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Master of Malt Blog

Celebrate World Whisky Day 2021 with Master of Malt

We’re not content with World Whisky Day 2021, so at Master of Malt, we’re celebrating a world whisky week. To kick things off, we’ve picked some of our favourite whiskies…

We’re not content with World Whisky Day 2021, so at Master of Malt, we’re celebrating a world whisky week. To kick things off, we’ve picked some of our favourite whiskies from around the globe and included an unmissable event for malt lovers.

It’s World Whisky Day on Saturday 15 May but we can’t wait until then so we’re putting on a week’s worth of activities to celebrate our favourite spirit. Come to think of it, every day is World Whisky Day here at Master of Malt.

We’ve picked some of our favourite bottles from the wide world of whisky. So there’s not just the big boys like Scotland, Japan and America, but we’ve included bottles from India, Taiwan, and a global blend. We were hoping to include a Welsh single malt from Aber Falls but sadly it won’t be ready in time. But we are hoping to get an advance sniff very soon, and as soon as we do, we’ll let you know. 

And finally, to watch as you merrily dram there’s the Virtual World Whisky Summit.

What’s a Virtual World Whisky Summit?

We’re glad you asked. This is an event put on by our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC). It takes place on World Whisky Day 2021 itself, Saturday 15th May  at 7pm (BST), on all your favourite social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – click here for the full details.

Presented by two of the mightiest beards in the whisky firmament, Sam “Dr. Whisky” Simmons, and “Boutique-y Dave” Worthington, the event will, according to the press bumf, feature: “30 bartenders, distillers, buyers, writers and enthusiasts, live discussion with friends of Boutique-y, and the always silly Silly Games, there will be real talk but as many hijinks as highballs.”

Blimey! It all sounds fun. This is the second year TBWC has put on such an extravaganza so the team really knows what it’s doing. And if you’re stuck for what to drink, here are some suggestions:

What to drink on World Whisky Day 2021

J&B rare whisky Highballs

J&B Rare

One of the world’s great brands, it was created by wine merchant Justerini & Brooks specifically to appeal to the American palate, and landed with perfect timing in 1933 just after Prohibition ended. Since then, it’s become something of a cult, drunk by Frank Sinatra and appearing in Goodfellas and Mad Men.

What does it taste like? 

Deliciously fruity with toffee, walnuts and orange zest. It’s the consummate mixer but we particularly love it with ginger beer. 

Whisky - Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion

After some big names from Scotland and America, Amrut is the most searched-for distillery on our site. Perhaps because it was a pioneer of the single malt category in India, the world’s largest whisky market. This example gets its name because it’s a fusion of Indian barley with peated barley from Scotland. Clever eh?

What does it taste like?

Fresh citrus fruit, spice, dark chocolate, marmalade and mellow smoke. This is one to sip neat with old friends after a meal and let the conversation unwind.  

Kavalan

Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak

Another pioneering distillery. Kavalan put Taiwanese whisky on the map. And no wonder as they had a certain Dr Jim Swan as consultant.  This release contains the same liquid as the cask strength bourbon-matured Solist but diluted down to 46% ABV with natural spring water.

What does it taste like?

Vanilla, coconut and banana with all kinds of spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. With it’s sweet flavour profile this would make a great Old Fashioned especially with fruit bitters.

Woodford Reserve Rye

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye

They do things a bit differently at Woodford Reserve using pot stills instead of the column stills more usually found in Kentucky. The distillery is branching out with this as it’s a rye rather than a bourbon. The mash bill is 53% rye with the rest corn and malted barley. It’s bottled at a useful 45.2% ABV making it a great cocktail whiskey.

What does it taste like?

Lots of up front spices with pear, cherry and chopped mint. We can’t think of a better whiskey to make a Manhattan with. 

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Fire & Cane

A peated whisky at Glenfiddich? You better believe it. Part of the Experimental Series, Fire & Cane was created in 2018 by malt master (not to be confused with Master of Malt) Brian Kinsman and features a peated single malt finished in rum casks bought from a variety of distilleries in South America.

What does it taste like?

Baked apple, sweet toffee and campfires. With its mixture of sweetness and smoke, we think it would make a cracking Rusty Nail, easy on the Drambuie

Nikka Days

Nikka Days

The blend from Japan is easy like Sunday morning. Notice we didn’t say Japanese blend as Nikka Days doesn’t meet the new criteria to be judged as Japanese whisky so it may contain some non-Japanese spirit. No matter, this is a delicious drop that melds sweetness with a faint smoke character to perk up your taste buds.

What does it taste like?

Lots of fruit like pears and melon backed up with roasted nuts and vanilla. This might be the ultimate Highball blend especially if you’re adding a fruit element.

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old - Soleo Collection

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection 

The name soleo comes from the practise used in the sherry region of drying grapes in the sun to concentrate the sugars so it will come as no surprise that there’s plenty of sherry cask deliciousness in this whisky. For many years, Glenrothes issued only vintage releases but most are now labelled more conventionally with age statements.

What does it taste like?

Stewed apple, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco and more spices than you could shake a stick at. Probably one to sip alone but we can’t help thinking it would make a cracking Rob Roy.

Burnt Ends

Burnt Ends

A whiskey inspired by the magic of proper American BBQ where the meat is gently smoked until it falls apart. Mmmmm falls apart. Anyway, to get that taste the clever chaps behind this blended Tennessee rye whiskey and sherry cask-finished peated single malt Scotch whisky. A maverick move that turned out really, really well. 

What does it taste like?

Wow! BBQ sauce and smoked meat with spicy rye and fruit notes. We’re thinking Mint Julep or even mixing it with Coca-Cola.

World Whisky Blend serves

World Whisky Blend

And finally, to celebrate World Whisky Day 2021 what could be better than a World Whisky Blend. Yes, this magical concoction is a mixture of whiskies distilled all over this great planet of ours. There’s over ten countries involved with contributions from Europe, Asia, the USA and beyond!

What does it taste like?

