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Master of Malt Blog

Five minutes with… James Doherty of Sliabh Liag Distillers

It’s been a long process for James and Moira Doherty bringing Irish whiskey back to James’ parents’ home of Donegal, but progress has been made and the future is looking…

It’s been a long process for James and Moira Doherty bringing Irish whiskey back to James’ parents’ home of Donegal, but progress has been made and the future is looking bright. Here the co-founder of Sliabh Liag Distillers discusses new distillery details, why he favours a traditional peated style and the lessons he learned being the grandson of renowned poitín men.

If you’re a fan of Irish whiskey or The Nightcap, you probably will have seen the good news. Sliabh Liag Distillers (phonetically: Slieve League) has received planning permission to build its new €6m distillery in Donegal, the first there for 177 years. For managing director and co-founder James Doherty, a former tea planter and executive with William Grant & Sons, Foster’s and SABMiller, this is the realisation of a dream to return to his ancestral homeland and make whiskey. He and Moira, co-founder and wife, left Hong Kong in 2014 to create Sliabh Liag Distillers, which currently produces An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin in a 500 litre copper pot from Forsyths. Production of this will move to the upcoming Ardara Distillery which is set to produce heavily-peated single malt and pot still Irish whiskeys.

This is all very exciting, which is why we had to find out more from the man himself…

Sliabh Liag Distillers

Say hello to James Doherty!

MoM: Hi James! What’s the progress on Ardara Distillery?

James Doherty: The planners have been very positive, there’s still some challenges but we’re working through them. The planning permission is in at the moment for a 400,000-litre whisky distillery, which is roughly Teeling-sized and equates to approximately 1700 filled casks, and over 1.2m bottles of whiskey when the spirit is sold. We want to start building in October and then with a bit of luck and a fair wind, we could be distilling Christmas time 2020. Which would be going some! It was back in 2015 that we bought our first piece of land to build the whiskey distillery on, but that subsequently fell through. In the very early days, someone said to us ‘this will cost twice as much and take twice as long as you think’ – and we’ve kind of learnt that they’re right!

MoM: Tell us about Ardara, the distillery location.

JD: Ardara is a mercantile town. It was a town of weavers, shopkeepers and bars and what-have-you, and a proper tourist hub. It’s actually enabled us to design something that works for the village. Our design is a whiskey distillery and a gin distillery that you can visit, not a visitors centre with a distillery attached, which for us is really important. We have no restaurants, no food, it’s all about ‘come and see us as a working distillery and then get yourself into the village and try some of the great pubs, try some of the restaurants’. Rather than you hoover up all the money as a destination, it’s ‘let’s make sure that the money is evenly spread and that we’re all feeding an ecosystem together’. For me, it’s a fascinating part of the world where, I suppose, culturally I’m imbued with it but it also felt to me like an area that was unexploited. Irish whiskey today is a post-industrial revolution and a city-based, post-tax reform pedigree. So we focused on how could you build something that was differentiated, rooted in a place that plays a part, so somewhere very different.

Sliabh Liag Distillers

What Ardara Distillery is projected to look like

MoM: How did you come to form Sliabh Liag Distillers?

JD: When I was with Grants, Moira and I started talking about ideas for brands that we could do ourselves. My parents are from Donegal, from the west coast, but left in the sixties and came to the UK. We put together this idea of taking the stories of the Donegal Gaeltachts. The idea of doing a seaweed-based gin actually originated in 2010, but we didn’t do it straight away because we were trying to get the money behind us to be able to do as much of it ourselves as we could. We left Hong Kong in 2014 to live in Donegal, in the village that my mum and dad are from and put a team together to build a distillery with a local businesswoman, Margaret Cunningham, as well as Oliver Hughes from Dingle and Porterhouse, and James Keith, a guy who’s got a construction background but also really good at business modelling and raising finance for early-stage companies. The finance director of SABMiller, Don De Lorenzo, and the legal counsel from SABMIller, John Davidson, were also on the board. From there we kind of then started to pull the whole thing together in terms of how you would tell the story of Donegal, which is probably the illicit distilling capital of Ireland, through a modern spirits brand. It was never just about making one thing, it was always about how do you build a branded business that you can do a lot with all rooted in the authenticity of the area. So not the city-based flavour but profoundly peated single malt and pot still whiskey.

MoM: Can you tell us more about why you wanted to make peated whiskey?

