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Master of Malt Blog

The winner of a bundle of 1826 booze is…

It’s winner time, folks. Who’s got their hands on some delicious 1862 pre-bottled cocktails? We reveal all… We love being the bearer of good news. Like when we get to…

It’s winner time, folks. Who’s got their hands on some delicious 1862 pre-bottled cocktails? We reveal all…

We love being the bearer of good news. Like when we get to shout about the arrival of wonderful new booze or tell folks they’ve won the prize from one of our many lovely competitions.

Happily, we’re getting to do the latter today by announcing the winner of our 1826 cocktail competition. Just as a refresher, the prize is four bottled cocktails that provide bar-quality booze in a matter of moments. There’s a Cognac Espresso Martini made with Courvoisier, a Smoky French Martini crafted using Laphroaig whisky as well as an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep that makes use of the delightful Maker’s Mark bourbon. Oh, and a Maker’s Mark bar spoon, a Courvoisier cocktail shaker and a Laphroaig beanie hat!

The winner of a bundle of 1826 booze is...

All of this is now yours!

And not one, but two lucky winners are about to receive a bundle of each. Who are they? Well, it’s…

Jules Eley and Emma Whiteman!

Congratulations to you both. We hope you and your friends enjoy the booze. Don’t forget, you did promise to share…

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The winner of a VIP trip to Jura Distillery is…

The time has come to announce the winner of our VIP trip to the wonderful Jura Distillery!  There are few distillery locations as iconic and romantic as Jura, a remote…

The time has come to announce the winner of our VIP trip to the wonderful Jura Distillery

There are few distillery locations as iconic and romantic as Jura, a remote island home to deer and drams that’s on the bucket list for many whisky fans. In November we had the pleasure of inviting you to win the chance to bag a VIP trip to the famous distillery and now we get to announce which lucky person will be packing their bags…

Hannah Berry – London!

Congratulations to you, a private VIP tour and tasting, as well as free accommodation, food and island activity await. Oh, and an opportunity to take home a distillery exclusive bottling signed by distillery manager Graham Logan. What a prize!

The winner of a VIP trip to Jura Distillery is...

Congrats to all our victors! We hope you love your boozy prizes.

Speaking of which, there’s also a few runners up to announce who have bagged themselves a bottle of distillery exclusive 17 Year Old sherry cask expression! Congratulations to…

George Heslop – Leeds

Rhian Broomhead – Cheshire

Paul Loran – Warwickshire

Sandra Clarke – Kent

Well done all, we hope you enjoy your bounty!

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Brighton Gin: spirit of the seaside

Kathy Caton swapped the radio mic for the lab coat when she founded Brighton Gin with some local friends back in 2012. Since then the brand has gone from strength…

Kathy Caton swapped the radio mic for the lab coat when she founded Brighton Gin with some local friends back in 2012. Since then the brand has gone from strength to strength despite some early setbacks like exploding stills and botanicals disasters. 

Many of us have ideas after some drinks but few of us manage to turn them into a business.  The Brighton Gin story began when Kathy Caton was having a few gin-based cocktails with a friend one night. The following day, feeling surprisingly chipper while running around her home town of Brighton, she had the revelation to create her own brand of gin. She explained: “Gin is the one thing that lets me get away with it. Brighton is a place that needs to get away with it on a frequent basis. Boom! That’s it, I was going to make Brighton gin. It was just one of those proper lightbulb moments.”

This was in 2010 just before the gin boom. “Gin has always been my drink,” she said, “it’s hard to imagine how wildly unfashionable it used to be when I was at university.” But gin’s image was changing rapidly and it was now much easier for new distilleries thanks to Sipsmith and Sacred laying the groundwork with HMRC. “I thought there was going to be a moment. But I absolutely had no idea that that moment would be what gin is now. People with gin bars at home. Gin festivals. Gin tattoos!” she said.

Kathy Caton from Brighton Gin

Kathy Caton: gin lover (Photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate)
Brighton Gin portraits on Brighton Beach

Easy does it

Caton had a strong vision for Brighton gin: “I wanted to make something that is of the best quality, that’s built on ethical and sustainable practices, made by a really diverse team,” she said. But her background in radio, with stints at BBC World Service, Radio 4 and Reverb Radio in Brighton, weren’t a lot of help for making gin. “I had very clear thoughts about how I wanted it to taste and the experience of it, but really bugger-all clue about how to do it,” she said. She realised that she would need the help of a scientist. The only one she knew was Dr Easy aka Ian Barry who is a physicist when she really needed a chemist, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

Their first still was a little unusual. It was a glass apparatus which was used in the not hugely successful Samuel L. Jackson film, The 51st State, and Caton picked it up for £100 on Ebay. “We set it up in Easy’s kitchen. Looking back now we were just really dangerous and clueless. But each time you make a mistake you’re like ‘well we won’t do that again!’ and you learn more and more from it,” she explained.

Then she had a lot of fun experimenting. She described the process as like Road Dahl’s book George’s Marvelous Medicine, “everything would go in.” Initial batches were not promising: “They were so overloaded with stuff, they tasted like Domestos. I’m still using that for cleaning around my flat!”

But gradually, through trial and error, she narrowed it down to what she wanted. “Licorice was one of the things that was very early on the list to be booted out, “ she said. She was looking for a classic profile, a gin that tasted like juniper and citrus. Along with Dr Easy, she also called on the palate of top wine writer Johnny Ray who became an investor in the business.

The Brighton Gin team

Oh, they do like to be beside the seaside! (photo by Liz Finlayson/Vervate)

The gin boom!

Horrible early batches weren’t the only problems they encountered. “I popped out for a bag of crisps, which again, I would now never do. I would never leave anything running and just pop out to the corner shop,” she said. “When I came back I discovered what happens when you have windows open, glass and mirrors and quite strong sunlight bouncing around. There was a lot of clearing up to do.” The Samuel L. Jackson still had exploded! Fortunately nobody was hurt.

“I then went down what I now realise is the more sensible route of getting a small copper alembic and really just learning the process of distillation,” Caton said. She found that running the stills slowly got the best results though achieving consistency in the early days was not easy. 

The final recipe uses a “super-smooth organic wheat spirit as the base,” she said, with juniper from Macedonia and coriander seed “from Ringmer just eight or nine miles from where I am at the moment and that’s got quite a lemony spice to it.” They use fresh lime and orange peels, meaning lots of hard peeling work, “but those fresh peels definitely bring a different spectrum of flavour to it really,” she said. They do a cold maceration and then a warm one before distillation with everything in together. Now, though, she has now handed over distilling duties to Paul Revell, “ a former riot copper and also a former prima ballerina.” So Brighton!

