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Tag: whisky

Whisky distilleries to watch out for in 2022

2022 should be another landmark year in whisky with new distilleries opening and first releases from new players hitting the market. Here’s our pick of some of the most exciting…

2022 should be another landmark year in whisky with new distilleries opening and first releases from new players hitting the market. Here’s our pick of some of the most exciting ones to watch.

It’s not exactly been the most encouraging couple of years for the drinks industry but whisky is doing pretty well, all things considered. Just look at all the distilleries that will open this year, and all the first releases we have to look forward to. The path to getting back on track is paved with good drams, from all over the world. Here, we shine our big ‘MoM’ branded spotlight on just five distilleries that we’re particularly excited about.

Whisky distilleries to watch out for in 2022

Whisky distilleries 2022

On our recent visit, we were very impressed by Bankhall’s approach

Bankhall Distillery, Blackpool, England

The team at Bankhall have been busy re-imagining the traditional whisky process in Britain with a star-spangled twist. The Halewood Artisanal Spirits (the people behind Aber Falls, Whitley Neil, Vestal Vodka and many others) owned project was founded in 2018 and has spent the last few years working to create a bourbon-like spirit in the UK. Master distiller Vince Oleson (previously of the Widow Jane Distillery in New York) uses a single batch process to make a spirit that’s American in, well, spirit, as well as experimenting with single malt and rye whiskies. Two young sweet mash spirits have already been released to acclaim, but this year we should see its first official whisky, and we can’t wait. What we’ve tried so far is full of promise, reasonably priced and so intriguing. Plus, the distillery is in Blackpool. Which is an amazing city.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Not just a beautiful place, this is home to some already impressive whisky

Killara Distillery, Tasmania, Australia

This is one of the most highly anticipated new distilleries in the world for good reason. Headed up by Kristy Booth-Lark, daughter of Australian whisky guru Bill Lark and the creator of many of the Lark distilleries’ most loved expressions, she’s now running the show as something of a ‘one woman band’. We love people keeping the family tradition alive, but when they do so by making whisky with locally-sourced grain, a focus on supporting neighbouring businesses and a process that prioritises quality, that’s when you really start talking our language. Early expressions have been extremely good for their age, like this lovely Boutique-y bottling, and the only problem with whatever comes next will be getting your hands on a bottle, because they sell out quickly.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Progress is coming along nicely and we can’t wait to see the finished distillery

The Port of Leith Distillery, Edinburgh, Scotland

We’ve spoken about The Port of Leith Distillery before, because it’s an extremely exciting project. While whisky is still a few years away yet, we wanted to flag this Edinburgh distillery because it should open this year and, once it does, you’ll have to get in line behind us for a visit. The ‘vertical distillery’ rises 40 metres above the quayside, and will feature a top floor double height whisky bar (with views to Edinburgh Castle, no less) and the capacity to produce up to million bottles of single malt a year. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that this will become a tourist attraction in no time, but the level of detail that co-founders Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling have put into this distillery demonstrates that it won’t be a case of style over substance.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Japanese whisky is about to welcome an influx of newcomers and we’re very excited

Kanosuke Distillery, Kagoshima, Japan

Quite a few Japanese distilleries are gonna come of age this year so it’s hard to pick just one to get fired up about, but the Kanosuke Distillery is already making so many waves it’s hard not to take notice. Even though it only opened in 2018, the company behind it Komasa Jyozo has been producing traditional spirits such as shochu since 1883. This might explain why its hit the ground running with its first releases including young spirits showing the whisky’s progression and then a single malt first edition and second edition, as well as a distillery exclusive. There’s a real sense of originality here, with three pot stills, each with a different shape and neck inclination, allowing for diversity of production of whiskies and a unique climate impacting maturation. Early signs are great, and this distillery is just getting started.

Whisky distilleries 2022

A humble but outstanding young distillery

Killowen Distillery, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

There’s just so much to like about Killowen Distillery. This is a really honest, pure operation that’s all about creating interesting, tasty whisky. From the worm tub condensers to the direct-fire-heated alembic stills, the long fermentations, experimental mash bills and bottling everything at cask strength with no filtration or additional colouring, head distiller Brendan Carty is making whisky for the purist. Expect some of the most distinctive Irish whiskies you’ve ever tasted. I’m actually slightly regretting telling you them as I want all the whisky to myself. But that very much goes against what my actual job is. So, you’re welcome.

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Explore new whiskies this year… and next

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022! When…

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022!

When shopping for clothes, it can be very easy to rely on old favourites. This is why I have a cupboard full of almost identical blue shirts with button-down collars. It’s the same with whisky. The choice available at Master of Malt can be overwhelming even to those of us who work here. It’s very easy when buying for ourselves or recommending bottles to friends and customers to go for old favourites like Glenmorangie 10, Lagavulin 16, or Johnnie Walker Black Label.