JD: We’re looking to recreate the taste of what would have been the 1850s. If you look at Irish whiskey as it is today, it can only be a city-based flavour because of the lack of peating in my view. If you look at the old mash bills, that’s what we’re going back towards. My grandfathers, both of them, were poitín men and we know from the way that they used to produce their poitín that they actually used peat to dry their barley because they would have had nothing else. I suppose it’s not an Islay style. It’s not about that kind of seaweed, iodine profile, it’s about that dry smoky character. In Donegal when you drive in, with the peat fires and the chimneys there’s a dry smokiness that you get, a kind of dusty smoky aroma. We want to try and get that onto the inherently sweeter styles and smoother styles of Irish whiskey. That’s where it’s coming from.

Sliabh Liag Distillers

Whisky from Ardara Distillery will be peated

MoM: We haven’t seen much from peated whiskey from Ireland, Connemara aside, do you think there’s going to be a market for it?

JD: I think there will. I personally would have liked the whole of the West Coast to be peated and have it as a kind of West Coast identifier. I know that Powerscourt is also looking at it and Peter Mulryan at Blackwater is already using peated malts. I suspect though that most people will go for a kind of safe level of peating, so they’ll try and make it ‘a hint of peat’ rather than profoundly peaty. We’re looking at 55 parts a million, but with triple distilling, you end up at about 35ppm as the net effect of that.

MoM: You’ve settled on triple distillation then?

JD: That’s right. The two spirit stills are inspired by Macallan, while the wash still is a unique one that Richard Forsyth and myself drew up. They will have quite short, quite large balls on them so we can try and drive through as much flavour as we can. You can find that triple distillation can strip out a lot of flavour. Having put all of the effort into creating it, we want to carry as much flavour through as possible.

Sliabh Liag Distillers

The distillery is located on the scenic west coast of Ireland

MoM: What about raw materials, do you know where you’ll source your barley?

JD: The eastern side of Donegal is an enormous grain growing area. We’ve already spoken to Grianán Farm, which I think is the biggest single farm in Ireland, and they’re already talking to us about growing for us. We will do as much as we can in Donegal. We already buy and source as much as we can in the area, which is a challenge because it is remote! So the challenge will be whether we can get enough.

MoM: Have you decided what your cask profile will be?

JD: Yes, we’ve looked at 70% bourbon casks, 25% sherry casks and then 5% specials that are just newsworthy and interesting things. We need the sherry profile to be quite dominant I think in order to get that peated dry smokiness. I remember from my time at Grant’s how Ailsa Bay perfected getting that. So, fortunately, I learned some of these things.

Sliabh Liag Distillers

The new €6m Ardara Distillery in Donegal is the first there for 177 years.

MoM: Your grandfathers were poitín producers. What did you learn from them?

JD: It was my gran who sat with me and gave me some recipes. To my knowledge, talking to my cousins, she never talked to anyone else about it. My mum would tell you that my gran wouldn’t hear talk of it in the house and up until her death, there were people that she didn’t talk to who had shopped grandad to the police and stuff over the years. She told us how he was using molasses to increase the sugar content, and how he was using barley and oats. Unfortunately my grandad had already passed before he gave me the recipe, but we had enough of the recipe and insight into how he did it from my older surviving uncles and gran’s stuff to be able to kind of rebuild grandad’s poitín so we’ll do that anyway as a matter of course, it would be rude not to! My mum is from a farm and if you go up the hill, according to my uncles, grandad disposed of the worm up there somewhere but we’ve been up and had a look and can’t find it… everyone’s being pretty coy about where stuff is!

MoM: Why is Irish mythology a key part of your branding?

JD: It’s an oral history that’s seldom captured. I suppose that, to some extent – and I don’t mean this in a pejorative way – but lots of Irish whiskey is a round bottle with some fella’s name on it, a couple of dates and it’s kind of rooted to a place. We felt that there was an opportunity to build a richer story using the legends and folktales as one element of it. If you look at the illicit distilling heritage of the area, of which my grandads were obviously part of, in 1815 there were 500 and something still seizures in Donegal. And the next nearest county was about a hundred! So this was an area where it’s clear the illicit operations are massively documented. People were part-time farmers and full-time distillers I think, rather than the other way round. If you talk to ‘the old boys’ in the area, they will tell you all of this stuff but they still talk about it as if the police are listening. There’s an element of it which is like distilling is in the soul of that county. My desire was to be back to where my roots are from and tell that story of that place, in a modern way, through spirits brands. So we were trying to do it in a way that takes the Book of Kells and stuff like that but doesn’t do it in a kitsch way. We’re trying to build on the elements of Irish heritage that are rich and newsworthy and interesting and build our story into that and tell it that way. Donegal is a place apart, geographically in the North, politically in the South. It’s a unique place. We live by a mountain and the weather we have is unique. The soils are unique and there’s incredibly soft water. To us, it felt absolutely right. If you’re going to put it somewhere, this is the right place to put a distillery, for sure.