Brighton Gin

Strong branding

Brighton belles

Brighton gin hit the shelves in 2013 and had an immediate impact. A delicious product helps as well as a strong brand trading on the town’s image.There can be few more apt places to make gin than Brighton, sharing as they do a seedy sort of glamour. This dates back to when the town was a favourite haunt of the Prince Regent in the late 18th and early 19th century: “the Prince Regent’s favourite breakfast drink, which he called ‘cherry cordial’ was basically a pint of cherry gin. So maraschino liqueur and gin, by the pint.” Caton said.

From the early days, it developed a strong local following and from there it developed into a national brand. It helped having a journalist on board in the form of Johnny Ray who made sure Brighton Gin was served at the Spectator magazine’s famous parties.

Since those heady early days, the gin market has been transformed. Caton said: “There’s been a huge explosion in flavoured and sweetened gins,” which she hopes will get new drinkers into the market. Brighton gin, however, has just stuck to its classic expression with a Seaside Strength version at Navy ABV appearing a couple of years ago. She doesn’t want to release anything unless it is perfect and consistent nor go down the limited edition route. But she hinted that the team is working on a new product, “they’re not ready to shout about it yet but nearly.”

The standard bottling is a wonderful product that manages to be absolutely classic but highly distinctive with its strong orange note. It really is smooth enough to drink neat and so naturally it’s superb in a Dry Martini. Caton said: “Cocktail-wise, I absolutely love and have never really grown out of a Negroni”. It’s a great all round gin making a lovely G&T with a slice of orange to bring out the orange in the botanical mix

Brighton Gin and Tonic

Makes a great G&T

Then comes the lockdown

Their business has changed a lot since the pandemic with the shuttering of the on-trade and not having festivals to go to. She explained: “Our business has been able to change virtually overnight to focus on selling direct to consumers through our website and supporting the off-trade and various other online sellers”. They have been making hand sanitiser as well as making deliveries on their Brighton Gin bikes. “I did quite a lot of public crying delivering to people. I remember delivering to a lovely woman down in Hove who had ordered a couple of bottles and some hand sanitiser and her saying ‘actually I’ve already got five bottles of your gin in my cupboard but I really want to see you all survive and I love what you’re doing with the hand sanitiser’.”

But with things opening up from the 8 March, it looks like the worst will soon be over. “I know that summer is coming again, we will be on the beach again some time!’” Caton said. Amen to that.

Brighton Gin is available from Master of Malt

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Restoring Peerless Whiskey to Kentucky

Peerless Whiskey describes itself as a legacy reborn. But does the Kentucky distillery produce bourbon and rye worthy of its historic name? We find out. There are two main chapters…

Peerless Whiskey describes itself as a legacy reborn. But does the Kentucky distillery produce bourbon and rye worthy of its historic name? We find out.

There are two main chapters to the story of Peerless Distillery. The first starred Henry Kraver, your classic early Kentucky bourbon pioneer. After he purchased the brand in 1899, he spent his reign investing, innovating and merrily making booze. Until he headed into the double trouble of war and Prohibition. A familiar roadblock for many, Peerless eventually succumbed and when the last barrel was sold, it went dormant. 

The second chapter began in 2014, when Kraver’s great-grandson, Corky Taylor, and his son Carson, revived the project. The Taylors constructed a distillery in an abandoned 115-year-old tobacco warehouse in the Bourbon District of downtown Louisville and even got special dispensation to restore Peerless’ old DSP number, KY 50. The team has been producing the good stuff since 2015 an in 2017, a two-year-old rye whiskey became the first whiskey made at a distillery named Peerless for nearly a century. Now, Peerless Rye and Peerless Bourbon make up the core range.

An impressive family history will get you far in this business. But that isn’t what has generated the buzz around Peerless. While there’s a story to tell, there wasn’t a legacy of recipes or a brand profile to follow. The Taylors instead made a decision to take things slow, not purchasing a single drop of whiskey from anyone else and creating a new generation of whiskies that prioritise quality over volume or cost. And it’s paying off. The booze it produces today has received widespread acclaim and picked up a slew of awards.

Caleb Kilburn, master distiller at Peerless Whiskey

Say hello to Caleb Kilburn, master distiller at Peerless Whiskey!

What makes Peerless whiskey unique

In many ways, the new Peerless is embodied as much by master distiller Caleb Kilburn as it is by the family. He grew up on a dairy farm and has no family connections. But his fascination with the science of distilling led him to shadow various producers and a summer job at Peerless. The Taylors were so impressed they invited the young man (he’s only 29 now) to become master distiller. There he had a say in the equipment design and was able to implement his beliefs. “I didn’t have any handcuffs on as a distiller. There was no flavour profile, mash bills, yeast strains, fermentation proofs or even economic concerns to follow. The focus was on crafting something special,” says Kilburn. 

This is the spirit that Peerless whiskey is being made with today. One of Kilburn’s ideals is to ensure the spirit had a low barrel proof (ABV) entry and high bottle strength. This used to be commonplace, but economic factors and a cultural shift towards white spirits in the sixties prompted producers to change tact to achieve a lighter flavour and lower cost. Kilburn, who has a keen understanding of bourbon history, prefers the old way of doing things. “By adding water before maturation rather than after, we’re not diluting the spirit. This way, the water actually becomes an ingredient. It’s a great solvent and really pulls out the caramel and vanilla characteristics,” he says. “So our maximum barrel entry strength is 53.5% ABV and we bottle every whiskey at cask strength without chill-filtration”. 

Another of Kilburn’s beliefs is that sweet mash fermentation creates better booze. The industry standard is sour mash, which involves adding a portion of a prior fermentation batch into the next run. The acidity helps prevent contamination from microorganisms. When bourbon was in its infancy a lack of understanding of microbiology meant it was the only feasible option. “Sour mash produces a consistent, safe mash that makes good whiskey,” Kilburn says. “But there’s also a sour note which gives the process its name that can be magnified in distillation. The workaround was to distil at a higher ABV. But that can cut out some of the fruit, oils and a lot of grain character. It’s a consistent spirit, but it doesn’t have all the flavour that’s on the table”. 