Honey, orange marmalade, toffee and vanilla. It’s a massively mixable drop but perhaps its favourite partner is coconut water. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

Now that the sun is out again finally we’re in the mood for a nice, refreshing Spritz. Good thing Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus has turned up on our doorstep…

Now that the sun is out again finally we’re in the mood for a nice, refreshing Spritz. Good thing Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus has turned up on our doorstep this week…

When we spoke with Pinkster Gin inventor Stephen Marsh nearly two years ago he laughed at the suggestion that he was in some way responsible for the birth of a monster: pink gin. But his brand of authentically fruity pink gin struck a chord with people when it was released in 2013 and there are few signs that the desire for flavoured gin is letting up. He was very much at the forefront of something. And, judging by the brand’s new releases, he’s in the mood to do so again.

It’s not a gin

Yes, Marsh is back at the innovation game again with a new range of Spritz-style drinks. This is interesting because you don’t often see gin brands branch out and make anything else other than flavoured variations of the juniper-based spirit. Which makes sense. Why go down the non-gin route given how lucrative the category has proved to be?

Well, Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Elderflower and Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus are the kind of low-ABV, versatile and fun spirit drinks that are increasingly in demand and have only just started emerging in earnest in the last couple of years. Once again, it appears Marsh is on the right side of the curve.

Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

The drinks offer you the perfect chance to take your Spritz game in tasty new directions

In a press release, the brand’s founder says that the move was undertaken to create a “mainstream alternative for Spritz drinkers with discerning taste buds, looking for a naturally delicious light aperitif”. Even if your taste buds aren’t that discerning you’ll still be able to taste plenty of raspberry-based goodness in Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Elderflower (also en route to MoM Towers) and Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus.

As the name rather gives away, our 24% ABV spirit drink of focus today is made using local supplies of the fruit leftover from the production of its classic Pinkster Gin as well as helpings of hibiscus. 

English Spritz

A Spritz is typically a wine-based cocktail made with Prosecco, a bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, or Cynar, and soda water. You’re probably picturing sitting in the Italian sun with a red, fizzing concoction housed in a wine glass in hand. And you’d be right. But it’s this kind of serve that Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus was made for. Think of it as an English summer spin on the classic.

The brand recommends pairing it with soda water and a lime garnish for a lower-ABV take on a traditional Spritz that removes the need for sparkling wine. But we can imagine you’ll have plenty of fun playing with this one. There’s a QR code linking to further product details and suggested serves on the back label if you need inspiration.

Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

We think the Spritz could well be the serve of the summer

Lower ABV

As you might imagine for someone who is usually one step ahead, Marsh has also ensured that the spirit drinks meet the demands of those who are committed to the decidedly modern trend of ‘wellness’. Calorie and unit health information is on the back label of the Spritz bottles, which is not something I’ll ever have any love for.

But, as Marsh says, “with more and more people trying to lead healthier lifestyles and cutting back on alcohol, all consumer insight indicates that lower-ABV and lower-calorie drinks are totally on-trend”. So there you have it.

While this aspect might appeal to some, the biggest selling point for Pinkster Spritz will be its vibrant, fruity, and refreshing taste. This kind of drink is about to come into its own with the summer months on the horizon and the UK emerging out of lockdown. Marsh rounds off by saying that Pinkster is expecting “a fresh, fizzy and fun spritz to be the drink of the season as friends reunite for alfresco get-togethers”.

We’ll certainly drink to that. Although, personally, I won’t be counting the calories, if it’s all the same to you.

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The roof is on fire: the best bars with a view 

Finding a roof with a view and a decent drink can sometimes be a challenge. You might get the view, but what’s in the glass ends up being a bit…

Finding a roof with a view and a decent drink can sometimes be a challenge. You might get the view, but what’s in the glass ends up being a bit of a dud. Luckily the team at MoM has been scaling tall buildings to find the good stuff. Spider-Man ain’t got nothing on us. So, here are some our favourite bars with a view

2021 might just be the year of the roof terrace, as venues up and down the UK look to make the most of any outdoor space. I love a good cityscape as much as the next roof terrace tourist, but I also want it to come with a decent drink.

For this particular rooftop round-up, the focus is on two of my favourite cities: London and Edinburgh. The former is full of great bars with a view, while the latter is really an excuse for us to mention just how excited we are about the soon-to-be-open malt Disneyland that will be Johnnie Walker Princes Street.

Seabird

Who’s a pretty boy then?

London Calling

Starting in London and the talk of the town has to be The Dorchester’s new space, aptly named The Dorchester Rooftop. The top deck offers views over Hyde Park, with live music, making it a great place for sunset cocktails. And we’re talking The Dorch, so you know the drinks are going to be on point. The new cocktail line-up (from 10 May) features some serious drinks. The Colombo Sour is a mix of Colombo gin, peach liqueur, kümmel, lemon and Angostura orange bitters; while Hikkaduwa sounds like the perfect sundowner, a blend of tropical mix, peach, Aperol and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.

Next is a personal favourite of fellow MoM writer Millie Milliken’s. Yep, it’s Seabird at The Hoxton, Southwark (see photo in header). The Insta-worthy drink here is The Toucan (above) – it’s a heady mix of Olmeca Altos Tequila, mango, cinnamon and aji pepper, served in a sort of ceramic parrot. Fortunately, it can’t fly away.   

But if you want to drink and dine like a professional, then take note of Milliken’s wise words: “It was actually at Seabird that I first tried the combination of straight mezcal and oysters – and I’m never going back,” she says, pointing out that the bar has seven mezcals on its menu to choose from. “I’d go for something herbaceous and vegetal like the Derrumbes Zacatecas to marry with a Jersey No.3’s crisp, green and lemony flavours.”

A few miles north and there’s another new kid on (top of) the block: The Standard. The vista at this London outpost of the US hotel group takes in the beautiful St Pancras Station, and Eder Neto, head of bars has got the recs. He suggests a Spicy Tommy’s Margarita from Black Lines with blanco Tequila, chilli, lime, agave nectar. “It’s refreshing, so it’s great for the summer, yet still packs a punch with a spicy kick,” he says.