Sliabh Liag Distillers

The unique weather will have an impact on maturation

MoM: Speaking about the weather at the end there and it being unique, you must have a mindset towards maturation and how that would affect it?

JD: What we know is that the mountain has an impact. So if you look at the peninsula we live on, it’s southwest of a 600-metre mountain. The weather in that corner of the peninsula is unique to that area. You get low evaporation rates and a kind of slow maturation that would give you really interesting whiskeys. I hesitate to say ‘terroir’ because Waterford have that done so well. It’s more about that unique place and the impact of the environment on that place. It’s where our heart is, it’s this amazing distilling capital that’s had a history that’s almost been lost or being lost. As it’s a place apart you can be polarising, you can be different, you can try and do different things.

MoM: What do you think the future holds for the Irish whiskey category and where do you see yourself in it?

JD: There’s a couple of things that are at play that are quite interesting. One is that if you believe the numbers that the Irish Whiskey Association is putting out there, if you think those are realistic, then there’s not enough capacity in the industry. We’re not putting in enough scale, very few people are. John Teeling is putting in scale. I suppose Royal Oak has got some scale to it but actually nobody else really is. So there isn’t enough capacity. The other thing that strikes me is that, if you look at the way spirits companies grow generally, they either stay as a boutique business that don’t grow fast enough because they don’t have the capacity to go further or their positioning is not one that communicates well enough to a wide enough consumer group, or you’re going to get businesses that are built to grow rapidly, to scale. Hopefully, that’s kind of what we’re building. There comes a point where that kind of brand either catches fire and it goes into mainstream distribution, Hendricks would be a classic example or Monkey Shoulder, they suddenly just take off. Undoubtedly there will be a shake out with some of the guys who are undercapitalised or just ran out of cash. With distilleries, generally, that’s what happens – they run out of cash or they can’t sell what they make. The challenge is you can get a route to the markets that are owned by the bigger players, but what happens then? Are you different enough that they can live with you in their portfolio? Do they come after you? Maybe you become like Teeling and Bacardi, people take small stakes because they want a piece of you but you’re very clear that you’re not for sale. At the moment we’re all straddling around to win 5% or 7% of the category, but you would hope that Jameson, Tully and Bushmills would build the category. Then we keep it noisy and relevant so as they continue to grow, we continue to grow. But the share of our share overall is 25%, 30% of the category. I can’t see it being like malt whisky where Glenfiddich had 100% of the market and now it has 20% of a massive market – I don’t see that kind of change. But that’s a 50 year change. But that’s because I probably won’t see 50 years so I could be wrong!

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Accessories to elevate your whisky appreciation

Today we are delighted to welcome a guest writer to Master of Malt, Ian Wisniewski author of The Whisky Dictionary which is published this week. Here he argues that the…

Today we are delighted to welcome a guest writer to Master of Malt, Ian Wisniewski author of The Whisky Dictionary which is published this week. Here he argues that the right accessories add a sense of occasion and enhance the enjoyment of your evening (or morning) dram. Take it away, Mr W. . . 

Of course, it’s about the taste, but there’s more to drinking whisky than that. It’s also an experience that can be enriched with matching accessories, and elevated into a ritual. When tasting, I arrange everything in the usual manner: glasses in a row, aligned with a water jug (not to dilute whisky but to provide a palate cleanser between sips). With a notebook in position, and a pen on stand-by to write tasting notes, I’m ready to begin.

But rather than pouring from the bottle, the whisky can be transferred into a decanter. This continues a tradition, as before whiskies were sold in bottles (a practise that gathered momentum from the mid-19th century) whisky was purchased on the premises of a grocer or wine and spirit merchant, and dispensed straight from the cask. This meant arriving armed with a jug (or other container), and once the whisky had reached its new home, the whisky was relocated into a decanter. Small labels (also known as tags) stating ‘whisky’ could be hung around the neck of the decanter, for ease of identification, as port, sherry and other favourites were also decanter-ed. Ornate tags, whether silver or porcelain, can be purchased on the antiques circuit, with plenty of streamlined, contemporary options on-line.