Sweet mash fermentation is key to creating the character of Peerless Whiskey

Sweet mash fermentation is key to creating the character of Peerless Whiskey

Peerless whiskey: flavour comes first

Being a new distillery with no established process, as well as access to equipment and technology that can eliminate contaminants led Kilburn to implement his preferred sweet mash fermentation. That means no recycled stillage, just fresh grains and water fills the brand’s six fermentation tanks, creating sweet, floral and citrus notes. A long, controlled fermentation runs five to six days in order to retain more flavour. Kilburn explains, “Fermenting for two-four days means you get a high volume of alcohol fast. But for a quick ferment, the temperature needs to be high, which stresses the yeast. This produces more heads and tails that you have to cut out.” 

The distillery doesn’t reveal the particulars of its mash bill, but we know it’s a mix of corn, rye and barley. These are grown in the US and malted with Kentucky limestone water. In the bourbon, there’s around 10-15% of both rye and malted barley, but the fermentation character’s floral sweetness keeps the rye’s peppery elements balanced. Similarly, Kilburn ensures the rye isn’t too heavy on its signature grain so the corn’s more grassy, buttery elements shine. Double distillation takes place first in a 26-foot continuous copper still from Vendome Copper & Brass Works which strips the distillate away from the beer. The spirit then goes to a smaller pot still, which creates adds body and weight while allowing Kilburn to work with greater attention to detail so he can more accurately cut the flavours he doesn’t want. 

Peerless also uses a 3,800-gallon beer well which pumps a slurry of grains and alcohol into the column still. It flows down a series of trays and spillways while steam blows up through each level. As that steam blows through the beer, it condenses the water within the steam and boils away the alcohol vapour until it’s roughly 60% ABV at the top of the column. From there it condenses and runs into the pot still. The hearts boil off ahead of tails and the latter is consistently fed back to the beer well to start the process over again, allowing Kilburn to re-distil the discarded spirit and separate the good elements away from the bad (methanol, propanol, butanol and other harsh oils and acids).

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Peerless by name…

Ageing occurs for a minimum of four years in barrels housed in the Peerless rickhouse on a single-story. Using gimmicks to heat, cool or change the whiskey is out of the question. Kelvin Cooperage supply the casks with a medium toast beneath a number three char. Kilburn says this maximises the red layer of the char. It’s an active layer where the wood’s structure breaks open to allow tannins you can extract during ageing. “This was where a great deal of the colour, flavour and aroma characteristics of the wood comes from, so we have a shallow char to maximise that red layer”. 

Kilburn is understandably excited for the future. Peerless have started looking into different finishes and is already assembling an impressive range of single barrel releases. “I can’t tell you exactly what innovations we’ll be rolling out within the coming years, but there are no restrictions on my creativity with what I can do here. The product just keeps getting better and we’re laying down more and more whiskey all the time in this amazing facility”.

Which is something to look forward too. For now, we have quite enough excitement tasting the Bourbon and Rye, which are just smashing, frankly. The bourbon is mellow, crisp and so beautifully composed. As well as being more Kentucky than any chicken-frying colonel stereotype you can think of. And forget those brash and overly peppery, herbaceous young ryes you’re used to. This is a creamy, deep and complex spirit. It’s also got so much toasty goodness you could sell blankets scented with it. They have both the slightest bit of imbalance in places, but at just four-years-old, these are seriously impressive expressions. So many distilleries are butchering the word craft that it’s losing all sense of meaning. But Peerless is the kind of enterprise we should be reserving it for. I guess they’ll have to make do with calling themselves Peerless.

Peerless Bourbon Small Batch

Peerless Bourbon Small Batch

Nose: There’s brown sugar, chocolate-coated peanuts, golden syrup, posh vanilla ice cream (the kind with the little black specs of vanilla pod in them) and ripe red apples initially. Then lemon mousse, farmhouse loaf, red berries, cola cubes and floral elements. Keep nosing and you’ll find cedar BBQ char, peppermint essential oil and dry earth notes tucked away in different corners of the glass.

Palate: The palate takes its cue from the nose, in that the flavours are clean, well-integrated and persistently interesting. First, there’s toasted oak, butterscotch, cinnamon-dusted almonds and some stewed dark fruits. Underneath there’s earthy red chilli, eucalyptus leaves, wood ash, loose-leaf tobacco, ginger snaps and green tea.

Finish: Warming and of a good length, the finish has hints of cacao powder, dry grass, cookie dough, orchard fruit and the faintest copper penny note.

Peerless Rye Small Batch

Peerless Rye Small Batch

Nose: There’s ripe green apples, cranberry, peanut brittle, buttery vanilla, toasted brown sugar and toffee popcorn bring a wave of complex sweetness while nutmeg, ginger, black pepper add aromatic spice. As it develops there’s orange peel, fennel and baked earth as well as some barrel char. There’s also touches of Dr Pepper, rosewater, Taveners Coconut Mushrooms, fluffy marshmallow and sandalwood in support.

Palate: An impressive variety of flavour emerges from that same core of apple fruitiness, baking spice and nutty woody goodness. Fresh malty rye grains, earthy vanilla, stem ginger and floral honey then emerge. They’re present among touches of chocolate milk, raspberry, black tea and apricots in syrup. Underneath there’s charred pepper, toasted oak and just a handful of dried herbs. 

Finish: Homemade apple juice, salty porridge, marmalade and hints of cedar, clove and menthol linger.

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Top ten: Vermouths 

Forget the old days of just French or Italian, vermouth is now a broad church with examples from Spain, Australia, and England joining the old counties in a celebration of…

Forget the old days of just French or Italian, vermouth is now a broad church with examples from Spain, Australia, and England joining the old counties in a celebration of all things bitter. Here are ten of our favourite vermouths with tips on the best ways to mix them.

Vermouth sales have been booming since the various lockdowns came into effect. Hasn’t that year just flown by? Still, at least we’ve got pretty good at making cocktails, especially with all these exciting vermouth brands around. So we thought it a good idea to round-up some of our favourites. We’ve included some stone cold classics, some recently-arrived brands and some innovative new vermouths from established producers. Something for everyone. 

What is vermouth?

Vermouth is simply wine flavoured with wormwood, the word is derived from the German for wormwood, and other botanicals, fortified with alcohol and sweetened. The EU rules state that it  has to be flavoured with wormwood, made with at least 75% wine and between 14.5% and 22.5% ABV. The wine can be red, white or even pink. Colours vary from straw yellow to deep red, sweetness levels from extra dry (around 30g of sugar per litre) to extremely sweet (130g per litre or more). 

So, welcome to the wide world of vermouth. Your cocktail cabinet isn’t complete without a couple of these:

Noilly Prat Vermouth

Noilly Prat Original Dry

One of the great originals. This is still made in the south of France from Picpoul and Clairette grapes, steeped with botanicals, fortified and then left out in barrels in the sun where it acquires a nutty cooked taste not unlike Madeira.