So, we’ve rounded up some excellent bottlings which aren’t quite so well-known. There’s offerings from non-traditional whisky countries, underrated Scotch whiskies distilleries, lesser-known expressions from some of the big boys, an unusual blend, and a single grain whisky that’s really a malt.

Go on, try something different this year, and next.

Explore new whiskies this year

jura-the-loch-whisky

Jura The Loch

Poor old Jura. While Islay gets all the attention from whisky lovers, it’s near Hebrides neighbour is often overlooked. This is a shame as if you love sweet sherry and smoke, then you’ll love Jura The Loch. It was initially matured in American oak casks before being finished in casks that previously held 30 year old Pedro Ximénez sherry, and bottled at 44.5% ABV. Originally this was travel retail only, but we’ve managed to snaffle some. 

What does it taste like?

Smells like rich oak and milky coffee, with a burst of juicy raisin sweetness. In the mouth, there’s thick caramel and treacle, balanced by a hint of peat smoke.

the-cardrona-growing-wings-solera-sherry-and-bourbon-cask-whisky

Cardrona Growing Wings Solera – Sherry & Bourbon Cask

Last week Adam was raving about the quality of the whisky coming out of this New Zealand distillery. Now you can see what all the fuss is about with this 35cl bottle. Part of the Growing Wings collection by Cardrona Distillery, it was matured for five years in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks and bottled at 65.6% ABV.

What does it taste like?

It’s packed with heaps of glorious syrupy fruit and nut character from the sherry butt, balanced by creamy bourbon oak vanilla.

tobermory-12-year-old-whisky

Tobermory 12 Year Old

We love the orchard fruit-laden flavour profile from this Isle of Mull distillery and think it deserves to be better known. We’ve been lucky enough to try some older releases this year from Tobermory and have been knocked out by the quality. But this 12 year old aged in American oak and bottled at 46.3% ABV is pretty special. We think it’s one of the great bargains of the whisky world. 

What does it taste like?

Pear, peach and apple, with a dusting of brown sugar. Greek yoghurt, barley and a hint of cinnamon pastries.

loch-lomond-peated-single-grain-whisky

Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain

Due to SWA regulations, this has to be labelled as a single grain but it’s actually made from 100% malted barley. So what the hell is going on? Well, the crazy cats at Loch Lomond used a Coffey still instead of pot stills so it can’t be called a single malt. Following this unusual distillation method, it was aged in first-fill and refill American oak ex-bourbon casks to produce one of the most idiosyncratic malts on the market.

What does it taste like?

Berry jam, orchard fruit, oaky vanilla, and a dusting of baking spices and liquorice, with a layer of fragrant smoke underneath it all.

compass-box-glasgow-blend-single-marrying-cask-pour-and-sip-whisky

Compass Box Glasgow Blend – Single Marrying Cask (Pour & Sip Exclusive)

Compass Box bottled a limited edition of its Glasgow Blend Single Marrying Cask just for Pour & Sip subscribers (so sign up here). It brings together malt whisky from Craigellachie and grain whisky from Cameronbridge, alongside Clynelish and Laphroaig, as well as a Highland malt blend. The blend was married in an ex-Clynelish cask for 15 months before being bottled at 49% ABV. If you think blends are all about big brands, well think again.

What does it taste like?

On the nose you’ll find peach and plum, polished oak, Crunchie bars, waxy citrus peels, with caramelised nuts, coconut ice, a smidge of snuffed-out candle, crisp red apple on the palate.

glenfiddich-grand-cru-23-year-old-whisky

Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old

And finally, let’s go beyond the classic 12 Year Old or, our favourite, the 15 Year Old Solera, and explore the upper echelons of the Glenfiddich range like the Grand Cru 23 Year Old. This single malt initially ages in American and European oak casks, before being moved over to rare French cuvée oak casks – which previously held a seriously fancy wine. 

What does it taste like?

Melted butter on rye toast, sandalwood, peach, soft peppery hints drifts in later on, with just a pinch of mint.

If you’re looking to expand explore new whiskies, you should sign up with our whisky subscriptions service Pour & Sip. It’s offering a tasting pack containing the Cardrona Growing Wings Solera Sherry & Bourbon Cask, an exclusive bottling of Compass Box Marrying Cask, Tobermory 12 Year Old, Jura The Loch, and Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain. Click here for more details.

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Top ten premium whiskies perfect for Christmas

If you’re looking to push the boat when it comes to whisky, then you’re in the right place. From luxury blends to single cask rarities from closed distilleries, these are…

If you’re looking to push the boat when it comes to whisky, then you’re in the right place. From luxury blends to single cask rarities from closed distilleries, these are our top ten premium whiskies for 2021.