ROOF GARDEN Glasshouse, Edinburgh

The massive roof garden at the Glasshouse in Edinburgh

Head north

While you’re near Kings Cross, you could just hop on the train to Edinburgh? And if The Standard roof terrace was a bit small for your tastes, head to The Glasshouse. This place has a two-acre roof garden. According to Google, that’s the same size as an actual football pitch!

Tom Gibson, general manager at The Glasshouse recommends a touch of Islay goodness for a summer evening, in the form of the Peaty Kiss signature cocktail. “With a base ingredient of Laphroaig 10 year old single malt, the flavour is delicately offset with fresh grapefruit and orange juice, with a sweet touch of honey and a small drop of Jägermeister,” he explains. “Scotland can do exotic and traditional all at the same time.”

If actual smoke (rather than peat smoke) is your bag, the hotel is also a great place for whisky and cigar pairings. Especially since the bar stocks about 100 whiskies.

“We recommend pairing the profound flavours of The Dalmore King Alexander III single malt with one of our individually picked cigars such as the Partagas Series,” says Gibson. “The deep and complex flavours of the whisky blend harmoniously with the bold and powerful aromas of these Habano cigars, making this a delectable combination.”

Johnnie Walker Princes Street Edinburgh

Artist’s impression of Johnnie Walker’s soon-to-open brand home in Edinburgh

Coming soon

Staying in Edinburgh and this summer promises another magical roof space – and good drinks here should go without saying. Yep, it’s nearly time to say hello to Johnnie Walker Princes Street. This eight-floor ‘experiential’ space features everything from a shop and entertainment space to an ‘interactive flavour activity’, all under the 1820 Rooftop Bar. There may even be ‘bars’ plural up there – and they will have views to the castle and across the city skyline to east, west and north.

Artists’ impressions suggest there’s an indoor-outdoor vibe to the roof space, which is handy to know. And while there’s not much more to tell until the space opens this summer, there’s always time to fix yourself a highball and dream of dizzy heights. Try a Johnnie & Lemon: 50ml Johnnie Walker Red Label, 150ml lemonade. Pour over ice and garnish with lemon zest and a lemon verbena sprig – or an orange wedge if you’re fresh out of lemon verbena sprigs.

There’s no reason why we can’t raise the bar and the roof this summer.

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The Nightcap: 7 May

It’s been a shorter week thanks to the Bank Holiday weekend but there still was plenty going in the world of drinks. It’s The Nightcap: 7 May edition! We hope…

It’s been a shorter week thanks to the Bank Holiday weekend but there still was plenty going in the world of drinks. It’s The Nightcap: 7 May edition!

We hope you all spent the long weekend as far away from office desks (or wherever you work) as possible, and are nice and refreshed. It went quickly though, didn’t it? We can’t believe it’s already Friday and time for a new Nightcap. It dawned on us while enjoying our time off that if the powers-that-be made every working week just four days, then there’d be numerous benefits. Chief of which would be that it would feel like The Nightcap had arrived surprisingly early every week. And what a treat that would be. Right? Anyway, let’s get on with it. 

On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition perfect for those who want to whip up some delicious Irish whiskey cocktails. We also had the pleasure of celebrating Dennis Malcolm’s incredible 60 years in the whisky business, enjoying an authentic English rum, some of the finest Mexican spirits for Cinco de Mayo, and a Tequila cocktail that celebrates the life of the late, great Tomas Estes. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton found out why you’re nowhere in the celeb world unless you’ve got your very own booze brand, Millie uncovered the divine truth behind the angel’s share and Lucy showed why English wineries should be high on your list of staycations options this year. 

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

This bottle honours the man who arguably did the most to put single malts on the map

Gordon & MacPhail launches 67-year-old whisky

If you love a bit of ultra-rare single malt coverage then you’ll be pleased to know Gordon & MacPhail has something very impressive for you to enjoy this week. It’s a 67-year-old Scotch whisky distilled on Christmas Eve 1953 that was matured in a single, first-fill sherry butt and bottled at a cask strength of 59.4% ABV, which is incredible given the age of the whisky. You might be wondering why Gordon and & MacPhail have bottled it now given this fact, but it’s because the company is currently enjoying its 125th anniversary and saw fit to honour the man who contributed arguably the most to the brand: George Urquhart. Known by whisky legend Charlie MacLean as the “father of single malt” or as ‘Mr. George’ to his friends, he oversaw the filling of this very special cask during a period in which he was busy championing Scotland’s single malts while most were concerned with supplying spirit for blends. Just 355 bottles are available of the Gordon & MacPhail Mr. George Legacy 1953, which was distilled at Glen Grant. Stephen Rankin, the grandson of ‘Mr. George’ and Gordon & MacPhail’s director of prestige, says Mr. George held a particular fondness for the Speyside distillery, adding that the new “Legacy series allows us to explore some of these stories, providing some exceptional whiskies in fitting tribute to ‘Mr. George’s’ life’s work.” So, expect more rare, single cask drams in the future. They’ll set you back a pretty penny (the RRP for this one is £5,000), but if Maclean seems to think it’s worth it, noting: “This is a remarkable whisky. It is full of the complexity that long maturation can bring, yet it remains astonishingly vivacious. Frankly, as good as it gets!”

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

The high life awaits…

Want to get paid $20k to drink Miller High Life beer?