How to drink it?

For many this is the ultimate Martini vermouth, but it’s also great in a long drink with tonic and a slice of lemon. 

Regal Rogue Daring Dry vermouth

Regal Rogue Daring Dry Vermouth

A vermouth with a distinctive Australian twist using organic wines from New South Wales alongside native botanicals such as anise myrtle, quandong and native thyme. It’s bottled with less sugar than a normal dry so you can really appreciate the quality of the wine.

How to drink it?

Mark Ward from Regal Rogue recommends having it in a very wet Dry Martini in a 1:1 ratio and served straight up.

Sacred English Dry Vermouth

Sacred English Dry Vermouth

This is made using English wines from Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire by one of England’s craft gin pioneers. It’s the vermouth of choice for Alessandro Palazzi at Duke’s Bar in London. Say no more. 

How to drink it?

Well, it has to be a Dry Martini but made a little wetter than Palazzi does. We love a 5:1 gin to vermouth ratio especially with a brand this good.

Gonzalez Byass La Copa vermouth extra seco

Gonzalez Byass Vermouth La Copa Blanco Extra Seco 

Spanish vermouth is really having a moment at the moment and some of the most exciting bottlings are coming from sherry producers. This extra dry is crisp and refreshing and you can really taste that nutty fino sherry on the finish.

How to drink it?

Try it in Nate Brown’s favourite, a Bamboo. Half Tio Pepe fino sherry, half vermouth, stirred with ice and served straight up with a dash of orange bitters.

Scarpa Extra Dry vermouth

Scarpa Vermouth Di Torino Extra Dry

This is a very special bottling, made with Cortese grapes (like Gavi) from Piedmont, native Italian botanicals including chamomile and elderflower, only 30g of sugar per litre and, most unusually, bottled unfiltered. This is vermouth at its finest.

How to drink it?

The flavour is intense so a little makes a great Spritz with Prosecco and fizzy water. Or sip it chilled with snacks like you would a manzanilla sherry.

El Bandarra al fresco

El Bandarra Al Fresco

Just part of the new wave of Spanish vermouths that we reported on last year. The brand was started by twin brothers Albert and Alex Virgili. The Al Fresco version is made from Garnacha wines with botanicals including liquorice, rose, citrus fruits and mint.

How to drink it?

In a Spritz with cava, fizzy water and a slice of orange. Or just mixed with tonic.

Lustau vermut rojo

Lustau Vermut Rojo

Another great sherry vermouth made by one of Spain’s most prestigious producers, Lustau. This sweet vermouth is made from high quality sherry wines steeped with flavours including gentian, coriander and orange peel. You will love the long nutty finish.

How to drink it?

We recommend drinking it in a Palmetto. Stir 50ml good Jamaican rum like Plantation Xaymaca with 50ml Lustau Rojo with ice and serve straight up with a twist of orange.

Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino

Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino

Made by the largest vermouth producer in the world but this is very different to its standard rosso. For a start, it gets its colour from red Nebbiolo wines and the result is something perfumed, elegant and packed full of flavour.

How to drink it:

Lighter than most rosso vermouths, this makes the freshest Negroni you’ve ever had. Also irresistible in a Gin & It.

Hotel Starlino Rosso vermouth

Hotel Starlino Rosso Vermouth

A new Italian vermouth brand from the team who brought your Malfy gin so you can bet the branding is strong. The contents are great too. Made by the experts at Torino Distillati, this is a fairly trad rosso except that it’s aged in bourbon casks. 

How to drink it?

With those whiskey casks there’s one cocktail in which it particularly shines, the Manhattan, but it’s great with all dark spirits. 

Casa Mariol black vermouth

Casa Mariol

This is made by a winery in the Terra Alta region of Catalonia. Outside Jerez, this place is the heartland of Spanish vermouth. The wines are local, naturally, and botanicals include orange peel, rosemary and cardamom. 

How to drink it?

Gin and It, or rather, a Gin & Span. Take one measure of gin, Sacred Cardamom would be superb, one measure of vermouth and serve on ice with a twist of orange. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Starward Left-Field

This week we turn our attention to Starward Left-Field, an Australian single malt with aspirations to woo us Europeans.  A new bottle of whisky has arrived from Starward Distillery and it’s…

This week we turn our attention to Starward Left-Field, an Australian single malt with aspirations to woo us Europeans. 

A new bottle of whisky has arrived from Starward Distillery and it’s got us scratching our heads. It’s called Left-Field, but like the distillery’s other bottlings there’s no age statement. Plus it demonstrates that the brand’s love affair with Australian wine barrels is still going strong. This time the ageing too place in 100% charred French oak red wine barrels (Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir) from the Barossa Valley and Yarra Valley regions, before Left-Field was bottled at 40% ABV. So, by Starward’s standards, not very ‘left field’.

There’s more confusion in the press materials where it says that Left-Field was designed with the ‘European palate’ in mind. Up till now, Starward has only been available in Australia, UK and the US. So this points to a push into continental Europe. But what exactly is a ‘European palate’? Are European tastes particularly different from American, Australian or British? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see an Australian whisky going global. Despite making outstanding spirit, other Australian brands such as Lark, Cardrona, Sullivan’s Cove have been unable to do so with any real regularity due to stock constraints. 

It’s just that, in many ways, this expression is business as usual for Starward. Not a problem as the whisky is often delicious. The distillery makes good use of Australian barley and wine barrels, giving the spirit a point of difference and a determinable house style. David Vitale, Starward’s founder, is an open and interesting leader who has done a brilliant job communicating its process and ambition. The marketing and brand design is sleek and modern, the booze is very affordable, at least by Australian whisky standards, and in my mind, the distillery has done well to achieve its tricky aim of combining the best of the old world and marrying it with the new

Starward Left-Field

The Starward distillery is looking to make its mark in Europe

Starward Left-Field: a marvellously mixable malt

What Starward also does well is make versatile booze that can be mixed with ease. With regards to Left-Field, Vitale describes it as a “flavourful but easy drinking and approachable whisky” and says that it’s a whisky for people’s “sharing cabinet”, rather than their “special occasion” whisky cabinet. The sample I received also came with tonic water as that’s the recommended serve, which Vitale claims is “refreshing and bright and brings out the smooth, full flavour of our whisky”. To hammer home the playfulness of this one, there’s also a couple of cocktails recipes (below) for a Spritz made with vermouth and grapefruit soda as well as a classic Sour which includes Australian red wine.

