately.”

Paul agrees, with a slight caveat: “Let me be frank, I would have tried to make the distillery happen with or without Patrick, but I cannot say it would be as successful as it is today without him.”

 

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The inside scoop on pairing whisky and ice cream

Banana, vanilla, chocolate – the flavours of whisky and ice cream make for wonderful bedfellows. Millie Milliken put in the strenuous research to find out how to pair them and…

Banana, vanilla, chocolate – the flavours of whisky and ice cream make for wonderful bedfellows. Millie Milliken put in the strenuous research to find out how to pair them and came up with five perfect matches of her own.

Ok, I get it, it isn’t quite shorts and sunnies weather just yet – I can’t be the only one to endure rain (and hail) in May for a pint. But as warmer and balmier days approach us – and staycations become the holiday de jour – that can only mean one thing: ice cream. Buckets of the stuff, preferably on a lawn, maybe on a beach.

While daydreaming of my own upcoming holiday on the English riviera and the plentiful ice cream opportunities it presents, I got to thinking about what my accompanying hip flask might contain. There was only one answer: whisky.

Now, the combination of whisky and ice cream is hardly new – remember the onslaught of alcoholic milkshakes that hit the UK bar scene in the early 20-teens? But with the rise of artisanal ice cream and a slew of excellent whisky launches, I wondered: how and why are whisky and ice cream such wonderful bedfellows?

Affogato

Affogato with whisky, this is Blair Bowman’s dream

It takes two

“There are a lot of factors,” Blair Bowman, whisky consultant and author, tells me fresh from an alfresco meeting in Edinburgh. “Whisky has such a big range of flavours to start with so you have a huge palate to choose from. Then you’ve got all the flavours of ice cream to match them up nicely – fruity with fruit, oily whisky with a delicate sorbet, smoky whisky with chocolate,” the list goes on.

It would be an understatement to say that Bowman is a fan of combining whisky and ice cream. In fact, his dream is to own a 24-hour bar which serves nothing but affogatos (vanilla ice cream, coffee and booze). He even brought whisky and ice cream together at the 2019 Scottish Whisky Awards, challenging the chef to create a blue cheese ice cream to go with a dram of Clynelish. “To cut the richness we had it with poached pears, a shard of chocolate, crunchy bit of flapjack, and the day before we decided to make the blue cheese pop so we added a little ridge of sea salt.” Needless to say, it split the room. 

Just this year, he took part in Hipflask Hiking Club’s #whiskyicecreamfloatchallenge. His entry combined Littlemill 44yo, Häagen-Dazs Summer Berries & Cream, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, pink Himalayan salt, a dark chocolate rim and an Iain Burnett Chocolatier garnish. He admits that some people may have seen using such a rare and high calibre whisky in an ice cream float may be “blasphemous”, but for Bowman, whisky is a drink to have fun with.

Jude's award-winning ice cream

Jude’s award-winning ice cream

Ice, ice baby

Chow Mezger, MD of Jude’s Ice Cream in Berkshire, knows how to have fun too. When I call him for a chat about his award-winning brand, he’s just come from a flavour tasting and is excited at some of the new products his team has just signed off (not that he’ll tell me what they are). The company churns out some of the UK’s best ice cream, with flavours ranging from salted caramel to mango and passionfruit – and even includes vegan alternatives.

Just as with Bowman, Mezger is no stranger to pairing whisky with ice cream. “We did a hot toddy collaboration with Laphroaig which was really, really interesting,” he tells me. “We tried it with a few of the whiskies that were not very peated, so the problem was we had to add so much of it to the ice cream that there was too much alcohol. We ended up partnering with Laphroaig because the peat flavour is so strong that it meant we could use less.”

When it comes to pairing ice cream with food, he thinks texture is a key component. “Here at Jude’s we talk about flavour but we talk about texture just as much and the changing nature of it in ice cream.” Of course, the changing nature of ice cream is similar to that of whisky too and when you add temperature contrasts into the equation (cold ice cream, warming whisky) it gets even more exciting.

So, without further ado, I thought I’d give it a try. I picked five ice creams and raided my drinks cabinet for the perfect (or near perfect) match. Do try this at home.

The pairings
Tamdhu 12

Tamdhu 12 with ice cream. Hell yes!

Jude’s Salted Caramel x Tamdhu 12 Year Old

Salt and sweet, or salt and smoke? I went for a bit of both on this one as my first instinct to go heavy on the smoke proved far too powerful. Instead, I went for the light smoke touch and sherried notes of Tamdhu 12 Year Old.

Alongside the delicate caramel notes of the ice cream and the pleasant hit of salt, the sweet spice and dried fruits of the Tamdhu, and typical of sherry casks, offset each other beautifully.

Cecily’s Mint Choc Chip x The Norfolk Parched Single Grain

The trickiest of the bunch but a must-have as this writer’s favourite ice cream flavour. After much deliberation, I settled on The Norfolk Parched Single Grain (with a little help from ex-Master of Malter Kristiane Sherry).

Aged in bourbon casks, this whisky has vanilla and lemon on the nose, which followed by some aniseed and cloves complements the minty fresh aroma of the ice cream. On the palate, the ice cream is a lovely coolant while the bitter chocolate slightly mellowed by the dry finish of the whisky.

Ice Cream Union Banana Split x Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

When I first tried Glenlivet’s relatively new Caribbean Reserve aged in rum casks, I fell in love with the banana notes bursting through. Matched with Ice Cream Union’s Banana Split ice cream, this whisky really shines.

On the nose, this whisky is heavy on the banana as well as toffee and popcorn which, when matched with the delicious and creamy ice cream, comes through with some pleasant spiced notes to offset the sweetness.

hackney gelato ice cream

Bring on the bourbon!