Maybe we have a little bit of bias, but in our opinion whisky is one of the most thoughtful gifts. Because the choices are so seemingly endless, you have to know what the person likes to find the right present and that means you can tailor a bottle to the individual. Or, you can introduce a fan of the spirit to something new entirely and open another door of deliciousness.

Now you can get wonderful whiskies for £30, £50 or £73.99, but for those looking to splash out, either for yourself or as a gift, we have provided a top ten to inspire you. We’ve got everything in here from super premium blends to single malts that you might have to consult your bank manager about before buying. Here our top ten premium whiskies for 2021.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Gift Pack with 2x Glasses

Blue Label is a legend in its own right. One of the ultimate premium blends, this rich and slightly smoky whisky is made up of some very old malt and grain Scotch whiskies and it’s said that only one in ten thousand casks makes the grade. Not only does this handsome gift set contain the ever-awesome Blue Label, but it also boasts a pair of very snazzy branded tumblers to sip said whisky from! Ought to make quite the gift.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983 (Release No.11535) (The Character of Islay Whisky Company)

The Character of Islay Whisky Company’s Wind & Wave independent bottling series is all about showing off the glorious whiskies from the  island of smoky whisky, and this single malt from Port Ellen is one of the finest it has featured. Distilled back in 1983, the year the distillery closed, this beauty was then matured for 35 years before being bottled up at 47.9% ABV. 

premium whiskies for Christmas

The Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Whisky – Batch 3

There’s few whiskies that have impressed us this year like The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s Rye Whisky, with each batch demonstrating it’s a distillery to keep an eye on. Making deft use of ancient heritage rye strains at its heart, along with wheat and even some oats and thistles, this whisky was aged in virgin American oak casks, but was then moved over to Moscatel de Setúbal wine casks all the way from Portugal. A wealth of rich, ripe, decadent fruit notes was the reward, which balance beautifully with the core of rounded, subtly spicy notes from the spirit. Super stuff again.

premium whiskies for Christmas

J.J. Corry The Vatting No.1 

If it’s exceptional Irish whiskey you’re after, then you can trust that J.J. Corry sources some of the finest. The first release in the Vattings range, this 30 year old single malt was finished in ex-Macallan casks and only 60 bottles were released worldwide. This bottling also comes with a 5cl bottling of the same whiskey, so you can taste it without opening the full-sized one if you so please. Which is very thoughtful. 

premium whiskies for Christmas

Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series – 2020 Edition

Heaven’s Door The Bootleg Series is all about showcasing particularly impressive American whiskey so expect great things from this expression. It’s a 15-year-old bourbon whiskey, which has enjoyed a finishing period in Jamaican pot still rum casks before being bottled up at 52.3% ABV. This is a whisky that’s beautiful inside and out, thanks to a ceramic bottle featuring art from the one and only Bob Dylan and a box shaped like an old leather journal. Very giftable.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Mortlach 26 Year Old (Special Release 2019)

Diageo’s Special Releases are often full of seriously good premium whisky and the 2019 collection was no exception, as this mighty Mortlach single malt demonstrates. This is a 26-year-old single malt that was drawn from fresh-toasted first-fill Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry-seasoned casks before being bottled at 53.3% ABV. The stunning label is in keeping with the theme of ‘Rare by Nature’, hence the rather impressive stag.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Balblair 25 Year Old

A fantastically full-bodied Highlander from Balblair, one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries. This particular whisky was aged for a quarter of a century, first in American oak ex-bourbon casks and then in Spanish oak butts to create an indulgent, elegant profile that’s full of orchard fruit, citrus, and runny honey.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Amrut 10 Year Old Greedy Angels (2019 Release) 

You hardly ever see Indian whisky aged as long as this expression as the angel’s share (the rate at which whisky evaporates as it matures) is so high, which is why this impressive Indian single malt is called Greedy Angels. Thankfully they left enough to enjoy this delicious Amrut whisky, which was bottled at a generous 55% ABV and presented in a rather elegant decanter, complete with a glass stopper.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Mannochmore 10 Year Old 2009 (cask 1387) – The Single Cask 

You don’t see much from the marvellous Mannochmore Distillery, which is a real shame, so when we do get a chance to shout about it we don’t pass it up. In this case, we have a 10-year-old single malt that was independently bottled by The Single Cask. We love the signature bottles the latter uses, full of all the geeky info whisky nerds like us want to know, as well the delicious spirit that’s inside. Expect notes of spiced orange, coconut husk, toffee ice cream, red liquorice, buttercream, and grassy barley.

premium whiskies for Christmas

Strathclyde 31 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) 

One thing we absolutely love that we don’t feel gets anywhere near enough credit is old grain whisky. Just look at the incredible value of it. Less than £70 for a 31-year-old whisky? Unbelievable. That Boutique-y Whisky Company obviously agrees, as it bottled up this light and tropical single grain from the Strathclyde Distillery. Somebody will really appreciate this bargain.