While the richer, darker elements of Left-Field profile seems more suited to an Old Fashioned or Manhattan/Rob Roy (what are they called when they’re made with Australian whisky? A Cate Blanchett? A Phar Lap?) than a Sour, I still think this is the approach that has greater merit. Left-Field is versatile enough to suggest a fair number of bartenders will (hopefully) soon be having a lot of fun experimenting with it. But, again this isn’t very left-field, given Starward’s other expressions are all great mixers. 

Regardless of how it’s marketed, Starward Left-Field is an approachable, enjoyable dram. It’s got that Starward DNA I love. Think fresh malted barley still warm from the washback and toasty, slightly spicy oak providing the hammock in which a litany of orchard, tropical and red fruits sit merrily in the Aussie sun. There is also a youthful vibrancy I find charming though occasionally I get a little immaturity as well as some clumsy tannic and earthier elements on the palate. But tonic water is a good remedy for this, it rounds off the rougher edges and allows all that fruitiness to really shine. 

So that’s the new Starward: it’s not particularly left field but it’s a great mixer. And it certainly appeals to my European palate. 

Starward Left-Field

Starward Left-Field Tasting Note:

Nose: Fruity notes come from tannic red apple skin, strawberry laces, apricot jam, orange peel, fresh raspberries and mango slices in juice. Alongside them is a dusting of cacao powder, oaky vanilla, ginger beer, a little charred chilli pepper. Then demerara sugar, maple syrup, nougat and milky coffee. Around the edges, toasted almonds and marzipan make an appearance, with some fresh nutmeg grated on top for good measure.

Palate: Through a core of winey-woodiness, there’s PX-soaked sultanas, ginger cake, more of that beautiful maltiness and some tartness from cherries and cranberries. The tone is darker than the nose thanks to blackcurrants, dark chocolate and liquorice taking centre stage. Although there’s enough rye bread, stewed orchard fruit, aniseed and caramel to keep thing interesting. The palate is also earthier than the nose and a touch too tannic. 

Finish: Some of those tropical and darker fruit notes echo into the finish, which also has a tang of balsamic vinegar, a sprightly touch of peppermint and more of that red wine funk.

Starward Left-Field

Part of Starward’s signature style comes from ageing its spirit in Australian wine barrels

Starward Left-Field Cocktails:

Left-Field and Tonic

30ml Left-Field
100ml tonic water

Build all ingredients over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit (orange will do in a pinch).

Starward Spritz

30ml Left-Field
30ml rose vermouth
90ml grapefruit soda

Build all ingredients over ice in a wine glass and garnish with a mint sprig and grapefruit wedge.

New World Sour

50ml Left-Field
20ml lemon juice
15ml Australian red wine
20ml sugar syrup
20ml egg white

Dry shake all ingredients but the red wine in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake again. Serve on the rocks then gently pour the red wine into the glass

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Master of Malt tastes: Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series! It’s a truth universally acknowledged that…

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the mail is a highlight of any given lockdown day. Last week, a truly intriguing parcel arrived. I’d put my name down for a Bowmore Twitter Tasting (keep your eyes peeled this Thursday evening!), but what I held in my hands was a whole host of deliciousness from the Islay distillery all bundled up in one box. One jewel that especially stood out? Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series.

The biggest challenge was keeping the news, the sample and its tastiness quiet until today. And then saving some of the liquid for Thursday’s tasting. Damn you, embargo! TL;DR: this whisky is gorgeous, and I can’t quite believe I get to taste it.

Bowmore ditillery from the air

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery

After all this promise and hyperbole, what actually is it? Bowmore is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries with a recorded heritage stretching back to 1779. And it’s become something of an Islay icon; its signature balance of tropical fruit, approachable smoke, and a coastal influence has won it fans all over the world. The team at the distillery often talk about how its Warehouse No.1, which sits right against the glimmering expanse of sea known as Loch Indaal, is one of the longest standing maturation warehouses. With the distillery’s storied history such a key theme, it makes sense to group together a range of much older expressions under one banner, and here we have a new expression in the Timeless Series. 

Pleasingly, we get quite a lot of detail about this bottling. The single malt comprises liquid that spent 15 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (although at this point we don’t know exactly what type of sherry). Then it was transferred into first-fill Oloroso butts for the remaining 12 years – and this shines through via the gorgeous heap of dried fruit and almond on the nose. It’s then been bottled at cask strength – here that means 52.7% ABV. There are 3,000 bottles available globally, and we’ve got some here at MoM Towers! (Though it may have sold out by the time you read this. In which case, sorry!) At £1,500 a bottle it’s not cheap, but it really is something wonderful. (There’s also a 31yo travel retail exclusive, but you’ll have to keep an eye on Twitter on Thursday evening for more on that!).

The longer you age a whisky, the trickier it can be to achieve that balance between spirit and cask. As Ron Welsh, Bowmore’s master blender puts it: “With Bowmore Timeless Series, the key is the careful selection of the right casks, at the right time.  This enables us to determine when the spirit has reached its peak, or if it should be left longer to develop its character further. This careful balance is vital to ensuring we allow the character of our whiskies to be optimised and can, therefore, promise exceptional flavour delivery.”

Bowmore’s also teamed up with French film director and artist Thomas Vanz to create an audiovisual digital immersion to support the launch of Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series. You can check it out here at bowmore-experience.com!

Tasting Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Crucial stuff now: what does it actually taste like? Here are my thoughts:

Appearance: Deep amber 

Nose: Opens with oodles of raisins, sultanas and prunes all wrapped up in marzipan. Then comes the gentle beach bonfire smoke, balanced out with cinnamon and toffee apple vibes. There’s a reminder of the traditional Bowmore tropical fruit too, a suggestion of mango and papaya. Then the smoke gets a smidge more medicinal with time. 

Palate: Hugely mouth-filling, pretty viscous, gently warming. The dried fruit cake elements continue, and they’re joined by just-crushed coffee bean, honey, and cigar smoke elements. Old leather, orange oil, proper vanilla pod, and black cherry come through, too.

Finish: It’s all about that cigar-bonfire hybrid smoke, cracked black pepper, and is reminiscent of seaweed. It’s long and just keeps developing on the palate. 

Overall: Gloriously complex and like smoking the most decadent cigar on a seriously sumptuous sofa in a library filled with dusty books. 

And if that’s not enough, it comes in a really rather fancy sand timer-shaped box. Complete with an actual sand timer. It’s set for three minutes, which is apparently how long you should savour the nose for. I say sit with it for as long as you can. It’s really rather lovely, and getting to taste it has been an enormous luxury, and a true highlight in these monotonous lockdown times. 