If you’re a beer lover who would love to visit Milwaukee and pocket $20,000, then today is your lucky day. Because this week Miller High Life beer has announced that it is hiring for the role of ‘Champagne of Beers Region’ ambassador. You see, the beer brand is currently petitioning the Milwaukee Common Council to create an official Champagne of Beers region in Wisconsin. And Miller High Life believes that it will need an official ambassador to help champion this noble cause. The scarcely believable role comes with a year’s supply of free beer, some High Life swag, and an all-expenses-paid trip to explore The Champagne of Beers region in addition to the compensation package. The brand’s petition asks, “If Champagne can only come from Champagne, France, why is The Champagne of Beers any different? [erm, we can think of a couple of reasons] We’re petitioning the Milwaukee Common Council to establish an official Champagne of Beers region, and declare that only beers invented within its strict borders – around the Miller Brewery – will be considered The Champagne of Beers.”  Applications opened yesterday and to apply just head over to the website and explain in 50 words or less why you’d be the perfect ambassador.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

Space wine will surely appeal to the kind of people who’ve got $1m spare

Christie’s selling first-ever space-aged Pétrus 2000

It seems there’s an awful lot of sending wine into space going on, but if you’ve ever wondered what the result of wine gracing the final frontier is then you’ve got a chance to find out now thanks to Christie’s. The auction house is selling a bottle of space-aged Pétrus 2000, which spent 14 months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time wine has travelled to the ISS and returned to Earth and the aging took place in a carefully monitored and controlled environment. The wine will be presented in a trunk made by the Parisian Maison d’Arts Les Ateliers Victor, alongside a decanter, glasses, and a corkscrew made from a meteorite. Tim Triptree, a master of wine who works at Christie’s, says a regular bottle of Pétrus 2000 will also be included alongside the space-aged bottle, “so the lucky buyer will be able to compare the two”. This is the only bottle from the case that was sent to space, as three were opened for the tasting and the remaining eight will be kept back for future research. We wouldn’t get your hopes up about winning this particular lot, however, as Christie’s estimates a sale price of $1m (£720,000). The good news is that the proceeds of the sale will go towards funding future space missions. So, if you do have that kind of cash sitting around and would like to acquire a piece of vinous and space history while also contributing to ongoing research then head to Christie’s now.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

You can wish McEwan a fond farewell over some quality drams

Enjoy a ‘last chat’ with Jim McEwan 

Jim McEwan is retiring… again. You may remember back in 2015, Jim McEwan retired from Bruichladdich only two years later to be lured back with a production director job at new Islay distillery Ardnahoe. Since then he’s appeared in two films: The Water of Life and The Golden Dram, done a book: A Journeyman’s Journey, and launched his own range of whiskies with Dramfool, Jim McEwan Signature Collection. Oh, and helped out at Cape Byron distillery in Australia. Makes a change from playing lots of golf. But now he really is retiring and he’s doing what’s billed rather ominously as a “last chat”. It’ll cost you £185 to take part with £25 going to Scottish charity Air Ambulance. For this you’ll receive access to The Water of Life, a copy of The Journeyman’s Journey with a signed letter from McEwan, plus a Gold Collection tasting kit with rare drams from notable McEwan distilleries including Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and his last gig, Cape Byron. Most importantly, you’ll also get access to a Zoom link to join a chat with McEwan on Sunday 23 May. If that’s a bit steep for you, there’s a £50 ‘Silver Collection’ option (£10 going to charity) with no book and less fancy whiskies but you still get to chat with the man himself and bid him a fond farewell. Or is it au revoir?

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

Vic Galloway invites you to enjoy his picks. And we invite you to make your own…

SMWS and BBC radio DJ pick music and whisky pairings

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is getting its groove on with long-standing BBC Radio Scotland presenter, Vic Galloway, by pairing music with whisky flavour profiles. The DJ has been broadcasting weekly on BBC Radio 1, BBC Scotland and BBC 6 Music for over 22 years and also happens to be an avid whisky fan and a member of the SMWS. Examples from the full SMWS pairing list, which can be found here, include Society’s ‘Young & Spritely’ flavour profile being likened to the genre ‘Dream Pop’ (whatever that is), with its “effervescent and sweet, joyous and uplifting exuberance that seems utterly timeless and forever young”. The Scottish broadcaster said: “Music and whisky go together like, well, music and whisky! There’s nothing better than sitting back with like-minded friends and sharing experiences. And that is what The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is all about.” He added that there are some surprises in his selection and recommends folks become members of the SMWS, which he describes as the “world’s most entertaining whisky club”. Galloway will also chat all things music and whisky on the SMWS ‘Virtual Pub’ being streamed tonight, one of the many events in the calendar to look forward to for members. We’d love to hear your suggestions on genre and whisky pairings you’d like to see. Liquid funk and Lagavulin? Garage rock and Glenlivet? Let us know in the comments below.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

It turns out there’s an ever big rip-off than space wine. Who knew?

“Counterfeit” $1,000  bourbon discovered

One of the dangers of buying very old spirits is the rise of counterfeiting. It appears that one such bottle was discovered recently in New York. Reporters from US publication Inside Edition bought a bottle of Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon from Acker Wines, America’s oldest wine merchants, for $1,000. This whiskey was released at around $100 a bottle but such is the demand that bottles have been going for up $3,000. They sent it to where it was made, Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, for authentication where it was pronounced a fake, and not a very convincing one, with the proof on the bottle not matching the contents, a backwards strip stamp, and it was missing the correct lot code. This isn’t the first time that Acker Wines, previously known as Acker, Merrall and Condit, has run into problems with counterfeit goods. The firm was at the centre of the Rudy Kurniawan wine counterfeiting scandal outlined in the 2016 film Sour Grapes. It sold millions of dollars of rare wines that turned out to be fakes. The moral of the story is always do your homework before buying rare boozes.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

The only real question is, how did this move not happen sooner?

And finally… UB40 releases an actual red, red wine

We’ve just put a story up on the blog about celebrity boozes, and it’s already out of date because we have just learned that the lads from top light reggae outfit UB40 will soon be releasing their very own wine. It’s called… yes you guessed it… Red, Red Wine after their biggest hit (though the song was actually written by Neil Diamond who had a hit with it in 1968). It’s a Merlot-heavy Bordeaux Supérieur priced at an extremely punchy £28.50 – you can get some seriously tasty claret for that money. Nevertheless, it’s been described as “a good blend: a rich wine with fine tannins and attractive fruits.“ Not our words, but the words of Wine Enthusiast magazine. For those who don’t want to pony up nearly £30, you can save a massive four quid with the £24.50 version which is an organic vegan Merlot/ Petit Verdot blend though we’re not told where it’s from. Both wines are made in conjunction with a company called Eminent Life. Astro (above right) from UB40 commented: “Red, Red Wine has great balance and is really satisfying to drink. Like our music, we are always looking for balance and harmony. The Red Red Wine has both.” So there you go.