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Diageo to build single malt whisky distillery in China

Diageo has announced that it will be building a US $75 million single malt whisky distillery in Eryuan County in Yunnan Province. Exciting news, but what does this mean for…

Diageo has announced that it will be building a US $75 million single malt whisky distillery in Eryuan County in Yunnan Province. Exciting news, but what does this mean for the future of Scotch whisky in one of its biggest export markets?

Back in September 2019, we reported on Pernod Ricard’s plans to build a US$150 million whisky distillery in China. Now, two years later, we have Diageo’s response. Called the Diageo Eryuan Malt Whisky Distillery, it will be a 66,000 sq metre (710,000 sq ft) single malt distillery with tourist facilities located in Yunnan Province in southwest China, near Tibet. 

The Diageo Eryuan Malt Whisky Distillery, barrel room

The spectacular proposed barrel room

High altitude distilling

Ground was broken on the project on 2 November and construction is planned to start in 2022, while it’s scheduled to begin distilling in 2023. The site is at a high altitude, over 2,100 metres above sea level, and apparently, it was chosen partly for its plentiful supplies of spring water. In line with Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress initiative, the distillery aims to recycle all the waste water, produce zero waste and be carbon neutral.

President of Diageo Asia Pacific and global travel, Sam Fischer explained: “China is the world’s largest beverage alcohol market, and the demand for whisky is growing rapidly among middle-class consumers who are keen to further discover and enjoy fine whiskies. Today we celebrate another significant step forward, and one which builds upon our local insights and combines those with Diageo’s global whisky expertise in order to delight the next generation of Chinese whisky consumers. The natural surroundings and the Eryuan landscape will allow us to craft a world-class, China-origin, single malt whisky that will capture the imagination of premium whisky lovers in China.”

This isn’t Diageo’s first whisky initiative in China. Back in April 2019, it created Zhong Shi Ji whisky in collaboration with a Chinese baijiu producer, Jiangsu Yanghu, which it described as “premium taste of east and west.”

The Diageo Eryuan Malt Whisky Distillery, visitor centre

Artist’s impression of the visitor centre

What does this mean for Scotch whisky?

China is a $1.7 billion whisky market, and much of it comes from Scotland. This new distillery does rather beg the question as to what happens to Scotland’s premium brands when products from Diageo’s (and Pernod Ricard’s) distilleries go on sale.

We published an article by Ian Buxton in 2019 on Pernod Ricard’s Chinese venture which now looks alarmingly prescient:

“The more drinkers are persuaded that great whisky can be made anywhere in the world, the more that Scotch whisky’s premium cachet and exclusivity will fade. This is the start of a very slippery slope and today’s confidence can all too easily be revealed as tomorrow’s complacency.”

Only time will tell whether he is right or not.

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Spooky whisky ghost stories to tell this Halloween

There are some terrifying tales lurking in whisky distilleries around the world. For Halloween, we decided to round-up some of the industry’s most famous ghost stories. Prepare to be spooked. …

There are some terrifying tales lurking in whisky distilleries around the world. For Halloween, we decided to round-up some of the industry’s most famous ghost stories. Prepare to be spooked. 

We all enjoy a good ghost story, don’t we? They cross cultures and eras for a reason. From childhood, we never lose the love for the anticipation, drama, and adrenaline they create. The danger brings us closer together as we appreciate the nostalgia, the silliness, and the fear of it all.

Halloween is, of course, the perfect time of year to tell new tales and, as we’re all whisky fans, we thought you’d enjoy taking a moment to turn off the screens, gather together, pour a dram and spin a creepy yarn. We’ve also ranked how each story scores on our spooky scale, from time to run and never look back, to laugh and tempt all the fates in the world. Are you sitting comfortably (preferably with a torch pointed at your face)? Good, then let’s begin…

whisky ghost stories

Leave a dram out unless you want the headless horseman to visit…

Bowmore’s headless horseman

First, we head to the oldest distillery on Islay, Bowmore, for a scarcely believable tale. No, this isn’t the one about the resident ghost said to inhabit the distillery’s vaults and or even about the time the Devil himself got in a spot of bother hiding in the local church, which was round and so had “no corner for the Devil to hide in” (I expect better from Lucifer, to be honest) and was chased out. He’s said to have escaped in a barrel, and this tale inspired the The Devil’s Casks bottling. This means it could just be marketing bumf. That’s actually scarier than most ghosts, in our opinion.