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Five minutes with… John McCarthy, head distiller at Adnams

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has…

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has some quite strong views on pink gin.

Created within the Adnams brewery grounds in the picturesque English seaside town of Southwold, the Adnams Copper House Distillery opened in 2010. According to Adnams, it was the first brewery to be legally allowed to install a distillery in the UK. Today, Adnams counts gin, vodka, whisky, cream liqueur and distilled Broadside beer among its spirits. Head distiller John McCarthy has been there since (before) the start so who better to explain the whole thing to us?

Master of Malt: How did you go from an engineer to a head distiller, John?

John McCarthy: I started at Adnams 20 years ago now, in 2001, as an engineer from an electrical background. I came here to look after the electrical stuff that keeps the brewery running. As an engineer, I run projects and a project came along to put a distillery in.

We started talking about it in 2009 and I was deemed the best engineer for the job because I had done some brewing exams. So, I looked into how a distillery works and what you need to do. I did a five-day course in the States, set up by the German stills company, Carl. They were pretty busy in the US at the time, because the craft distillery movement was really taking off. Jonathan Adnams came along with me because it was his idea for the distillery and on the plane home, I asked him who would run it. He said he hadn’t thought about it, so I said, ‘I’ll give it a go’. That was my job interview.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

The lavish stills set-up at the Copper House Distillery

MoM: What was the craft distilling scene in the UK like back then?

JMcC: It was new and exciting. The English Whisky Co. was going, Chase had started. There were very few of us and after that, distilleries were popping up everywhere, within a few years. A lot of people said to me at the time, ‘do you really like all these other distilleries popping up?’ And I thought it was great because the gin category exploded when there was an explosion of gin producers. If there hadn’t been 50 gin distillers, there wouldn’t have been the gin craze. It’s the variety of products that actually caused the craze to happen.

MoM: So, is that what you set out to make first? Gin?

JMcC: Gin first, but Jonathan’s angle, always, is that because we’re a brewer, it’s going to be grain to glass, we’re not going to buy neutral grain spirit. I have used NGS in the past, but only for contract gins, which we make for a couple of different people. We buy NGS for that because the vodka I make to make our gins is quite precious to us, it’s quite labour intensive to make.

MoM: Tell us about the grain to glass process…

With our grain to glass approach, the brewers had to learn to make a distillery wash. There are differences that happen in the brewhouse. When you mix your malted barley or whatever grains you’re using with warm water, you’re getting enzymes to break down the starches into sugars. When you brew beer, you want that to be at a certain temperature so you get a make-up of sugars that are fermentable and non-fermentable, you want long chain sugars like dextrin, because you want sweetness. And you want sugars that are smaller, like maltose and glucose, which will ferment into alcohol. You want alcohol, but you also need to retain some sugars that will not ferment. That’s beer. When you make a distillery wash, you want it all to be fermentable because you can’t distil sugar – you’re just wasting starch.

Barrels at Adnams Copper House Distillery

Wood experimentation in an important part of McCarthy’s job

MoM: Speaking of beer, how’s Spirit of Broadside doing? Have you made spirits from any of the other beer brands?

JMcC: We haven’t. Lots of people love Spirit of Broadside but the problem we have is it’s a hard sell. We basically did it as a stepping stone to making whisky. It helped us to have a brown spirit early on. We’ve still got some, we still make it. The big advantage of having our own shops is we can get people to try it before they buy it.

MoM: Rumour has it you use a pretty interesting yeast strain…

JMcC: Adnams yeast is two different strains, which we’ve had since about 1940. They are called class one and class three and we like to have 50% of each. If we have 50% of class one and class three, we get good, steady, vigorous fermentation – a good performance. We get the right amount of alcohol, everything’s lovely. If it gets out of 50/50, then we get problems: stuck fermentations, cloudy beer, all sorts. The problem we have is class one is a chain-forming yeast – it is very vigorous, and dominant. Class three (you can see the difference under a microscope) is ones and twos [as opposed to chains] and it is not so strong, it tends to get dominated by the other one. So, we have to propagate class three and do regular yeast counts. That’s the yeast we use for everything. And it’s free!

John McCarthy head distiller Adnams

John McCarthy in action at the Adnams Copper House Distillery

MoM: Adnams is also known for its wine business – are you doing anything exciting in the distillery with wine casks?

JMcC: We filled some Port and sherry casks with new make. They’ve been laid down for five years now. We have our three whiskies – our rye, a triple malt and a single malt. The single malt has gone into the sherry and Port casks, which I’m keeping. I’m into the idea that we need to do special releases. I want to do distiller’s choice-type releases, where I’ll just pick a single cask and bottle it. The sherry and Port might go for that.

I did buy some TGS (tight grain selection) barrels. They cost an awful lot of money but the tight grain, apparently, in the fine wine industry, gives a more refined wine, it just takes a lot longer to get there. So, I bought some of those to see what they did with spirits. I’ve got an experiment that’s been going with those for about seven years now. I’ve not even tried it. I will soon.

I’d say over 90% of the barrels I buy have never been used – freshly made and freshly toasted, straight from the cooperage in France. We do fill some ex-bourbon because our single malt is a blend of French oak and ex-bourbon, 66:33. If this distiller’s choice idea kicks off, I will buy some wine barrels to do some finishes in.

We’ve also made one barrel, about eight years ago now, of brandy from locally grown grapes. There’s a vineyard about 14 miles away from here and I bought a couple of thousand litres of wine off them and distilled that into brandy. Suffolk grapes making Suffolk brandy. It is a mix of Seyval Blanc and a bit of Müller-Thurgau.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

Southwold’s famous lighthouse reflected in a still window

MoM: Any other future plans you want to share?

JMcC: I’d like to grow whisky. I think English whisky is going to be a thing. There are around 20 people making whisky in England and Wales. So, it would be nice to get together and become a category. We’ll continue with gin, we’re doing seasonal gins. To come up with another great gin is always a good thing.

MoM: Do you think gin has still got legs?

JMcC: I think it’s on the wane. I don’t think that’s an issue, I think that’s probably a good thing. There are some gins that I don’t agree with – pink gin.  Hold my hands up, I make a pink gin but I try to make a pink gin that still tastes like a gin. There are a lot of gins out there that don’t. You can’t really call them gins but they’ve got gin on the label. I know the WSTA and the Gin Guild are working very hard to get rid of some of those.

MoM: Do you do any alcohol-free spirits?

I have played with it. I thought I ought to find out because someone is one day going to say, ‘John, make an alcohol-free spirit’, and I need to know how to do it. But we did some research and there really isn’t much money in it. It’s not a big category. There’s a lot of shouting about it, though.

