Master of Malt Whisky Blog

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18: Glenfarclas 105

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18

Behind the 18th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a classic sherried Speyside single malt bottled at cask strength…

In this ever-changing world of whisky, where it seems that not a week goes by without the announcement of a new distillery, and drinks companies are constantly consolidating, amalgamating, and mutating, Glenfarclas is an anomaly. Just look at those labels, they haven’t been anywhere near a Shoreditch-based graphic designer. What worked in the 1940s works now. Visiting the distillery is a similar experience. It’s not glitzy and polished, the equipment is neither antique nor brand new. It’s the same attitude: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Glenfarclas is one of the last distilleries in Scotland to use direct-fired stills, and all its whiskies are aged the traditional way in ex-oloroso casks in a dunnage warehouse.

This immunity from the whims of fashion has a lot to do with being in the hands of one family, the Grants, since 1865. The current chairman, John Grant, is the fifth-generation family member in charge. This continuity extends to stocks as well. The family are able to offer very old whiskies as well as vintage-dated expressions dating back to the 1950s.

These whiskies are some of the most highly-regarded in Scotland. Along with Macallan, Glenfarclas is the apotheosis of the sherried Speyside style. And despite all that tradition, the family isn’t immune to a spot of innovation. In the 1960s it was one of the first distilleries to shift business away from supplying blends to bottling its own single malts.

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An Ardbeg masterclass with Brendan McCarron

Ardbeg masterclass

We try Ardbeg’s core range with Brendan McCarron while he tells us about making raw, rugged whisky, the similarities between Bill Lumsden and Gordon Ramsay, and whether there are any plans to make a blend.

The team at Master of Malt were invited to Moët Hennessy’s swanky headquarters in London to try the core Ardbeg range with Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at the Glenmorangie Company. Lucky us. Ardbeg inspires fierce loyalty among whisky fans. Not least because it very nearly didn’t survive. The distillery was only working sporadically for most of the ’80s and ’90s, and by 1996, according to McCarron, “the bulldozers were at the gates”. But happily, in 1998 Ardbeg was saved when it was bought and refurbished by the Glenmorangie Company (who are now part of LVMH). [An important aside: you can win a trip up to Ardbeg right now! Check out our competition and you could do just that! Simply purchase any 70cl bottle from the Ardbeg distillery range before Christmas Eve and we’ll throw your hat into the ring! (For the nitty gritty details, see the competition T&Cs at the bottom of the blog post.)]

Back to the situation at hand. McCarron joined the team in 2014. He was a chemical engineering graduate who, after a stint making penicillin, joined Diageo. He had various jobs including blending at Johnnie Walker before, at 28 years old, he became the youngest distillery manager in Scotland at Oban. From there he moved to Islay to run Caol Ila, Lagavulin and the Port Ellen Maltings. Enough intro, let’s get the interview out of the way so that we can try some whisky!

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Master of Malt Auctions returns for a pre-Christmas whisky fiesta!

Love the thrill of an auction? Us too. Which is why Master of Malt Auctions is back with one final whisky bonanza this side of Christmas, featuring a Lagavulin Feis Ile bottling, 38 year old Royal Salute, and a particularly tasty Talisker from Diageo’s Special Releases way back in 2003

Ready to rock and roll, team? We’ve got one final fabulous flurry of Master of Malt Auctions bottlings set to go up for auction this side of Christmas. And we reckon there’s a bottling (or ten!) that will take your fancy.

Up for auction from 3pm today until Tuesday evening are ten sensational Scotch whiskies. They are all unusual in some way – either limited edition bottlings, stuff with some serious age, or they were limited to travel retail the first time round. There’s all kinds of tastiness. And bidding gets under way soon!
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#WhiskySanta’s Glenfarclas 1956 (cask 1767) Family Cask Super Wish!

#WhiskySanta’s really pushed the boat out for his final Super Wish of 2018. Fancy a whisky distilled waaaayy back in 1956? What about one described as ‘age- and logic-defying’? This week’s mega super-duper Super Wish is… Glenfarclas 1956 (cask 1767) Family Cask Spring 2015 Release!

Ho, ho, ho, my marvellous, merry chums! I’m in exceptionally fine spirits this glorious Monday. Not only did my elves cook me a terrifically tasty early Christmas dinner yesterday (I need to get my strength up in the last week before the Big Day! I’m still working my way through my mega Santa sack of gifts worth £250,000! Keep wishing on social and buying those boozes. You never know what I might slip in with your order… I might even pick up the entire tab!), but I have a right treat in store for my final Super Wish of 2018.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #17: Irish Single Malt #1 13 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

The final full week of Advent is upon us, and we’re kicking things off in lovely, lovely, lovely fashion with a tasty indie dram from the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar

Following on from yesterday’s punchy and peaty treat (the excellent Rock Oyster), you might be in the mood for something equally as delicious but a bit more laid-back. If that’s the case, you’re in luck, as behind window #17, you’ll find a whiskey that is mellow in every sense of the word. In fact, you might go so far as to describe it as lovely (lovely, lovely)…

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #16: Rock Oyster Malt Whisky

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #16

It’s the 16th day of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind today’s door you will find a marvellous maritime malt from independent bottler Douglas Laing.