Hackney Gelato Peanut Butter & Chocolate x Bowsaw Small Batch Bourbon

Peanut butter? It just had to be a bourbon. This gelato is more peanut butter than chocolate, so I wanted something that would be an equal sparring partner. Enter Bowsaw Small Batch Bourbon. 

On the nose, those toasted wood aromas and toffee were the perfect gateway into the pairing, with the heat and slightly dry texture making the peanut butter less sweet and more nutty. The caramel on the finish topped it off beautifully.

Waitrose Strawberry Cheesecake x Milk & Honey Elements Red Wine Cask

This Milk & Honey Red Wine Cask from Tel Aviv is quite something. What first got me to thinking of pairing the two is the immediate hit of strawberry on the nose with some caramelised demerara sugar at the back.

Matched with the fresh strawberry flavour and the malty biscuit pieces in the ice cream, the whisky’s hit of baking spices and dried fruits bring this ice cream back from being too sweet while also drawing out those strawberry notes. A real surprise.

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Top ten: Mexican spirits for Cinco de Mayo

Today, Cinco de Mayo, is Mexico’s national day of celebration so, if you want to get involved, we’ve picked some bottles to help you get in the mood. And not…

Today, Cinco de Mayo, is Mexico’s national day of celebration so, if you want to get involved, we’ve picked some bottles to help you get in the mood. And not just Tequila and mezcal, there’s also rum, whisky and more!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that we are pretty keen on Mexican’s finest produce. Why only last week we ran a profile of Don Julio Tequila. But did you know there’s more to Mexico and booze than Tequila and mezcal? So as the world gears up to celebrate Mexico’s national holiday, Cinco de Mayo, we round-up some of our favourite bottles from one of our favourite countries. Naturally, we’ve also included some agave-based action in there. We’re not complete mavericks.

el-destilado-rum

El Destilado Rum

If you’re a fan of rhum agricole, grassy pungent spirits from the French-speaking Caribbean, then you’ll love El Destilado. Like agricole, this is made from raw sugar cane rather than molasses and fermented with wild yeasts.

What does it taste like?

Slightly tangy with green apple and white grape, with cut grass and peppercorn spice in support.

sierra-norte-yellow-corn-whiskey

Sierra Norte Yellow Corn

Whisky from Mexico, whatever next? It’s made from 85% native Oaxacan yellow corn fermented with 15% malted barley. Sounds like a recipe for a bourbon-like whisky, but the distillate is then aged in French oak for a taste that’s completely unique.

What does it taste like?

Buttered popcorn, vanilla cream and cloves, with smoky barrel char and a nutty floral finish.

ilegal-joven-70cl-mezcal

Ilegal Joven Mezcal

Don’t worry, this isn’t actually illegal (the spelling is slightly different). We wouldn’t sell anything that wasn’t legal. This unaged mezcal is in Oaxaca using traditional methods, like roasting the agave in an earthen pit for a rich full flavour. 

What does it taste like?

Sweet caramel, peppermint and smoky agave with hints of raisins, dried herbs and black pepper.

nixta-mexican-licor-de-elote-liqueur

Nixta Licor de Elote 

You can probably tell by the name, if not the shape of the bottle, what the star of this liqueur is – corn. This liqueur from Nixta is made from maize grown surrounding the Nevado de Toluca volcano, so it’s packed full of buttery corn sweetness at 30% ABV. 

What does it taste like?

Buttered popcorn and fresh sweetcorn, swiftly followed by silky caramel. This would be great in an Old Fashioned. 

el-rayo-plata-tequila

El Rayo Plata Tequila

El Rayo Tequila pays homage to the legend that lightning struck an agave plant, cooking it and creating the first ever Tequila. This particular expression is made from Blue Weber agave distilled twice in 105 year old copper pot stills.

What does it taste like?

Exceptionally smooth and gentle, with an oily mouthfeel, notes of citrus, lots of earthy agave and a hint of flinty minerals, with a warming peppery finish.

mezcal-amores-espadin-2020-edition-mezcal

Mezcal Amores Espadin 

This is the latest edition of Mezcal Amores’ Espadín-based mezcal. The producers work with small agave growers to plant ten agaves for each one they use, and make sure they’re paying the mezcaleros they’re working with a fair price.

What does it taste like?

Fresh vanilla and citrus blossom, balanced by spicy herbs, wood smoke and leafy coriander.

drinks-by-the-dram-12-dram-tequila-and-mezcal-collection

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Tequila & Mezcal Collection 

If you can’t make your mind up what to buy, then why not get this collection? In that stylish box there are 12 different 30ml wax-sealed drams of absolutely delicious Tequila and mezcal from some of Mexico’s best producers. 

What does it taste like?

What doesn’t it taste like? There are 12 delicious agave-based wonders to explore in here.

ocho-blanco-tequila-2019-la-laja-tequila

Ocho Blanco Tequila 2019 (La Laja) 

Sadly, the man behind Ocho Tequila, Tomas Estes died last week. But his son Jesse is keeping the flag flying for single rancho (field), single vintage Tequila. This unaged bottling was made with agave harvested from La Laja, named after a type of flat stone which you’ll find many of in this particular field. 

What does it taste like?

Waves of fresh mint and cooked agave sweetness, leading into dried herbs, green olive, warming, peppery spice and subtle smoke.

montelobos-joven-mezcal

Montelobos Joven Mezcal

Montelobos Joven Mezcal is made with espadin agave and distilled by mezcal guru Iván Saldaña. You can read an interview with the man himself here. It also offers a really stylish bottle with a rather ferocious-looking wolf on the label.

What does it taste like?

Wood smoke and green pepper freshness on the nose, with a tropical fruit and powerful smoke character on the nose. 

storywood-double-oak-anejo-tequila

Storywood Double Oak Añejo

Scotland, Spain and Mexico meet in one bottle thanks to this añejo Tequila from Storywood. This Double Oak expression has spent 14 months in both Scotch whisky barrels and Oloroso sherry casks. It was bottled at cask strength, 53% ABV.