Instead, we’ll tell you the tale of a phantom patron. One dark and stormy night, crofter Lachlan Bàn sees the ghostly silhouette of a headless horseman galloping away from his house. He walked in to find a bottle of Bowmore on the table, and noticed a large dram was missing (you’d have to imagine every measure is big when you have no head) and, utterly petrified, did something truly horrific. He threw away the bottle. Are you horrified yet? Now any true Ileach will always open a fresh bottle for guests and throw the cork in the fire, just in case the headless horseman returns to join them for a tipple… 

MoMs spooky scale: 5/10. This would be a lot higher, but Bowmore says that Bàn’s brother later revealed he had brought round the mystery bottle to share but had to run, so he knocked back a dram and rode home, pulling his cloak tight over his head as it was stormy. Bàn was simply too embarrassed to reveal the truth, however, (I get it, to be honest) and so said nothing, allowing the story to live on. Still, if you’d like to retell the story you can always leave that bit out.

whisky ghost stories

If the wallpaper starts to peel, head for the exits…

The White Lady of Glenmorangie Distillery

If you’re brave enough to step into the decommissioned floor maltings at the Glenmorangie distillery, then you might just be visited by the ghost of ‘the White Lady’. A mysterious phantom, she is said to be the cause for wallpaper peeling without explanation. No tearing was found and former distillery manager Graham Eunson said that the walls “were bone dry” and that nobody could account for it, which “inevitably led to talk of the White Lady having been at work”. 

MoMs spooky scale: 8/10. Sceptics claim that ‘The White Lady’ was a clever tale told to ensure the maltsters didn’t doze off during the long night shifts. But that doesn’t explain the peeling wallpaper now, does it? Spoooooky!

whisky ghost stories

This is a very old distillery with a lot of stories and memories…

The revenge of the executed son of Kilbeggan Distillery

The Kilbeggan distillery, or Lockes distillery as it was originally known, dates back to 1757 making it one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world. For some time now, locals and staff have told of close encounters and strange noises around the grounds. But all that was just hearsay, until the Irish distillery became so well known for its spooky reputation that it attracted the attention of the absolutely legitimate Derek Acorah (‘psychic’ and star of Most Haunted). He said previous owners of the distillery continue to roam the grounds, including Kilbeggan founder Matthew McManus, and his son John, who was executed in 1798 for breaking curfew and for alleged membership of the United Irishmen…

MoMs spooky scale: 7/10. Acorah recited several little-known facts that he said the ghosts told him, which did surprise distillery manager Brian Quinn. So there. That’s proof, isn’t it?

whisky ghost stories

Contractors beware…

Glen Scotia Distillery’s resident ghost

On 23 December 1930, distillery owner Duncan MacCallum died in ‘mysterious circumstances’, allegedly drowning himself in Crosshill Loch, Glen Scotia’s water supply, after losing a fortune in a crooked business deal. Ever since, contractors have claimed that they feel like ‘they’re being watched’ when working at the distillery and employees won’t lightly venture into the less illuminated areas of the distillery when it’s dark. 

MoMs spooky scale: 9/10. It’s a genuinely creepy, quite sad tale and, as a bonus, it keeps corporate types on their toes.

whisky ghost stories

The stills at Glenrothes upset one phantom patron…

Toasting the ghost at Glenrothes Distillery

There are no chances taken at the Glenrothes distillery after its particular phantom run-in. The ghost was said to be that of Biawa ‘Byeway’ Makalaga, one of two African boys rescued from famine in Matabeleland (now a province of Zimbabwe) at the turn of the 20th century by Major James Grant, owner of Glen Grant. Byeway served as a page boy and then butler, living at Glen Grant House until his death in 1972 (outliving the Major by more than 40 years in the process). 

When a new pair of stills were then installed at the nearby Glenrothes, the ghost of Byeway was spotted on two different occasions. University professor Cedric Wilson investigated and found the new stills unwittingly disturbed a leyline. He’s then said to have gone to the neighbouring graveyard to chat to Byeway’s gravestone, amicably resolving the issue. Still, many ‘toasts to the ghost’ have taken place since in order to avoid any more trouble.