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Dennis Malcolm celebrates 60 years at Glen Grant

Last month master distiller Dennis Malcolm celebrated a scarcely imaginable 60 years in the business. We sat down over a virtual dram to discuss his long and varied career in…

Last month master distiller Dennis Malcolm celebrated a scarcely imaginable 60 years in the business. We sat down over a virtual dram to discuss his long and varied career in Scotch whisky, and his enduring love for Glen Grant.

People use the expression man and boy to describe a long career but in Dennis Malcom’s case it’s true because he started at Glen Grant at only 15 years old. This was back in 1961 when stills were coal-fired, dramming was a perk of the job and the filling process required a team of men. 

Glen Grant Distillery

Glen Grant Distillery, where it all began

A different time

For every cask that you filled, you would weigh the casks empty and then weigh them full,” he explained. Then you had to calculate, in the days before calculators, the “proof gallons of alcohol in the cask.” Furthemore, there were no forklift trucks, so each cask had to be man-handled. These included bourbon barrels, hogsheads and sherry butts which weighed half an imperial ton (around 500kg). “It was very, very labour intensive,” he said. That’s an understatement.

The two things that haven’t changed, though, are Malcolm’s love of Glen Grant and the quality of the whisky: “I’ve been here for 60 years and I can tell you that the process parameters and the procedures that we have in place have not changed,” he said. Even over Zoom, Malcolm’s energy and passion for the distillery that he calls home is palpable. Can he really be 75 years old?

To the manner born

He was literally born on the grounds of Glen Grant in 1946 so it was somewhat inevitable that he would follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and work at the distillery. Malcolm’s first job was an apprentice cooper. He found the whole idea of casks fascinating: “Purely because a cask is an odd shape and I was always intrigued, how did it hold a liquid which is thinner than water, with no glue!”

He did five years coopering and “I spent the next six years going through all the different process of the malting, the mashing, the distillation, the fermentation,” he said. A brilliant education in whisky making.

By the time he was 25, Malcolm was production manager which made him the boss of men much older than him. “I was the young boy really, so I had the energy and the willingness to do the job and they had all the experience, which was a big benefit for me,” he said.

Glen Grant Distillery

Look his tie matches the flowers! What a class act

Corporate shenanigans 

When he started, Glen Grant was a family business, part of a small group with Glenlivet and run by Douglas MacKessack, a descendant of the distillery’s founder John Grant. But the ‘70s and ‘80s was a time of mergers and multinationals. The company, now called Glenlivet Distilleries, joined with Longmorn and Benriach in 1970. Then in 1978, it passed into the hands of Canadian giant Seagram in what Malcolm called an: “unfriendly takeover.”

Despite this, Malcolm stayed on and in 1992 became general manager for all nine distilleries in Chivas Brothers group, under the Seagram umbrella, plus three farms, and an animal feed plant. “So I still had my link with Glen Grant, I never lost it.”

But he wasn’t so happy when Pernod Ricard took over in 1999 following the collapse of Seagram. “They wanted their own people there. And I didn’t really like that because I had been in production all my life,” he said. 

Malcolm is candid about how he thinks Glen Grant was neglected under Pernod Ricard ownership. The distillery was mainly used to provide malt for Chivas Regal with the only single malt visibility being the 5 Year Old for the Italian market and “the 10 Year Old in the visitors centre at the distillery. That was us, nothing else,” he said. “Glen Grant almost disappeared from the single malt arena”. 

A change of scene

So, Malcolm took some time away from his beloved Glen Grant and went to work for the Inver House at Balmenach Distillery. “It was a hands-on operation. It was eight people and if you wanted to move a cask you pushed it. If you wanted to turn the steam onto the stills you had to go and turn it on and turn it off. That appealed to me,” he said. There was a family connection too: “my wife is the great-great granddaughter of Janie Macgregor, who was the daughter of James Macgregor, who built and founded Balmenach Distillery.”

Campari takes over

In 2006, Campari bought Glen Grant, it’s first and only single malt Scotch whisky distillery. “They asked if I would come back and head up Glen Grant for them. Well, I didn’t need to think twice about that because I think the biggest part in my life and my heart is Glen Grant.” he said. “Campari were Italian, they’re very passionate people and I’m passionate about Glen Grant. It was a great combination.”

Malcolm set about turning the distillery into a single malt powerhouse. “Campari invested heavily behind it and allowed me to create new expressions.” There’s now a core range of  10, 12 and 15 year olds, plus various special editions. But it’s the all bourbon-cask 18 Year Old that has whisky fans in particular raptures and is considered the quintessence of the Glen Grant style with its combination of fruit, sweetness and delicate nutty complexity.

The stills at Glen Grant, the heart of that fruity taste

The stills at Glen Grant, the heart of that fruity taste

The Glen Grant style

I asked Malcolm to describe the style: “Glen Grant is very much a light, fruity, estery, whisky on the nose and on the palate it’s creamy and fruity. Because we’re using quite a high percentage of bourbon casks, you get this toffee-vanilla note from it. It’s got a fruity sort of nutty taste. When we see younger expressions it’s more like hazelnut and as it matures longer and gets softer and refines better, it’s more a soft almond, marzipan sort of note.” He describes really old Glen Grant as tasting of “Christmas cake.”

“The two important things for defining character in a single malt is the distillation style, the stills, and the wood that you put it into,” he said. His coopering background gives him an intimate knowledge of what makes a good barrel.” He was delighted, therefore, when Campari acquired Wild Turkey, giving him the first pick of ex-bourbon casks. “Bourbon does play a big part in Glen Grant and having our own bourbon distillery guarantees supply for us,” he said. 