MoM: What has been the biggest surprise when it comes to distillery life?

JMcC: How much fun it has been. When you’re an engineer, you just get called to install stuff and fix stuff. Going from that to actually being someone who makes something and gets good feedback for things I’ve made, or a recipe – that’s one of the highlights.

MoM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

JMcC: I’d probably still be an engineer. I’d be fixing someone else’s distillery, on my hands and knees in a puddle.

The Adnams spirits range is available from Master of Malt.

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The Nightcap: 19 February

This week we tried to keep up with fancy new booze from Midleton, Macallan, and Kendall Jenner. It’s The Nightcap! Man, where is the time going? Before you know it…

This week we tried to keep up with fancy new booze from Midleton, Macallan, and Kendall Jenner. It’s The Nightcap!

Man, where is the time going? Before you know it we’ll be in March and the clocks will be going forward and we might even start to live a life that resembles the Before Times. The only thing that’s really helping us keep track of things at the moment is the weekly familiarity of The Nightcap. Especially because our calendar has pictures of kittens on it. How are you supposed to know what day it is when there’s something distracting right next to the key information? It’s a design flaw. Fortunately, there’s no such issue with The Nightcap. All you’ll find here is the biggest boozy news from this week. Speaking of which, let’s get on with the Nightcap: 19 February edition. 

It was full-on blog-maggedon this week as the news flooded in and the features rolled out. First, we learned that the standards you need to meet to call your product Japanese whisky was becoming tighter than simply bottling booze from elsewhere and singing The Vapors classic tune at your product. Then a peer-reviewed paper (no need to ask who funded it) claimed there’s definitely terroir in whisky. So much was happening you could be forgiven for not realising tomorrow is World Pangolin Day, but luckily we have a new competition to jog your memory. We also launched a bottle lottery for Torabhaig Distillery’s first whisky and told you what to expect, made ourselves a royally good drink, wished That Boutique-y Gin Company a happy fourth birthday, marked the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, looked into the history of a gin giant and got the lowdown on why absinthe is a category is on the rise. And we did all that while doing the public service of reminding you that Mother’s Day is in a few weeks and suggesting some ideal pressies. Phew! Now, onto The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week we've got fancy Macallan!

An Estate, A Community and A Distillery will arrive at MoM Towers soon…

Macallan launches The Anecdotes of Ages collection

If there’s one thing The Macallan does exceptionally well, it’s put together fancy collections featuring incredible sounding whiskies we know deep down we’ll never taste. Still, it’s nice to look at them and dream, and in this case, they make for particularly good viewing. The latest series, The Anecdotes of Ages, is the Macallan’s third collaboration with iconic pop artist Sir Peter Blake and each individual bottle features an original Blake collage art on the label. Blake, as we are sure you know, created the artwork for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and that should be enough for anyone, frankly. Back to the whisky, there are 13 one-of-a-kind bottles in total, each from 1967, and every label tells a different story. It could be about The Macallan’s history, community, estate or that advert. Ok, so we made the last one up. Jokes aside, collectors will be pleased to know the bottles have been signed by Blake and come in a European oak case with photography that shows Blake’s journey with The Macallan, along with a leather-bound book and a certificate of authenticity. Price is likely to be in the region of £50,000. For those who don’t think they’ll get their hands on a bottle, you can always check out this  360-degree virtual art exhibit. The brand has also revealed that one of the bottles will be auctioned next month by Sotheby’s to raise funds to benefit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Additionally, The Macallan will soon be releasing a new more affordable whisky, a snip at £750, called An Estate, A Community and A Distillery, to commemorate Blake’s visit to the distillery. This reminds us of our favourite palindrome: a man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Anyway, this more affordable expression, will be displayed in a custom box inspired by Blake’s art and available from Master of Malt soon. Yep, you read that right. So keep those eyes peeled…

On The Nightcap this week we've got Kendall Jenner!

Jenner’s brand has attracted a lot of attention already, but not all of it is positive

Kendall Jenner creates Tequila brand 818

Keeping up with the Kardashians star and model Kendall Jenner has revealed on Instagram that her latest project is a Tequila brand called ‘818’, and quickly found out this particular boozy bandwagon isn’t always pleasant. “For almost four years I’ve been on a journey to create the best tasting Tequila. After dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and WINNING (🥳). 3.5 years later I think we’ve done it”, the post’s caption read. “This is all we’ve been drinking for the last year and I can’t wait for everyone else to get their hands on this to enjoy it as much as we do! @drinks818 coming soon 🥃🤤.” But the reality star has faced backlash after being accused of cultural appropriation and “exploiting Mexican culture”, the former of which is not a new concern for her family. Although, oddly the same charges were not levelled at other celebrity Tequila hawkers like George Clooney or The Rock. Nothing to read into there. It’s fair to say we’re not exactly cheerily raising a glass to another famous person helping themselves to a bundle of precious agave and as we were writing this story we learned that American comedian Kevin Hart is doing the same thing (other spirits do exist, people). But it’s also worth noting that it’s fairly common for a Tequila distillery to sell its booze to various brands and few can honestly claim to truly represent Mexico in any deep or meaningful way. In fact, you can look up the product’s NOM number (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and it will tell you where the Tequila is made and assure you that production meets the required certification standards of the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT). You’ll find that the distillery (which 818 hasn’t disclosed, so we won’t either) makes booze for a number of brands is made so 818 really isn’t doing anything new. For anyone who actually cares about the Tequila, the range features a blanco, a reposado and an añejo made from 100% Agave Azul in Jalisco, Mexico and bottled at 40% ABV.

On The Nightcap this week we've got fancy Midleton!

Keep your eyes peeled for more reaction to this beauty on this MoM blog

Kevin O’ Gorman blends his first Midleton Very Rare

In the past, only two master distillers have blended Midleton Very Rare, Barry Crockett and Brian Nation. Now, there’s a new signature on the bottle: Kevin O’Gorman stepped into Nation’s enormous shoes last year and has now released the 38th edition of possibly Ireland’s greatest whisky. We have to be honest, it’s a belter. As usual, it’s a blend of long-aged pot still and grain whiskies aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. We spoke with O’ Gorman at a press conference last night and he told us that he narrowed the blend down to two samples and then spent a night agonising over them. The one he chose is heavier on the grain than last year’s pot still-dominated blend. It’s more like the Very Rare from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, he said. It majors on the sweet chocolate, caramel and vanilla notes but still with plenty of pot still spice. O’ Gorman revealed that the Very Rare 2021 contains a cask of pot still laid down by Barry Crockett in 1984. He was on ebullient form describing it as “the pinnacle of my career presenting the pinnacle of Irish whiskey.” We’ll have the full story including a closer look at the component parts when we get stock in a couple of weeks.