MoMs spooky scale: 4/10. Byeway doesn’t mess around. Saw a problem, did some scaring, got it sorted.  But he appears to have left for now, so not currently very spooky.

whisky ghost stories

There’s so many ghosts here it’s hard to keep count

The many phantoms of Buffalo Trace 

Don’t visit the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, at night. It’s had so many reports of ghosts that paranormal investigators from US TV show Ghost Hunters turned up, identifying 27 ghostly presences at the distillery. Buffalo Trace embraced its spooky side, offering ghost tours beginning at Warehouse C, where workers were once allegedly saved by a mysterious voice yelling “get out”, just as the building collapsed around them. Then at Stony Point Mansion, the home built in 1934 by Albert B. Blanton and the most haunted area of the distillery according to Ghost Hunters, employees will tell you they hear footsteps, feel an icy chill, and even recognise some ghostly humming or singing thought to be from the ghost of Blanton’s housekeeper Sarah…

MoMs spooky scale: 6/10. Some classic, old-school ghostly goings-on here, but not enough give me shivers. A further point deducted because 27 ghosts is just showing off.

whisky ghost stories

Keep your eyes peeled for the Spanish ghost…

The Spanish ghost of Glendronach Distillery

One day back in the ’70s at Glendronach Distillery a shipment of Oloroso sherry casks was being unloaded, a stowaway was spotted fleeing the scene from an empty cask. She was described as being small and dark, dressed in scarlet and black, wearing a full mantilla. This led to the legend of the beautiful, Spanish woman inhabiting the distillery, with numerous sightings and the noise of rustling skirts alerting workers to her presence. She’s said to frequent the nearby Glen House, specifically the GlenDronach room, and it’s also apparently easier to sense her after a few whiskies, especially if you are a single man. 

MoMs spooky scale: 2/10. Hmmm. Yeah, the more I tell this story the more I realise it isn’t that spooky. “Oh poor me, a beautiful exotic woman visited me after a night of drinking whisky”. My heart bleeds, mate. You want to see something truly disturbing and Spanish, watch me practising my “dos cervezas, por favour” on holiday. I shiver just thinking about it. 

whisky ghost stories

Enjoying telling your ghostly tales this Halloween, like these folks are doing on the beaches of Jura…

Jura’s Twin Phantoms 

For our final ghost story, we’re going back in time to 18th century Jura. In 1781, Laird Archibald Campbell outlawed distilling (that’s not the scary part). 29 years later, Campbell woke in the middle of the night to see a ghostly old woman hovering over his bed. She gave him such a strong telling off that it was said to persuade Campbell to reverse that decision and open a distillery at an old smuggler’s cave in 1810. To ensure that no more ghosts appear to chastise politicians, it’s said that a bottle of 16-year-old whisky is still left in a secret cave somewhere on the island.

The ghostly goings-on didn’t stop there, however. Fast-forward to 2010 and two journalists visited Jura on a ghost hunt, attaching a collar with a webcam to Elvis to see if they could catch any out. As you might have guessed, Elvis is the distillery cat, and with his cat-cam, he caught a ghostly woman. Psychic Joan Charles was called to investigate and she revealed the presence of Elizabeth Quinn, an authoritative and kind spirit. Former distillery manager, Willie Cochrane, confirmed there had been a teacher called Elizabeth who lived on the island many years before. We don’t know what she wanted. Probably whisky. Our kind of ghost!

MoMs spooky scale: 10/10. The cat-cam never lies.

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How to win at whisky auctions

The last few years have seen some serious records and numbers being set in the world of whisky auctions. Millie Milliken asks the experts how the industry works and what…

The last few years have seen some serious records and numbers being set in the world of whisky auctions. Millie Milliken asks the experts how the industry works and what newcomers should be bearing in mind.

There are only 14 bottles of the Macallan Fine and Rare 60 year old in existence – one of which was bought for approximately £1.3m at Sotheby’s in London in 2019, the most expensive single bottle of whisky ever sold at auction. Other bottles and collections to join Macallan at the top of the pile are Hanyu Ichiro’s Full Card Series (£1.1m), The Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60yo (£765,000), and The Macallan Red Series which raised a whopping £756,400 for charity.

Auctions are, unsurprisingly, big business (it’s small business too with a recent rare collection of 400 miniatures selling for a total of £56,732.95 via Whisky.Auction). But there are bargains to be had. So, how does the auction world work? And how can first-time bidders navigate the (virtual or live) auction room?

Springbank

Miniatures can be big business. This Springbank 5cl went for £5600 via Whisky.Auction

The auctioneers

“I actually come from an art background,” Georgia Porteous of Bonhams in Edinburgh tells me of how she got into the auction game. “I’ve worked for Bonhams since leaving university, so 10 years ago now. I always had a passion for whisky so when I moved up to Edinburgh, a job finally came up in the department.” Now, she’s the junior whisky specialist at the auctioneer, working alongside Martin Green (head of whisky) and Diego Lanza (whisky specialist) valuing bottles, cataloguing them ahead of quarterly auctions, and consigning items for sale.