Award-winning whisky

Glen Grant now has a groaning trophy cabinet most famously (or perhaps I should say infamously) from Jim Murray who named Glen Grant 18 Year Old Scotch Whisky of the Year three years in a row. Now, of course, Murray isn’t quite the name to conjure with that he was before last year’s accusations of sexism. Though, I noticed that the Jim Murray Whisky Bible logo still sits proudly on the box of the 18 Year Old that the distillery was kind enough to send me.

Malcolm was diplomatic when I brought up Murray, though I could see the PR people hovering nervously on the video call. “Jim Murray was very good at marketing Glen Grant,” he said. But, he went on to say, “the brand speaks for itself. You get press and you get recognition, which is really good, but it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’ve got a successful product it will always be there.”

Malcolm is particularly proud of how fondly Glen Grant is perceived in the industry. When the 15 Year Old Batch Strength won a best Speyside single malt award at the Spirit of Speyside Festival in 2019, “that one gave me more pleasure and accepting because it was all my peers in the industry that voted for it,” he said.

Casks at Glen Grant Dennis Malcolm

He knows a fair bit about casks

60 year old release

Later this year Glen Grant will be releasing a special limited edition 60 Year Old single cask bottling to celebrate Malcolm’s anniversary. Naturally, Malcom himself chose the particular barrel: “I looked at quite a few 60 year old casks there and selected one that I thought was the best. l selected one that I thought reflected or recognised the characteristics of Glen Grant base, this liquid Christmas cake, this fruitiness, the softness..” He was keen to find something that wasn’t too woody. “The aroma, the taste, has got to be in harmony.” It’ll set you back around €25,000.

To celebrate his 60 years on 3 April, however, Malcolm chose something a little more down to earth, the classic 18 Year Old. “It’s very, very delicate, it’s floral on the nose with nice fruitiness. There’s oaky overtones and hints of spices there but it’s got a long, sweet and a hint of nuts and spice in the finish.” He described it as “really sophisticated and refined.” In other words, classic Glen Grant.

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The divine truth about the angel’s share

From whisky to Cognac, the concept of the angel’s share, how much liquid a cask loses to evaporation, is one that is unique to every distillery. Millie Milliken takes a…

From whisky to Cognac, the concept of the angel’s share, how much liquid a cask loses to evaporation, is one that is unique to every distillery. Millie Milliken takes a closer look at this costly but vital part of the ageing process. 

It’s true: there are some alcoholic liquids that have nearly swung me in the direction of believing in divinity. And while none have quite got me willingly through the doors of a church on a Sunday (or any other day for that matter), there is one supernatural story that never fails to enchant me – that of the ‘angel’s share’.

A quick question on my sophisticated data collection software (Instagram stories) solicited many a fellow drinks lover telling me where they were the first time they learned about the term: “a trip to Lagavulin on Islay”; “Speyside at Chivas Regal getting the grand tour from the master, Ian Logan”; “Officially? At the Aber Falls distillery”.

Yet a quick poll of my non booze-dwelling friends found that nearly all of them had no idea what I was talking about. So, what is the angel’s share and why does it happen?

Duppy Share

It’s not just angels that love spirits

Give it wings

The angel’s share is the amount of liquid lost from a cask during the ageing process due to evaporation. As a spirit ages, water and alcohol evaporate through the wood’s pores, rising off the cask and are lost into the atmosphere. Or, should I say, to some rather lucky angels.

But it’s not just angels who appreciate ageing spirits. Anyone who has been inside an old distillery may have seen a black substance slick on the walls when they looked heavenwards. This is baudoinia compniacensis, a fungus that thrives on airborne alcohol and as such it is particularly happy in warehouses and distilleries housing spirits. And “in the Caribbean, spirits called ‘duppies’ swoop between the islands taking rum as they go,” said Jack Orr-Ewing, CEO of Caribbean rum brand, The Duppy Share.

Whoever it is enjoying the alcohol, Scotch whiskies on average lose 2% of a cask’s liquid per year. The duppies are even greedier, taking about 7% per year from Caribbean rums. Over time, this can amount to a shockingly high proportion of the distiller’s liquid. On average a VSOP Cognac will have lost over 10% over its life in cask, an XO will have lost 30% and after 50 years ageing, your now extremely expensive Cognac will have lost a staggering 70% of its original liquid (image in header is courtesy of Delamain Cognac).

The Nightcap

The higher up the stack you go, the hotter it gets, and the greater the angel’s share

Location, location, location

There are a multitude of factors that can affect how much the angels get. As well as the strength of the liquid when it enters the cask, climate and temperature are two important ones and depend on the distillery’s location. Casks stored in humid conditions will lose less water and more alcohol than those stored in non-humid ones.

When it comes to temperature, a barrel kept in cold conditions will age slower than one in the hot climes of somewhere like Kentucky. Indeed, some Kentucky whiskies can lose up to 10% of their liquid in the first year while in the Caribbean, rums can lose up to 7%. 

And then there’s the design of the warehouse which can affect ageing and the quality of the resulting liquid. “In Cognac you have a wide range of options,” says Clive Carpenter, general manager of Gérant Domaine Sazerac de Segonzac and creator for Seignette VS Cognac. “New-build warehouses are rather hot and dry because they are made of breezeblocks and are taller which means you’ll get a lot of water evaporation. That produces Cognacs which age faster but are harsher on the taste buds. Old-fashioned warehouses are made of stone, by the river on beaten earth, [so they’ve] got a very humid atmosphere. There you can lose a great deal of alcohol and not much water and if you overdo ageing in a damp warehouse, you get Cognacs that are over flabby.”

Then there’s how the barrels are stored in the warehouse. Airflow is important and in larger warehouses, casks can be stored on racks meaning more air can circulate around then and there is more evaporation. At The Glenlivet in Speyside, according to the website: “we have a traditional (dunnage) warehouse, with a gravel floor and only a small number of casks. This helps us to hold on to liquid as best we can.” In contrast, if the casks are stacked in a Kentucky warehouse, the temperature of the top of the warehouse will be far hotter than at the bottom.