Tim Ashley VCL

VCL director Tim Ashley says invest in cask whisky… or else

Whisky investors getting younger says cask broker

Business is booming for whisky cask broker VCL Vintners. Apparently, sales are up 300% in January 2021 compared to the previous year. Not only that, but its customers are getting younger. No, this isn’t because of the magical age-defying properties of whisky, what the company means is that the average age of whisky investors is decreasing. The PR team sent us some figures that showed that the largest category, 26% of business, is people between the ages of 25 and 34. While well over half their investors are under 44. Casks start from around £5,000 but most of the trade is in the £10-30,000 range so some young people are clearly doing well despite the panny (as we’re calling the pandemic). Stuart Thom, director at VCL Vintners, commented: “It’s encouraging that the demographic is becoming a smarter, younger City audience with longer investment horizons.” He went on to explain exactly why there is so much interest, something we have reported on before: “With the markets going sideways for now and a tech bubble being rumoured in the States, whisky is being seen more and more as a stable long-term investment.” The great thing about investing in whisky is even if you don’t make any money, and there’s no guarantee the market will keep going up, at the end of the day, you have a barrel of single malt.

On The Nightcap this week we've got a big clock!

This story has everything: history, romance, and an enormous clock.

Johnnie Walker restores romantic Edinburgh landmark clock

Since 1960, Edinburgh’s lovers, young and old, have been meeting under a colourful clock on the corner of Hope Street and Princes Street. Known as the Binns Clock after the now disappeared department store that installed it. In its prime, the clock would play ‘Caller Herrin’ and ‘Scotland the Brave’ at seven and 37 minutes past the hour as kilted Highland figures would jig about. Sadly, in recent years the clock had fallen into disrepair and the Highlanders danced no more. Now, as part of Diageo’s plans for a swanky Johnnie Walker HQ which is due to open this year in Scotland’s capital, it was restored by the Cumbria Clock Company which has also worked on some pretty impressive clocks such as the Royal Liver Building and the big one, Big Ben. Bong! Restorer Mark Crangle described the laborious process: “We had to delicately strip back worn paintwork to source and match the clock’s original colours and gold trimmings, and we spent a great amount of time on the speed and timings of the bells, tunes and pipers to ensure it all matched perfectly.” Happily, Crangle and the team managed to get it all done for Valentine’s Day last Sunday, just in time for Edinburgh’s lovers to meet. 

On The Nightcap this week we've even more cask investment news!

Casks are all the rage this week it seems

Caskshare unveils new cask-buying platform

It must be the week of casks, as we have even more oak-scented news for you. Last Friday, we joined David Nicol, co-founder of the new venture, Alasdair Day from Isle of Raasay Distillery, plus Thom Solberg of Little Bat for a bit of a Zoom-based whisky extravaganza. The celebrations were to mark the launch of Caskshare, an initiative to make single cask whisky, and by extension buying shares in casks, more accessible. For mature whisky, customers can simply snap up a share (which equates to a bottle), and once all those shares have been snapped up, everyone gets their booze! For spirit yet to come of age, whisky fans can buy a share and the bottles will be sent when its ready. To demonstrate some of the whiskies available, Day shared samples from Raasay, and talked us through Tullibardine single malt and Cambus expressions. And, as it was Valentine’s Day Eve-Eve, Solberg treated us to a demo of a 14 February-appropriate serve. We all made Glen Moray-based (from Caskshare, natch) Roffignacs: the whisky, plus pomegranate syrup, cider vinegar, and ginger ale all built in a glass with ice. Delish! For more Caskshare deets, check out Caskshare.com – and what an evening of whisky love!

And finally… we need a G&T emoji now

Whether you’re fluent in emoji language like Kendall Jenner or the sort of person who gets in trouble for misjudged aubergines in the company Slack channels, here’s an emoji that we can all use without embarrassment, especially on a Friday at 6pm: a G&T emoji. Sadly, amazingly, it doesn’t exist yet! And so tonic water and mixer business Lixir Drinks has launched a petition to persuade Unicode to create an emoji for one of Britain’s favourite drinks. Yes, it’s a PR stunt, but a useful one. The company is hoping to get 10,000 signatures, so what are you waiting for, sign here and you’ll never have to write out the words Gin & Tonic again. Which reminds us, it’s getting on for 6pm now, G&T anyone? See wouldn’t that have been so much easier with an emoji?

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Torabhaig Legacy 2017 is here!

Torabhaig Legacy 2017 has arrived and due to high demand, we’ve made the decision to sell the bottles via lottery. Here’s how you can get your hands on one. The…

Torabhaig Legacy 2017 has arrived and due to high demand, we’ve made the decision to sell the bottles via lottery. Here’s how you can get your hands on one.

The first whisky from Torabhaig Distillery is here and, much like the rest of the whisky world, we are delighted. We even did a whole blog post about itIt’s called Torabhaig Legacy 2017 and it’s a single vintage, single malt Scotch whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 46% ABV.

But it’s not those details that have got people so excited and ready to throw their money at it. It’s the fact that it’s the inaugural dram from only the second-ever licensed single malt Scotch whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye. That means this release does come with certain realities. Which is that there is a limited supply of bottles and loads and loads of people want it.

Because we want to be as fair as possible, we’ve decided that a bottle lottery is the best way to sell this spirit (for more details we refer you to this sweary and handily post from 2016). We will approach this lottery the same as we have others before, by listing the timeline below, and promising that we will adorn the bottle with the message: “I hereby swear not to sell this bottle – but to drink it with my chums. May my taste-buds and olfactory bulb shrivel and die if I should break my word.”

Now that the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ and have been taken care of, let’s get straight to the ‘when’ and ‘where’.

Torabhaig Legacy 2017 is here!

Look, it’s Torabhaig Legacy 2017!

Torabhaig Legacy 2017 lottery timeline:

All of the action is taking place on the Torabhaig Legacy 2017 product page, so to enter you’ll need to make sure you head to the product page and pop in your email address (it’s on the right-hand side, you can’t miss it). All the times are in GMT. Be sure to stick a reminder of them in your phone/on the fridge door/mow them into your lawn to make sure you’re in it to win it. We wish you the best of luck.

Bottle Lottery: Friday 19 Feb 12:00 – Monday 22 Feb 13:00 GMT

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