What does it taste like?

Honeyed roasted agave sweetness, with jammy forest fruits, oak spice and dried fig.

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What the heck’s a swan neck?

Ever wondered why Sipsmith has a swan for its spokesbird? Or what the bit that bends at the top of a still is called? Well, wonder no more. Lucy Britner…

Ever wondered why Sipsmith has a swan for its spokesbird? Or what the bit that bends at the top of a still is called? Well, wonder no more. Lucy Britner explores the world of the swan neck and looks at how different iterations affect the flavour and character of spirits such as whisky and gin.

Stills are a bit like people. They come in all shapes and sizes, they all have their own character and some even sing (hello, Mortlach). A still’s swan neck – the bit at the top that curves to connect to the lyne arm – also has its own vibe and the angle of a swan neck can have an impact on the spirit in question.

Sipsmith swan

Sipsmith has a swan brand ambassador

Sipsmith’s swan

Swan necks are so important that intense focus on the first still’s swan neck design at Sipsmith caused the swan to creep (waddle? glide? swan?) into everyday conversations  – and it went on to influence the brand’s entire identity.

“I remember a sign inside the door of the tiny garage on Nasmyth Street where we started out: ‘Swanny says – did you remember your keys and wallet?’,” Sipsmith master distiller Jared Brown tells me. “The artist who sat in the distillery taking notes before creating our label and immortalising our swan had to see that sign and must have heard the word a few times.”

Not only is Brown a master distiller, he’s also a master at explaining the swan neck. Pour a G&T and take note.

Copper contact

“A classic copper pot still begins with the pot, which holds the liquid and is where it is gently heated to convert it to steam,” he starts. “The steam rises from the pot, then condenses on the sides of the helmet above the pot. This causes it to run back down the inside of the still against the highly-reactive copper repeatedly, with impurities leaving the spirit and bonding to the copper with each pass. Once steam reaches above the helmet it passes into the swan neck which leads to the condensing coil where it will be cooled and returned to a liquid state.”

A still’s swan neck dictates how easily the liquid passes from the pot and helmet to the condensing coil. Brown explains that stills with broader swan necks that slope steeply downward carry heavy, smoky, oily, peaty flavours. Meanwhile, stills with necks that slope upwards from taller helmets, and have narrowed diameters bring more refined notes, while causing the heaviest flavours to remain in the still.

Makes sense.

The Sipsmith master distiller says that while in whisky distilling, the shape of the swan neck dictates which flavours of the base fermentation of malted grain come over the still, in gin the swan neck dictates how the botanicals present themselves in the final liquid.

Stills at Sipsmith

Te still set-up at Sipsmith, note the elegant swan necks on the stills

New necks

Of course, the beauty of building your own distillery is that you get to choose everything.

New kid on the block White Peak Distillery in Derbyshire is launching its first whisky in autumn this year. The dram will join its Shining Cliff Gin, which is already available.

“One of the unique benefits of starting a whisky distillery is the opportunity to design bespoke equipment, including pot stills to achieve a desired style of spirit, and the connection this gives for the whisky-makers through design to spirit,” says White Peak co-founder Max Vaughan.

He describes the distillery’s spirit still as having an oversized pot (for the batch size) with a modest fill level, a tall and relatively thin neck and a gently upward sloping and long lye pipe, and finally a copper shell and tube condenser. Vaughan says the combination of these features encourages reflux/copper contact and the spirit to “work hard”, therefore helping to strip out some of the heavier compounds.

“We also run the still slowly which gives the still shape more influence and helps with hitting our desired cut points to produce a smooth and fruity, lightly-peated spirit,” he adds. 

The convoluted swan neck at Macduff distillery

The convoluted swan neck at Macduff distillery

Kinky 

Building a distillery from scratch isn’t a reality for everyone and on many occasions, especially when it comes to re-jigging older facilities, fitting in with the space can determine the set up of a swan neck.

Bacardi brand ambassador, Matthew Cordiner describes the Macduff distillery, which makes The Deveron, as a “bit of a Mad Hatter’s tea party”. Indeed, if a real swan had the neck from a Macduff still, it would either be able to see around corners or be in serious pain.

“Two wash stills have a right-angled kink in them [in the foreground above], which is pretty unusual, leading to the vertically mounted shell and tube condensers,” says Cordiner. “This was more about how to best fit them into the space than a flavour-led decision. But the fairly steep upwards sloping lyne arms will encourage more reflux and re-boiling action – meaning less lower volatility compounds will be able to make it through the first distillation run.”

The distillery also has a rather unusual spirit still set up – pretty small and narrow stills, giving lots of copper contact and very short lyne arms [in the background above], which are also angled upwards and have a right angled kink in them.

Don’t forget the condensers

“These would again encourage a bit more reflux, though any ‘lightness’ this might have brought is almost undone by having horizontally mounted shell and tube condensers,” Cordiner adds. “The horizontal condensers mean that less ‘weight’ is stripped from the spirit through copper contact. This creates almost a midpoint between a vertical shell and tube and an old fashioned worm tub, we do have a light/moderate sulphur character in the new make spirit because of this, too.”

Cordiner emphasises that it’s a combination of all of this, plus how the distillery makes its cuts, which creates the balance between fruitiness and cereal/nutty characters, as well as the signature ‘apple’ note The Deveron is known for.

Macduff stills

Macduff’s unusual spirit stills with swan neck and right angle lyne arm leading to horizontal condenser

It’s the way that you do it

“Still shape and configuration is really important but it is also down to how you run them,” he says. “If you take our Aultmore distillery for example, with its short stills and descending lyne arms, at a glance you would have thought they were producing a more robust style of whisky, but by the way in which they are run, we are able to create a light, grassy and biscuity style of whisky.”