The Glenlivet

Inside a traditional dunnage warehouse at Glenlivet

Cask matters

Cask size and wood type can also affect angel’s share. Brand new oak will absorb more liquid quicker than second-fill casks while smaller casks with more liquid-to-wood contact will encourage more evaporation too. At The Glenlivet, “casks that hold fewer than 50 litres can show really remarkable losses, which also leads to a faster maturation.”

And when we’re talking casks, we’re also talking ‘devil’s cut’. This is the liquid lost to the cask (and not evaporation) depending on how porous the wood is. Jim Beam has even created a Devil’s Cut expression using its 90 proof bourbon and blending it with the absorbed spirit extracted from the barrel.

Angel, duppy or devil, losing a percentage of your liquid is a price every distiller of aged spirits has to pay. If they do exist, sounds like the bar will be well stocked in both heaven and hell.

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A history of celebrity-endorsed drinks 

From Sean Connery advertising Suntory in the ’90s, to David Beckham with Haig Club, Ian Buxton looks into the history of celebrity-endorsed drinks. Nowadays you’re nowhere in celeb world unless…

From Sean Connery advertising Suntory in the ’90s, to David Beckham with Haig Club, Ian Buxton looks into the history of celebrity-endorsed drinks. Nowadays you’re nowhere in celeb world unless you’ve got your very own Tequila, whisky, gin or Prosecco.

I couldn’t help but notice that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is flogging rum these days. Celebrity-endorsed drinks adverts have been a long-standing fixture since, well, since there were celebrities and advertisements in which to feature them but looking into Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, it seems that those relationships are now more than skin deep.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes with Dr John Waters

Sir Ranulph Fiennes with Dr John Waters from English Spirit

Celebrity-endorsed drinks through the ages

Sometimes, the celebrity juxtapositions seem bizarre– hard to believe that even in 1949 actress Doris Day was the best salesperson for Harvester road rollers, for example. In alcohol, today’s audiences might look askance at Woody Allen promoting vodka (assuming any brand would think it a great idea) but, in 1966, he was apparently the ideal choice for Smirnoff to appeal to trendy young drinkers.

Fortunately for Smirnoff, its association with Mr Allen was long forgotten (except for this blog’s keen eye for gossip) before recent adverse publicity reflected badly on the brand. But in fact, the possibility of the celebrity turning toxic and damaging the partner is a real danger of celebrity endorsements.

That’s something probably well remembered by Bacardi’s marketing team who, in late 2003, had to withdraw TV commercials featuring ex-footballer turned thespian Vinnie Jones hastily following his involvement in an unfortunate air-rage incident. Unfortunate for both parties as he lost what was clearly a lucrative gig, and Bacardi had to dump at least one expensive advert that had yet to air.  

Once upon a time, it was simpler to use dead celebrities, as at least they could be relied on not to misbehave. Mark Twain (died 1910) and Rudyard Kipling (1936), were both disinterred to promote Old Crow bourbon in American press adverts in the early 1950s based on Twain’s reputed fondness for the brand. He could hardly argue the point or ask for a fee.

Old Crow Whisky

Just Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain enjoying a glass of bourbon

Take the money and run

Some years later, a fashion developed for publicity-shy but impecunious celebrities to endorse Japanese brands, confident that the association would not be picked up in the West, a trend wonderfully satirised by Bill Murray in the 2003 movie Lost in Translation. Murray stars as Bob Harris, a fading American movie star who is having a midlife crisis when he travels to Tokyo to promote Suntory whisky.

Who could he have been thinking of? Surely [surely shurely? Ed.] not Sean Connery’s 1991 promotion of Suntory Crest? Surely one of the world’s greatest Scotsmen would want to promote a fine single malt? Well, no single malt could afford his rumoured fee of $1 million but Dewar’s stepped up in 2004 with some digital magic in which Connery meets his younger self and advises ‘Some age, others mature’.

Doubtless Connery’s agent was happy with that deal and by the turn of the millennium any coyness about an association with alcohol had long been abandoned as more celebrities began to cash in. In fact, coy hardly describes Sharon Stone’s promotion of the William Lawson’s blended Scotch whisky, a sister brand to Dewar’s that’s popular in European markets. 

Leveraging the brand

But soon an even more astute generation of celebrities with a keen sense of their commercial value began looking for more than a lucrative payday, linking their personality uniquely closely with the brand by seeking first a royalty payment based on sales and, even more recently, taking an ownership position with equity in the brand itself.

This is a new development and demonstrates our continuing fascination with celebrity.  Never mind seeking out some obscure, artisan product – as consumers we’re proving little more than biddable sheep, anxious to secure the reflected glory of a well-known face and name.

The trend setters have been US hip-hop* artists such as Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Puff, etc) with his 2007 partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc Vodka. Fellow rappers had worked previously with various Cognac brands, such as Jay-Z with Chateau de Cognac’s D’USSE and Nas has been working as a brand ambassador for Hennessy since 2012. 

But P. Diddy changed the rules, treating the French vodka like a trainer brand and insisting on a 50/50 profit split and creative control of US marketing. Did it work? Ask Diageo, which when it acquired DeLeón Tequila was quick to cut a similar deal with Combs.

George Clooney Casamigos

The two amigos, George Clooney and Rande Gerber

In fact, this appears to be a particularly effective strategy for star-struck Diageo which has form in celebrity tie-ins with their brands – think David Beckham with Haig Club and George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila, both following in Combs’ Ciroc footsteps.

Cashing in

The amounts of money are staggering. Casamigos changed hands for a reputed $1 billion if all the longer term targets are met, and August 2020 Diageo was back in business, having ponied up a cool $335m to buy Aviation American gin, with another $275m to follow if sales live up to expectations.

The fortunate celebrity here is Ryan Reynolds who we may safely assume will be able to stand his round for many years to come.

* For the avoidance of doubt the editor has suggested I confirm that I am unfamiliar with the oeuvre of Messrs. P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Nas though, full disclosure, I did once watch a James Bond film.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Matador

In the second part of our Cinco de Mayo special, we’re celebrating the rich life of one of Tequila’s greats, Tomas Estes from Ocho Tequila, with a cocktail recipe provided…

In the second part of our Cinco de Mayo special, we’re celebrating the rich life of one of Tequila’s greats, Tomas Estes from Ocho Tequila, with a cocktail recipe provided by his son Jesse. It’s the Matador!