As first sales go, Porteous’ – a Macallan Peter Blake 1926 which fetch upwards of £700,000 – wasn’t a disappointment: “What I love about working at an auction house is that it so varied: you can be handling a lot of five bottles that are worth £300 and then you can go on to a £350,000 bottle of whisky – it’s a real privilege.”

Sam Hellyer, wine and spirits specialist at Chiswick Auctions unknowingly began his career in drinks when he got himself a job at a Bottoms Up wine shop at 18, before heading to university, getting his foot in the door at Oddbins after graduating, a couple of nights a week and finally embarking on a decade-long job with the retailer. After a time working for small importers, Brexit hit and Hellyer decided a move into the world of auctions was the more disaster-proof option.

Georgia Porteous of Bonhams

Death, downsizing and divorce

“We operate on the three ‘d’s: Death, downsizing, and divorce,” he explains matter-of-factly. “It’s a miserable way to look at things but the pandemic has actually particularly seen a lot of downsizing… so we’ve picked up quite a few cellars.” One recent cellar held a 2004 vintage of Bordeaux en primeur on which the seller made a 200% profit.

As well as valuations, visiting cellars, and negotiating listing timings, Hellyer is also a key factor to the live auction, acting as auctioneer for the wine and spirits lots – I say key as the sale rate drops by 20% when he misses one. Why? “Knowing the wines and being able to talk about them and even pronounce them is very important… there is a recognised value in the knowledge when you’re working in the auction side.”

And when it comes to valuing the goods, Hellyer has a layman’s explanation: “The most basic explanation is everyone looks over everyone else’s shoulder. I see what it sold for at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams… all of these places because they set the price and once they’re not selling it, I’m setting the price,” he said.

The Nightcap

It’s not just about whisky, this Taylor’s 1977 Port sold through Chiswick Auctions recently

The bidder

Over his time in the drinks industry, Matt Hastings, now blender at Nc’Nean whisky, would acquire bottles of fun liquids that he didn’t want to drink and would sit in a dark cupboard. So, he started selling them in auction to fund the purchase of liquids he did want to drink. “I’ve entered bottles in batches five or six times and never been disappointed – I always get a good or fair price.”

Hastings opts for the platform Whisky Auctioneer which he came across organically and was so impressed with that he used them for Nc’Nean’s inaugural release auction – an auction that saw its first bottle go for £41,004.

But Hastings started buying at auctions before he embarked on selling. “I was just looking for fun things I couldn’t buy in shops anymore… seven or eight years ago you could get some absolute bargains with bottles selling for less than they originally sold.” And although he admits that coming across these bargains is harder nearly a decade later, there are still some specific bottles that get him excited. “Things that pique my interest are bottles like earlier Compass Box releases and old Jack Daniel’s before they changed the ABV, like an early 80s Jack Daniel’s 90 proof which is just amazing. [You’re paying for] a piece of history and to get the chance to taste something in its early [phase] of phenomena.”

Matt Hastings frequents auction sites as a buyer and seller

The industry

Of course, when it comes to selling and buying at auction, there are some variables that have impacted the industry over the years. Most notably, and recently, the EU/ US trade war that saw Scotch whisky hammered by tariffs. “In our February sale barely anything whisky-wise shifted,” explains Hellyer while continuing that there was a huge uptick in brandy, Cognac and Armagnac. “Trump’s final passing shot was putting a tariff on the brandies too, so in February those didn’t shift either, not because people don’t want them, but because a huge chunk of brokers’ clients are in the US, so they all pulled out.”

Now that those tariffs are lifted though, Chiswick Auctions did a big whisky sale, selling over 90% in one go, while 87% of the brandies listed also went. “It would be so much cheaper for the end-user to buy directly from us [rather than through a broker],” he laments, “but you’ve got to know when the auctions are and be available to be there on the day.”

A subtle change Porteous has discovered has been the type of bidder turning up to Bonhams’ auctions. While they’ve been online for years (unlike Chiswick who moved online due to the pandemic), she’s noticed that “over the last 18 months we’ve seen new, keen bidders who are participating for the first time and have more questions.”

So, with that in mind, we asked our experts for some of their top tips for newbies to the world of auctions.

Tips for first-timers to whisky auctions

Ask for a condition report. This is something you can do a few days before the auction – don’t be scared to ask, it’s what I’m paid to do! Sam Hellyer, Chiswick Auctions

Check the fees before you bid. See what fees the auction house charges and don’t forget about VAT. Georgia Porteous, Bonhams

Do some value research. The platforms have their old lots on display so you can look at pricing to see what similar bottles are getting which will help guide your decision. Matthew Hastings, Nc’Nean

Have a maximum budget for everything. Someone outbids you by £10 and then you’re in it and you could spend £100/£200 over – I see it all the time. The increments get bigger the higher you go too (before £100 your bidding in £5 increments, £200 it’s £10 and so on). Sam Hellyer, Chiswick Auctions

Don’t forget shipping and insurance. The most important thing to do is get a quote before you bid because most people aren’t aware of how much shipping and insurance is. The auction house is not responsible for the bottles once they leave the property, so do your research and get a reputable shipper with insurance. Georgia Porteous, Bonhams

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New Arrival of the Week: TBWC Home Nations Series

Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That…

Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It’s TBWC Home Nations Series! 