And so, it is a truth universally acknowledged that it is the whole process combined that creates a spirit’s character – but there is no denying the swan neck plays an important part.

So important that the eagle-eyed Latinists among you will note the term ‘cygnus inter anates’ on the bottom of all Sipsmith bottles. A slogan created by Sipsmith co-founder Fairfax Hall, meaning ‘a swan among the ducks’.  

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The winner of our River Rock whisky bundle is…

Gather round and listen up – it’s time to announce the winner of our River Rock #BagThisBundle competition!  As the embers burn out on this week’s #BagThisBundle competition, it’s time…

Gather round and listen up – it’s time to announce the winner of our River Rock #BagThisBundle competition! 

As the embers burn out on this week’s #BagThisBundle competition, it’s time for us to announce the winner! We teamed up with River Rock whisky for this scorcher – just to remind you what was up for grabs, the prize includes a bottle of River Rock whisky, one stove ranger kit, and a pair of insulated tumblers. Perfect for a whisky on the go, even if it’s a bit nippy out! 

Entry was super easy; a quick follow of us and River Rock on Instagram and tagging three friends who you’d share the prize with was all we required.

River Rock whisky

This bundle was up for grabs!

A very well done to…

Emily Hull from North Wales!

Congratulations Emily, we hope you and your friends are ready to cosy up beside your new stove, with a tumbler of River Rock! 

Wish you won? There’ll be plenty more chances –  do keep an eye out for more giveaways coming soon and don’t forget to enter!

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Five minutes with… Scott Davidson from Glencairn Crystal

From swanky decanters to the famous tasting glass, crystal and glassware manufacturer Glencairn is synonymous with the whisky industry. And as the family-owned East Kilbride company celebrates its 40th year,…

From swanky decanters to the famous tasting glass, crystal and glassware manufacturer Glencairn is synonymous with the whisky industry. And as the family-owned East Kilbride company celebrates its 40th year, new product development director Scott Davidson tells us about that eponymous glass, competing with Rolex and the time he lent his brother a car.

Glencairn Crystal was founded by Raymond Davidson in 1981. Over the years the company has created decanters for pretty much all of the major drinks companies – from ruby-encrusted whisky vessels to decanters housing the world’s oldest port. And in 2000, Raymond created The Glencairn Glass, described as “the world’s favourite whisky glass” with 3.5 million per year going to around 140 countries.

Today, the company is run by Raymond’s sons, Paul and Scott. And Scott is here to tell us more about the business and his latest projects…

Glencairn Glass

The famous Glencairn Glass

Master of Malt: Everyone uses the famous Glencairn tasting glass. How did it come to be so widely used? And what makes it so good for tasting?

Scott Davison: Three things come to mind: there was nothing generally being used as a standard before – that was the big thing for my dad.  Secondly, it was an evolution of how people would want you to consume it – we got the master blenders and people like Michael Jackson to help us create that shape. But probably the best thing is that it’s quite simple to engage with as a product, both for a novice or an experienced taster. It is easy to use. Whatever a master blender is talking about, you can get those aromas and flavours really quickly. And it encourages you to nose while you drink, which is what we wanted to do.

And with nothing else out there, it was the right glass at the right time.

MoM: You’re in charge of NPD – can you tell us what you’re working on?

SD: Consumers don’t often know the products we are involved with, so we’re doing some podcasts at the moment to interview some of those people we developed products with. We just did Michael Urquhart from Gordon & MacPhail – and the Mortlach 70 Generations project – the teardrop shaped decanter with the silver on it, made to look like a slight pagoda. That decanter took about two years from the initial concept.

In terms of recent launches, we worked on two 50-year-olds for Edrington – Highland Park and The Glenrothes. We did Brugal’s [Dominican rum] decanter last year…

Ruby Pagoda Glencairn Decanter

‘A really complex bloody thing’

MoM: In the wine world, there seems to be a different decanter for different types of wine. Is it the same for spirits? 

SD: It goes back to the ‘80s and generally if you wanted a whisky decanter, people just thought ‘square decanter’ and that was it. You know when you see the metal name tags around them – they would just put their name on the tag because there wasn’t anywhere to engrave it. Whereas today, everything is more driven by the brand – so we’re doing more from scratch to fit in with the profile of the brand. Companies are investing in custom shapes.

When a company comes to us, they say ‘we’re going to do something much higher end, how far can we push the brand identity’. For example, when Loch Lomond relaunched Littlemill, they picked a nice flat-ended oval decanter shape for the 25-, 27- and 29-year-olds. But they also had a 40-year-old and they said they wanted the same shape crystal but with fancy patterns. It follows the brand identity, but at a different level. That seems to be the driver – companies spend more time and resources because they get a better return if they do it at that level.

MoM: What’s the most elaborate commission you’ve ever worked on?

SD: Have you seen the Pagoda Series for Glenfarclas? Basically, it was an angular crystal decanter with copper finish, a silver finish and a gold finish and a special injected resin. It was a really complex bloody thing. And then they went from that to the Ruby – which was a 62-year-old whisky. And they asked for solid instead of plated silver and to set the ‘62’ with rubies. Then they did a Sapphire release – we’re talking £1500-2000 just on the crystal and the sapphires. It probably sold for $60-70,000 a bottle for the magnum size.

MoM: I bet that weighs a fair bit…

SD: Yeah – with whisky in it, it’s probably four or five kilos.

Royal Brackla

No, not holy hand grenade of Antioch, it’s the Royal Brackla 35 Year Old The King’s Own Whisky

MoM: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever made?