The Matador is one of the answers to the often asked question of what do you drink when you want a Margarita but want something a bit longer and less strong. If you’re cooking up a Mexican feast, this would be the perfect drink to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

The recipe comes from Jesse Estes’s book Tequila Beyond Sunrise. He’s a bartender with stints at notable venues as Callooh Callay, a world-renowned Tequila expert and judge, and the son of Tomas Estes, who sadly died last week. You can read our tribute to him here.

Tequila Beyond Sunrise by Jesse Estes

Tequila Beyond Sunrise by Jesse Estes, published by Ryland Peters & Small (£7.99) Photography by Alex Luck © Ryland Peters & Small

The Ocho philosophy

The Estes philosophy is summed up in the family’s Tequila brand, Ocho, a collaboration with Carlos Camarena, a third-generation Tequilero. All the agave used comes from land belonging to the Camerena family in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of Jalisco. No chemical fertilisers or pest controls are used. They only harvest very mature agave with high sugar and acidity levels. 

After harvesting, the piñas (plants minus the leaves) are cooked for three days, milled and water is added to create what is known as agave miel (honey.) It’s then distilled first in a copper and steel pot still, and then again in an all-copper one to around 55% ABV. The Tequila is either diluted with spring water or aged in used casks to reposado or añejo level. There are no additions before bottling.

Ocho is inspired by Tomas Estes’ love of Burgundy so all bottlings are from single fields and single vintages. We’ve been fortunate enough to taste along with Estes Junior on a few occasions and the difference between sites and years can be startling. There is a family resemblance, however, a green olive note and a refreshing minerality, which you can taste even in the aged examples because they have very subtle cask influence.

Jesse and Tomas Estes

Tomas and Jesse Estes

The history of the Matador

Today, that refreshing quality is coming to the fore in Estes’s take on the Matador. 

The first mention for this cocktail is in the Café Royal Cocktail Book from 1937 written by William J. Tarling which consists of Tequila, Orange Curaçao and dry vermouth. It was probably one of the first ever Tequila cocktails. It would certainly have been something of a novelty in 1930s London.

Fast forward 35 years to the 1972 edition of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide and there’s something called a Tequila Matador.  It consists of one part Tequila, two parts pineapple juice shaken with the juice of half a lime and strained into a coupe. Ever since then pineapple juice has been a component of the Matador making it a sort of tiki Margarita.

My edition of Mittie Hellmich’s incredibly thorough Ultimate Bar Book has something similar but it’s served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. She also has a frozen version made in a blender with pineapple chunks and crushed ice which sounds splendid on a hot day. Difford’s Guide adds triple sec taking his version even further into Margarita territory. 

Matador Cocktail, Jesse Estes

Jesse Estes’ Matador on the right (photo from Tequila Beyond Sunrise credit: Alex Luck)

How to make a Matador, Jesse Estes style

Estes’ version takes the classic Matador recipes and riffs on the green note in Ocho Tequila with the addition of Green Chartreuse. We’re using the unaged La Laja Tequila from 2019 which has that classic green olive and mint Ocho profile. It gets its name from ‘laja’, a type of flat stone which you’ll find many of in this particular field. The herbaceousness of the Tequila chimes beautifully with the Chartreuse.

This recipe calls for a dehydrated pineapple slice or lime wheel which you can make in the oven. But fresh fruit is fine too. We do recommend the pink pepper at the end which does all kinds of wonderful things. 

It’s a fitting way to celebrate Mexico’s national holiday, Cinco de Mayo, and pay tribute to Tomas Estes. ¡Salud Tomas!

Here’s the recipe

50ml Tequila Ocho Blanco (La Laja 2019)
20ml lime juice
25ml pineapple juice
10ml Green Chartreuse
5ml agave nectar

Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice, strain into a large rocks glass (you could also serve it on the rocks). Garnish with a dehydrated pineapple slice or dehydrated lime wheel, and freshly cracked pink peppercorns.

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#BagThisBundle – Win a bundle of Sexton Irish Single Malt Whiskey goodies!

It’s time to dream of prizes boozy and brilliant as we have a new #BagThisBundle competition to enter! Fans of Irish whiskey don’t want to miss out on this… The…

It’s time to dream of prizes boozy and brilliant as we have a new #BagThisBundle competition to enter! Fans of Irish whiskey don’t want to miss out on this…

The Irish whiskey boom has paved the way for a number of intriguing new bottles to appear on the scene. Take The Sexton, for example. It’s an Irish single malt was created by one of the few female master blenders in the Irish whiskey industry, Alex Thomas. 

Thomas works with spirit made entirely from Irish malted barley at Bushmills Distillery, which is triple distilled in copper pot stills before being matured in European oak casks from France that are seasoned with Oloroso sherry from Jerez over in Spain. The result is a rich, sherried treat with notes of dark chocolate, dried fruit, and aromatic spice.

It’s also a real all-rounder of a dram that’s perfect for whipping up some delicious Irish whiskey cocktails with. And we’d like to make doing that a little easier. That’s why we’ve teamed up with The Sexton to launch a new #BagThisBundle competition. If you win, the following will be yours.

  • The Sexton Single Malt
  • A branded speed pourer
  • A branded ice stamp
  • A cocktail booklet
  • A branded lapel pin
  • Two branded slate coasters
  • And six (6!) Highball glasses
Sexton Irish Whiskey

This bundle has everything you need to master Irish whiskey mixology

A host of sensational whiskey cocktails await you. As long as you remember to enter. It’s pretty important that you do the following steps. Thankfully, we’re once again using our tried and tested system. It’s delightfully simple. Here’s what you need to do:

That’s it. Now get entering!

MoM Sexton Irish Single Malt Whiskey ‘Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 GMT on 5 May to 23:59:59 GMT on 9 May 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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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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