It’s tempting, especially at Christmas, to see whisky as an after-dinner drink. You know the sort of thing: curl up by the fire, ask your faithful spaniel to bring your slippers (thank you, Waffles), put on a smoking jacket, light up the old pipe and settle down with a dram. Or perhaps that’s just me. But if you’re saving your whisky for after dinner then you are missing out because Scotland’s finest spirit goes superbly with food.

Richer sherried malts can be great with puddings especially dark chocolate. But probably my best whisky and food experience was at a seafood shack on Skye slurping down scallops with a glass of the local whisky (alright, it was Talisker.) Peated whiskies go brilliantly with all kinds of fish (especially the smoked kind), crustacea and molluscs. Which brings me neatly on to today’s whisky. The name is a clue to the perfect way to serve it…

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Whisky Advent Day #15: The GlenDronach 12 Year Old

We’ve reached day 15 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, so what’s in store for us today? I think I can smell something sherried behind the window…

After checking the calendar (the one which isn’t filled with delicious whiskies – the paper one that has a different picture of a pug for each month and is covered in birthday reminders), I discovered that we’ve only got 10 days left until Christmas. You can count that on your fingers. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get surprised by how quickly December is going, but gosh dang it I am shook. Let’s take some time now to look at what dram is behind window #15 of the Whisky Advent Calendar and later make a plan to get back to panic-buying gifts for… Well, for everyone.

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The Nightcap: 14 December

Thank heavens it’s the end of the week. It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and head to your local discotheque to strut your funky stuff, perhaps whilst wearing novelty reindeer antlers. It’s up to you. But first, the Nightcap!

A great way to make those winter days go a bit quicker is with a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve been counting down the days and this week we had a surfeit of K sounds in our whiskies: Kilchoman, Kirkwall Bay, Kavalan, Cotswold, Cardhu and Nikka. Plus Glenrothes standing aloof refusing to have anything to do with all those noisy Cs and Ks. For the Super Wish on Monday, #WhiskySanta was giving away a bottle of The Macallan M worth £3,300. And there was an opportunity to win £250 to spend at Master of Malt by finding #WhiskySanta in a Where’s Wally-style game. Head on over to our YouTube page to join in!

And that’s not all. Round 3 of the Master of Malt Auctions is under way; Annie talked to the people behind the Port of Leith distillery, Edinburgh’s first single malt distillery in more than 100 years; Henry wrote a bit about his favourite cocktail, the Negroni; and picked the best booze books of the year. Some excellent stocking fillers there.

Now on with the news!

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Master of Malt Auctions Round 3 incoming!

Master of Malt Auctions is back with another pre-Christmas chance to get your mitts on some deliciously rare and sumptuously unusual bottlings. And you get to set the price!

Hurrah and huzzah! After two successful rounds of lots, Master of Malt Auctions is back with a whole new haul of rare, hard-to-find and highly sought-after boozes. And we’re just in time for you to snap up an incredible bottling for your Christmas table!

Get set for 3pm today – that’s then the proceedings will get under way. And we have got a whole load of goodies for you! 47-year old single grain, rare Scotch single malts, epic bourbons, incredible Port, out-of-this-world rum, and an eye-popping Armagnac… it’s our most mouth-watering line-up yet. And it’s all live until Sunday evening Here’s the squad in full…
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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #14: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #14

The wait is over. You are now allowed to open the 14th door in your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar! Inside you’ll find a whisky from Taiwan, I wonder if you can guess what it is…

Like the Three Wise Men, only much tastier, this whisky comes from the east. Taiwan to be specific. It could only be. . . .

Kavalan, and Kavalan Single Malt Whisky to be specific!

Since it was founded in 2005, Kavalan has won awards left, right and centre including the International Wine & Spirit Competition Worldwide Whisky Trophy in 2017 and the International Spirits Challenge Trophy in 2016 and 2017.

And no wonder because the late, great Jim Swan, distiller and blender extraordinaire, was involved at every stage in Kavalan’s development (more on that later). The sub-tropical climate in Taiwan means that the spirit matures four times faster than in Scotland and it loses twice as much to the angels’ share. The climate, the fruity new make and the use of sherry and bourbon casks give the whisky its signature style which is rich, sweet and crowd-pleasing.

It’s no boutique operation; the distillery produces around five million litres of spirit per year. Kavalan is owned by an enormous Taiwanese conglomerate, King Car, which also makes Taiwan’s most popular coffee brand, Mr. Brown (that’s a great fact to share with the family at Christmas).

To tell us more, we spoke with Jim Swan’s protege, Ian Chang, master blender and distiller at Kavalan.

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