SD: One of the most difficult things I’ve made is the Dewar’s Legacy decanter. And The Royal Brackla 35 Year Old The King’s Own Whisky. For Dewar’s, they wanted it to pour through the silver. The whisky pours from the crystal, through a gold-plated lining tube which is part of that silver bit on the side. Never been asked to do it before – it was really complicated. It was not just blowing it and engraving it and getting the perfect shape, it was actually joining that piece of metal to the glass without the seal breaking on it and without it coming apart. If the seal weakened at all, then it might leak, and we couldn’t have that. The testing on it was unbelievable.

For The Royal Brackla, that’s a complete sphere of crystal, suspended on four points, 5mm x 5mm. And it wasn’t allowed to come apart so we had to ‘drop test’ it from about a metre to make sure it wouldn’t split. 

The products we are making are generally a limited release – The Royal Brackla was about 120 pieces. It’s not like we’re manufacturing loads of these bottles a year. And they are competing against products that are being sold in duty free, for example. It’s going up against Rolex, against similar products at a similar value. But if you buy a Rolex watch – they make a hundred thousand of them. I’m being asked to manufacture a product of the same standard for just a short time. And that’s what we do. That’s what gives us the niche. For example, I have a team of eight people who are just dedicated to assembling metal ware on decanters by hand. And a team of 15 engravers and decorators. That’s our DNA.

MoM: How long have you been working in the family business?

SD: Since the ‘80s when I was still at university. I started before then but that wasn’t official.

MoM: You’re celebrating your 40th anniversary this year with the opening of a newly expanded studio – what’s new?

SD: We’ve been on the same site for over 25 years, but we have slowly bought all the factories around us and now we’ve just finished joining them all together. We have added capacity for warehousing and doubled our production space. We’ve always run out of space every five years, so we’ve more than doubled up to try and give us some longevity. We’ve upgraded everything as well and we’re introducing solar panels, so we’ll be independent of the grid.

Scott Davidson from Glencairn Crystal

Scott Davidson – ‘mine’s a JD and Coke’

MoM: How do you get on working with family members? Any funny stories you can tell us?

SD: I work with my brother! It doesn’t get worse than that. Here’s a story that we still laugh about now: I like cars and in the ‘90s, I’d got myself a new BMW. I loved it. My brother asked to borrow it to go and visit a distillery. He drove away and came back, said it was great. That was that. I went outside and anyway, it turns out Paul had been in the queue at a roundabout, trying to figure out the stereo, and he went into the car in front!

I’m into cars and he’s into his music, so that just about sums us up. Let’s just say we’re always challenging each other.

MoM: What’s your favourite dram to sip from a Glencairn glass?

SD: That’s a tricky one. I like that I can run through them all. I do hark back to Hibiki 21. I’ve got two or three I jump between – Hibiki, Benromach 10-year-old and I do like Ben Nevis. Oh, and Craigellachie 23 and Glenmorangie Signet.

My default drink is Jack Daniel’s and Coke, from my uni years. I might go for a premium version now, but I still enjoy the original.

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Is the living room the new tasting room?

For the drinks industry, as with almost everywhere else, virtual has become the new reality. But as restrictions begin to lift, will it last, asks Lucy Britner. Is the living room…

For the drinks industry, as with almost everywhere else, virtual has become the new reality. But as restrictions begin to lift, will it last, asks Lucy Britner. Is the living room the new tasting room?

Let’s face it, over the past year, the living room has become the new everything. The new gym, the new meeting room, the new hair salon and the new destination for after work drinks, weekend drinks, virtual drinks and all other drinks (except kitchen drinks).

The question is, will it stay that way when we are released back into the wild? Will Zoom be trampled into the dirt as we stampede back to the bar? Or will the lure of the living room (and the mute/turn camera off buttons) be too great?

A virtual panel discussion

In a recent (virtual) event facilitated by incubator fund Distill Ventures, whisky experts from around the world joined a panel to discuss whether the living room had become the new tasting room. The consensus is that virtual tastings aren’t going away. And besides the mute button, they have brought with them a load of other benefits.

For panellist Samara Davis, founder and CEO of the US-based Black Bourbon Society, the pandemic brought a surge in new memberships as locked down drinkers sought new hobbies. She describes ‘bourbon curious’ consumers who want to discover what their palate is and buy whiskey accordingly.

And while in-person tastings will be back, the benefit of virtual ones is that people in far-flung places can still join in. She also says that people feel comfortable asking so-called ‘silly’ questions in a virtual setting.

“Our Facebook Group has 22k members and it’s a safe space to ask questions and research,” she explains as the group discusses going back to bars. “You never know what reception you might get from a bartender, but we do encourage people to go to bars to try whiskies without having to buy the whole bottle.”

Billy Abbott, author and whisky educator at the Whisky Exchange also points out that real-life events work for some people while for others an in-person festival, for example, just doesn’t appeal.

Billy Abbott

Look, it’s Billy Abbott!

Level playing field

Meanwhile, an undeniable plus to lockdown has to be that brands big or small can lay on a virtual event.

Panelist – and  founder of JJ Corry Irish Whiskey – Louise McGuane says: “Nobody can travel, but everyone has an internet connection so we can now do five events in one night – the explosion of online experiences has been a great leveller for small, founder-led brands such as ours.”

McGuane also points out that JJ Corry has developed two new whiskeys as a result of virtual events: a crowdsourced blend created in conjunction with online communities, as well as a whiskey made specifically for a group on Facebook.

Of course, there was a bit of work to do at the start of lockdown and panelist Tess Syriac, marketing director at Starward, says the team had to turn everything they knew 12 months ago on its head, in order to reevaluate how they used their social channels, and how they connected with consumers to create “meaningful conversations”. For Starward, bringing in-home experiences to life was a key component in allowing consumers to connect with the brand.

“The last year has unlocked all these new channels – including direct to consumer – which has put small brands in a great position, but making sure experiences are customised is essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and the more tailored the approach, the more brands will connect. In our view, at-home tastings will now have a place forever,” she says.