It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of whisky talent in Britain and Ireland. Obviously Scotland and Ireland are world leaders, both vying for the position as the first place whisky (or whiskey) was made. Quick aside, why don’t the Scots, the Irish, and the Americans just sit down and just agree on a spelling for ‘whisky’ so we don’t have to use tortured constructions like whisk(e)y? This has gone on too long.

Anyway! It’s not just in the old countries, England and Wales now have serious strength in depth when it comes to whisky with the English Whisky Company in Norfolk turning 15 this year and Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons turning 21 in September. These pioneers have been joined by a legion of innovative distilleries making bold, distinctive whiskies.

British & Irish Lions, but with booze

So to celebrate all this talent, That Boutique-y Whisky Company is releasing the Home Nations Series. The idea of the ‘home nations’ is inspired by rugby where England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales put aside their rivalries to play together as the British & Irish Lions, usually with magnificent effect.

Lineup- Home Nations TBWC/ TBRC

The whiskies include a six year old Penderyn from Wales, a cask strength three year old from Scotland’s Nc’Nean Distillery, and a very special 29 year old Irish single malt from an undisclosed distillery (though you can probably guess which it is.)

Meanwhile, team England fields a 12 year old from the English Whisky Company in Norfolk, a 7 year old from Adnams in Suffolk, a 3 year old single grain from the Oxford Artisan Distillery, and a 3 year old from the Cotswolds Distillery. Meanwhile we have two nearly whiskies from Circumstance in Bristol and White Peak in Derbyshire

There’s rum too!

But that’s not all! The Home Nations series includes three rums: a 17 month rum from Ninefold in Scotland, an 18 month rum from Greensand from Kent ,and a 2 year old from J. Gow on Orkney! Plus a selection of rare single malt Scotch whiskies bottled exclusively for That Boutique-y Whisky Company – see the full range here.

I’ve pulled out three that I particularly liked below. These are largely single barrels and bottled at cask strength or high ABV. All come in 50cl bottles. Numbers are extremely limited so hurry, catch the home nations while you can.

Circumstance TBWC

Circumstance 40 Days Old Batch 1

Type: Wheat spirit

Cask types: Matured in a drum with charred English oak spindles

ABV: 59.8% 

We visited this distillery a couple of years ago and were amazed by the innovations going on with yeasts, fermentation times and, most of all, ageing. This shows how you can get masses of flavour into a young spirit without it tasting over-worked. Extremely clever.

Nose: Super sweet, chocolate digestives and ginger nuts. It’s like a party in the biscuit aisle at Sainsbury’s!

Palate: Sweet toffee and chocolate and then spicy. Really really spicy with black pepper, chilli and bitter minty notes – like Fernet Branca. Some massive spicy wood action happening here.  

Finish: Spices go on and on, seriously intense!

English Whisky Co B3

English Whisky Company 12 Year Old Batch 3

Type: Single malt

Cask: first-fill bourbon

ABV: 63.4%

Wow! This is a mighty dram. This English whisky pioneer just keeps getting better and better. Can you imagine how excited we are to try a 15, an 18 or even a 21 from this distillery?

Nose: Toffee, chocolate, dried fruit, vanilla and creamy cereal notes, water brings out sweeter notes and peachy fruit.

Palate: Big spice, wood tannin, dark chocolate, savoury, and bitter coffee with a full texture like chestnuts. Water brings out aromatic tobacco notes, and with time a distinct apricot taste emerges. 

Finish: Layered and very complex, that apricot note goes on for a good ten minutes.  

Penderyn TBWC

Penderyn 6 Year Old Batch 1

Type: Single malt

ABV: 50% 

Cask type: This is from a single STR red wine hogshead.

Distilled in Penderyn’s unique Faraday still – like a cross between a pot and a column (read more about it here). It’s been a while since I’ve had Penderyn, this bottling shows how beautiful it is at a higher strength. 

Nose: Sweet cereal notes with apples, caramel, butter and toffee.  

Palate: Creamy marzipan texture, there’s a gentle sweetness with baking spices like cinnamon and creamy patisserie notes with orchard fruit. Lovely balance, no water needed here.

Finish: Gentle sweetness and spice. 

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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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