Mini adventures

There was also talk of bottle sizes – and miniatures. Sending samples is a lot of work and since single malt Scotch has to be bottled in Scotland, for example, minis don’t regularly make it across the pond. But both Syriac and Davis say this is changing, predicting we will start to see a variety of pack sizes. And McGuane confirms she’s looking at miniatures as an “actual strategy” whereas before the pandemic and at-home tastings, they wouldn’t have been a big consideration.

Luckily Master of Malt is a seasoned pro at breaking down expensive bottles or setting up tasting sets, with its Drinks by the Dram series.

#MissedMoment competition

Very handy for those online tastings

Beyond the living room

So far, it all looks pretty rosy for the living room Zoom boom, doesn’t it?

But there is something missing. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to being in a room full of people, all tasting the same booze together. Abbott calls it the “overall feel of the collective experience”. After all, interacting virtually ain’t easy – see: the stunted conversations, the pauses between sentences and the weird smiles we adopt while waiting for someone to terminate the meeting.

A bit of both, actually

The truth is, we are likely to see a future of both living room and bar room tastings. And the panelists seem to agree that more personalised and tailored tastings will be popular as brands and clubs get to grips with a growing audience.

While this might mean thinking about the styles of whisk(e)y or cocktails on offer, it could also mean thinking about whether a particular group would prefer a virtual or an in-person event.

I can also foresee a sort of hierarchy appearing for new launch tastings, whereby an ‘A list’ gets invited to sit at the table, while others are invited to sit in their own living rooms and look on with their sample packs. 

And so, as we step back into the light of the day and not the glare of the screen, there will be a bit of a stampede to socialise – we’re only human after all. But as the novelty of the last train home wears off, those virtual meet-ups will once again appeal.

In, out, in, out… It’ll be like the whole world is doing the Hokey Cokey. Maybe that IS what it’s all about.

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The truth about our historic Tonic Wine Cask Finish whiskies…

It might be time to sit down and have a chat about those groundbreaking Tonic Wine Cask Finish whisky bottlings we shouted about earlier… Erm, folks… we’ve got some owning…

It might be time to sit down and have a chat about those groundbreaking Tonic Wine Cask Finish whisky bottlings we shouted about earlier…

Erm, folks… we’ve got some owning up to do. We’re really sorry. You know how we love an April Fool’s Day joke. Remember the Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy? What about the 4D Whisky Distillery? And who could forget the iconic Joculus Snift technology? We usually try and go bigger and better each year. 2020 didn’t feel quite right for a ruse, but we wanted to come back with a bang this time round. 

Well… we’re sorry to disappoint. This year, we didn’t do an April Fool. 

We pulled an April UNFool!

The hallowed tonic wine cask-finished expressions

“Huh?!” We hear you cry. “What was all that ‘landmark’ tonic wine cask nonsense?!”

Not nonsense. That’s what. Ok, it is a little bit bonkers to actually source a couple of octave casks, buy LOADS of tonic wine, season them for months, then stuff some really quite fancy whisky in them (yes, we really did go there with the 21 year old blended malt…). But every word in our earlier announcement is true. Well, perhaps not the monastery cat. That we can neither confirm nor deny… 

So it’s true. You can snap up these really rather unusual whiskies right now! Well, for as long as stocks last. They really are super-limited. Enjoy – and let us know what you think!

Our 10 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask Finished Whisky

Our 10 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask Finished Whisky

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Single Malt 10 Year Old, £44.95

A single malt that really might remind you of Limitless… (if you know, you know). This is 10 year old single malt that’s spent some time in an ex-bourbon cask that’s been seasoned with tonic wine! It really does have an intriguingly herbal, slightly rubbery consistency going on. A fun experiment that’s not going to break the bank! 

21 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask

And the 21 Year Old!

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Blended Malt 21 Year Old, £199.95

A blended malt comprising some really good stuff that we ruined enhanced by sticking it in our specially seasoned casks for a few months. We genuinely reckon the fruity, cough mixture vibes actually work really well with the rich whisky character, but don’t listen to us. We may have lost the plot a little…

So. Grab a piece of whisky history (we reckon we’re the first to actually do this?) and enjoy! 

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Where are the older people in whisky advertising?

It’s marketing week here at Master of Malt. Yesterday Millie Milliken looked at the evolution of drinks adverts. And today we ask whether the Scotch whisky industry is missing a…

It’s marketing week here at Master of Malt. Yesterday Millie Milliken looked at the evolution of drinks adverts. And today we ask whether the Scotch whisky industry is missing a trick by ignoring older people in favour of the youth market.

There was a report published this month by Our Whisky examining the representation of women and minorities in whisky marketing. Looking at all the pictures used to publicise the report, it looks like the industry has a problem with another group: older people. Scroll though whisky Instagram accounts or look at whisky adverts, and there are very few grey hairs to be seen.

The majority of whisky marketing seems to target three groups: the carefree consumer in their 20s (see this recent Ballantine’s advert below), the hardcore single malt drinker (people with beards and Highland Park tattoos), or the vibrant birdman community (The Macallan). 

I spoke with someone with over 30 years experience at a very large drinks company (who didn’t want to go on record for the feature) and he said that the marketing department was “in denial that people over 40 exist”.

Recruit, recruit, recruit

He went on to explain how the vast majority of marketing is aimed at getting new drinkers into the category rather than retaining existing customers. Neil Boyd, MD of Ian MacLeod Distillers, agreed. “Whisky marketers have a recruitment problem. The challenge is to get to younger drinkers,” he explained. “If you look at the UK market, 80% of blended whisky is drunk by the over 60s with a very strong male bias. With single malts, it’s a bit younger, mainly over 45 with a rough 70/30 male/female split.”

Furthermore, as drinks columnist for the FT Alice Lascelles pointed out, younger people are more likely to use Instagram so you get more value out of them: “A millennial is likely to share on social media, you get much more reach for every one of them than through a 70 year old,” she said.

Hence all those vibrant young people in the adverts. The problem is that every drinks brand, not just in whisky, is going for the 25-35 year old market.

Some oldies think they’re young

Now of course, much of this youth advertising won’t only appeal to young people, as a former brand ambassador now working for an indie bottler, pointed out to me (also anonymously). Johnnie Walker’s tie-up with Dua Lipa, might go over my head (I’m 44), but there are plenty of older people who are more down with the kids.

Contrast this with the whisky adverts of yore: they were full of older people, mainly men. Johnnie Walker (see below) himself was originally a gent about town of a certain age, rather than the stylised young rake of modern times. In the past, being old was aspirational. Some men in the Victorian era even affected a stoop to make them appear more venerable. Now everyone tries to appear younger. Whisky companies are just following the zeitgeist.

Johnnie Walker - The evolution of the Striding Man

The evolution of the Striding Man

Should there even be a target audience for advertising?

Brand guru David Gluckman thought the very idea of targeting groups was nonsense. “There’s far too much of it and it stands in the way of successful new ideas,” he told me. For him it was all about basing the marketing around the product. He should know. He’s the man behind Le Piat d’Or and Baileys Irish Cream when he worked at IDV (the forerunner of Diageo), and the author of one of the best books on marketing, That s*it will never sell!.

He praised Smokehead in particular: “I loved it because it immediately said to me if you like those harsh, peaty whiskies with a touch of drain cleaner about them, then you’ll like Smokehead. It put a whole series of what would be negatives to people who didn’t like the taste of whisky, and I thought that was great targeting.” Laphroaig also does this very well with its ‘Opinions welcome‘ campaign.

Set in their ways?

Leaving aside whether you should target groups or not, there is a perception from the industry that older people aren’t worth marketing to because they don’t try new things. Lascelles told me: “The received wisdom is that older people are more brand loyal. I could imagine a big drinks company thinking: we’ve got these guys in the bag already. There’s a lot of talk of getting people to engage while they’re young. If you’re going to spend a pound, it’s better to spend a pound on getting someone at the beginning of their spirits journey, rather than the end.”

There’s also the perception that older people, particularly baby boomers are, how can I put this nicely, a bit cheap. Many of the people I spoke with pointed out some older people’s reluctance to splash out compared with younger generations. 

Anecdotally, however, I find that older people aren’t as set in their ways as younger people tend to think. I’m thinking of the grandfather who helps out with reading at my daughter’s school who is always enthusing about new gin brands he has tried. Some older people do try new things and are swayed by advertising. Data from the Distilled Spirits Council in the US seemed to back this up: people between the ages of 57 and 75 who drink spirits had increased, from 43.9% in 2007 to 46.4% in 2017.

Certainly, other drink sectors are looking at marketing to older people. Speaking to SevenFiftyDaily, wine merchant Tara Empson said: “After the pandemic, will they [older people] also start looking around a lot more and feel more confident to try new things?” 

Alice Lascelles

It’s only Alice Lascelles from the FT!

Follow the money

It might be trickier to get them to part from their money, but there’s no doubt that older people do have quite a lot of it. According to this insightful article on wine marketing, 70% of Britain’s disposable income lies with the over 55s. There are over 23 million people over 50 in the UK and the population is getting older. No wonder when I was in publishing there was so much talk about the grey pound and silver surfers.

Neil Boyd commented: “An increasingly ageing population will present further challenges to advertisers in identifying their recruitment target. They may have to think differently in the future.”

Looking at our own data from people with Google accounts searching the MoM website for whisky, 55% are over 35, with people over 45 accounting for 35% of the site traffic. The male female split is roughly 70:30. Whisky investment company VCL Vintners issued some figures recently about investors getting younger, and yet around 40% of its customers were still over 45. And don’t forget, as Lascelles told me when talking about whisky auctions: “It is the older generation who are spending the big bucks the majority of the time.”

My anonymous contact at the large drinks company said: “I remember seeing research that one might have thought would have made a compelling argument for redirecting a lot of investment towards older-aged cohorts. But nothing at the end came of that.” He said that brands were terrified of being associated with older people. 

Represent 

So far the argument has been about sales; it’s not a good use of money to market to older people. We can argue about that, but diversity is also about representation. Increasingly brands are taking a moral view on this. To not feature minorities is not just bad business but also unethical. Why should it be different with people’s age? Older people, especially older women, are increasingly invisible; wouldn’t it be great if whisky companies took the lead here?

I asked to speak to some of the conglomerates about this. Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons wouldn’t comment, but Diageo did issue a statement: “Our aim with all our marketing is to champion diversity and inclusion regardless of age, gender, orientation or colour (above our Diageo Marketing Code age bracket of 25). We have a specific 10 year action plan called Our Society 2030: Spirit of Progress to keep driving change and ensuring we are balanced and positive in the way we portray all our brands, including Scotch specifically.” So there we go.

Older people

‘Darling, I think it’s time we tried this whisky thing I keep hearing about on the wireless’
‘Good idea!’

Worth a punt

Everyone I spoke to agreed that most whisky marketing, indeed most spirit marketing, is aimed at the 25-35 year old group. There are very good reasons for that. If whisky as a category doesn’t recruit younger people, it will contract. Yet, surely not every brand needs to go for the same market. Pernod Ricard and Diageo have a portfolio of whiskies, wouldn’t it make sense to direct some marketing towards older people? If everyone is doing one thing, it makes sense for someone to do the opposite. 

It doesn’t have to be involve a free zimmer frame, but a witty campaign involving print advertising; older people still buy papers. Classic FM, and something on Facebook would pay dividends. It could persuade a large number of people to switch from brand Y to brand X. Or even try whisky for the first time. 

At the moment, whisky producers are taking older people for granted. Marc Fleishhacker, formerly of Ogilvy and eBay, said: “Acquiring a new customer costs about five to seven times as much as maintaining a profitable relationship with an existing customer.” Surely, it’s just good business to talk to your best customers.

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Chocolate and booze: the perfect combination for Easter

It’s nearly Easter! And while the Easter bunny is busy laying chocolate eggs (that’s right, isn’t it?), we’ve been trying out chocolate and booze pairings. And not just pairings, it…

It’s nearly Easter! And while the Easter bunny is busy laying chocolate eggs (that’s right, isn’t it?), we’ve been trying out chocolate and booze pairings. And not just pairings, it turns out you can put your booze in your chocolate – or your chocolate in your booze.

From cocktails to Port, whisky to gin, there is a chocolate for just about every type of drink. And a drink for every type of chocolate.

Lindt chocolatier

A Lindt chocolatier looking exactly as you would hope (PHOTOPRESS/Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli AG)

Chocolate first

To get started, I caught up with the man who makes those famous Lindt bunnies, Lindt master chocolatier Stefan Bruderer. Or so I like to think. “An important point is the tasting order,” he says, “always have the chocolate first.”

Wise words for any chocolate lover but there’s also some science to it. The temperature in our mouths is usually around 36°C, which is the perfect temperature to melt chocolate. “If you have a cold drink, between 5-8°C, the temperature in your mouth will drop down for a moment. The result is that the chocolate will not melt as it should,” he says.

Opposites attract

Like any food and drink pairing (or episode of Married at First Sight), Bruderer reminds us that opposites attract. “This means I am looking at the drink for some flavours I can’t find in the chocolate and vice versa,” he says. “So that they somewhat complete each other.”

He offers an example: “If you have a white wine that is not too sweet but slightly sour, with some notes of fresh fruits like green apples, lime or grapefruit the perfect match could be Excellence Orange,” he explains, “because Excellence Orange has some sweetness, as it is ‘just’ a medium dark chocolate, and has notes of ripe orange. This means if you pair those two you will have the sour and fresh fruit notes from the white wine and the sweetness and the ripe fruit notes from the chocolate.”

In fact, the Lindt archives are stuffed full of great chocolate and drinks pairings and among my favourites is the Aperol Spritz also with Excellence Orange a marriage of sweet, smooth citrus with bold, bitter citrus. Or perhaps a Negroni with Lindt Excellence Sea Salt Dark Chocolate appeals? Bittersweet umami for the win.

Fonseca Bin 27 port with chocolate

When in doubt, reach for the Port

Any Port

I’m sure it comes as absolutely no surprise that port is a winner with chocolate.

Fonseca Bin 27 is a top tipple with truffles. So much so in fact, that it features as an ingredient in Vinte Vinte Port Wine Truffles. If you can’t get your hands on those, find yourself a good quality 70% cocoa truffle and let the experiment commence.

This ruby Port is bottled ready to drink and it brings bags of black fruit to the table, along with tobacco, a slightly herbaceous note, figs, raisins, chocolate and vanilla cream. The truffles round out the black fruit character, bringing more cream and chocolate to the party, until you end up with a black forest gateaux in your mouth. What’s not to like about that?

Whisky fix

If Port’s not your bag, there’s a new whisky from Dewar’s that will work a treat with this kind of truffle – Dewar’s 8 year old Portuguese Smooth. The whisky is finished in, you guessed it, ruby port casks. With dark and red fruit on the nose, the palate offers smooth milk chocolate with poached pear and blackberries. 

And for smoke fans, get yourself some Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Milk Pretzel Toffee and a bottle of Lagavulin. The dark chocolate and toffee squares up to the smoky notes, while the salt tang of the pretzel meets the slight salinity of the whisky.

What about white chocolate?

The folks at Hotel Chocolat have a strong suggestion for white chocolate, which again plays on that desire to balance out flavours.

“White chocolate is arguably the creamiest of the mainstream chocolate types and so it’s a good idea to pair it with a drink that balances out that sweet, cocoa-buttery charm,” their guide suggests. “We’d recommend pairing it with a chilled Provence rosé; the refreshing strawberry notes are pleasantly elevated by the creaminess of the white chocolate.”

If you haven’t quite got into rosé season, MoM recommends Whisky Works Glaswegian 29 Year Old. This richly creamy single grain Scotch whisky pairs excellently with the creaminess of a good white chocolate.

Cocktail Porter Espresso Martini

Cocktail Porter Espresso Martini served in an actual Lindt bunny!

Liquid lush

Can’t be bothered to pair chocolate and booze? Good news! There are several drinks for that, too. How about Jaffa Cake Gin, Rum or Vodka? And of course there is a Bourbon Bourbon for all you chocolate biscuit fans. The drink features Kentucky bourbon infused with genuine Bourbon biscuits, and blended with dark chocolate and vanilla to accentuate those familiar flavours. The producer, Master of Malt’s sister company Atom Labs, recommends trying it in an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. Or, y’know, a glass.

If glasses aren’t ‘Easter’ enough and you want to be really decadent, you can bite the ears off a Lindt bunny and stick your Easter cocktail right inside. That’s what the folks at Cocktail Porter have done with an Espresso Martini: Ketel One Vodka, Cocktail Porter sugar syrup, Kuka cold brew coffee and Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur shaken and poured right into the cavity.

Have your cocktail and eat it.

And for the gin lovers, the folks at Kintyre Gin have come up with the Easter Bunny Negroni:

35ml Kintyre Pink Gin
35ml Creme de Cacao
15ml Campari
15ml Sweet Vermouth
Dash of chocolate bitters

Serve in a chilled Martini glass, rimmed with grated chocolate.

Bet you could serve that in a Lindt bunny, too.

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