Check out these beauties: Islay Whisky set from LSA at Heals

Dedicated whisky decanters, whether taller and cylindrical, or shorter and shapelier, create a natural sense of elegance, which raises another question of good taste. Does decanting and aeration have an additional influence on the whisky, compared to pouring from a bottle? And if it does, is this considered an improvement ? As ever, it’s a case of conducting experiments and logging results (let’s start a group discussion).

If you take the decanter option, then why not display it in a tantalus, an unusual name which raises the question of etymology. Could this have evolved from the verb to tantalise? It would be appropriate as a tantalus is a case, typically wooden, fitted with a lockable handle that allows the decanters to be displayed while remaining incarcerated. This gives the owner complete control: the whisky doesn’t have to be hidden to protect it from unauthorised consumption. The tantalus was at its peak in the nineteenth century, and numerous examples have survived, ready to be re-homed by antique dealers (not losing the key is vital).

Scotch whisky used to be served exclusively in a quaich. The original drinking vessel, this is effectively an elegant bowl with two lugs (handles). The earliest examples were fashioned from wood in the sixteenth century, with different types of wood used to create patterns. Silver quaichs first appeared in the seventeenth century, and offered more scope for ornamentation with variously shaped lugs, while the bowl could be engraved with a monogram or crest.

Some lovely quaichs from the Quaich Company

As glassware became less expensive during the nineteenth century, the quaich spent more time on the shelf, and only made an appearance at formal occasions such as a wedding. But quaich-manship continues to thrive in Scotland, with the ‘a la carte’ option being to commission a silver or wooden quaich as a gift, or be presented as a prize.

It’s not always possible to predict when the desire for a malt whisky will assert itself. If it happens once tucked up in bed, there’s no need to get up and head for the drinks cabinet, as a noggin is an ideal bedside companion. Stylish and convenient, this small glass jug with a hinged lid contains a measure of whisky for one person, which hosts traditionally placed on bedside tables for house guests to serve themselves (as required). Noggin is also a traditional term for a quarter of a pint, around 15 cl, and if the noggin is filled to capacity it’s a generous amount.

And there’s no reason why you should ever be stranded without a dram, when a hip flask safeguards against this (a briefcase, handbag, or pocket can easily accommodate). This is why a hip flask is considered an essential accessory by some, and its come a long way since the original design, which was a leather strap that utilised the owner’s hip as a resting place for the flask. A hip flask can also make an aesthetic statement as well as being a status symbol, engraved with a monogram, decorative graphic or motto, with another option being a flask covered in leather, or Harris tweed for an additional Scottish accent.

Hip flasks offer a range of delivery options: the most direct being straight from the opening onto the palate, while some have a cap that unscrews and serves as a drinking cup. Deluxe versions comprise a small case fitted with two flasks and matching cups for sharing with a companion. Or one for each hand.

Adapted from The Whisky Dictionary: An A-Z of whisky from history & heritage to distilling & drinking (Mitchell Beazley) by Ian Wisniewski

 

 

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A little learning can be a dangerous thing

In the drinks industry we talk a lot about the importance of education but what if the customer or bartender isn’t listening properly? Or just being badly taught? This week,…

In the drinks industry we talk a lot about the importance of education but what if the customer or bartender isn’t listening properly? Or just being badly taught? This week, Nate Brown has an issue with those who think they know best.

“Excuse me, but I ordered a Daiquiri. This is not Daiquiri”
“Uh yeah, I believe it is.”
“It’s not.”
“But… it is. I made it. Rum, lime, sugar. Bish bash bosh.”
“No. It isn’t. Trust me, I know.”
“I can assure you…”
“Have you ever been to Dylan’s. Do you know Sergio there? He’s the best, and he makes me the best daiquiris.”
“I have not. I do not. He does not.”
“Well, you obviously don’t know what a Daiquiri is, then. Some bartender you are.”
“Enlighten me.”
“It was red, and frozen, and the best.”
“See, what you had there was a frozen strawberry Daiquiri.  It’s not quite the same.”
“A frozen strawberry what….?”
“I can make that for you if that’s…”
“A frozen strawberry what…?”
“Daiquiri.”
“Exactly.”
“Fuck you, Sergio.”

Miseducation. Fake news. Arrogance, mismanaged expectations. Call it what you will, but that’s a toxic cocktail of ingredients right there. Stirred together and they help form the Dunning-Kruger effect, a sociological phenomenon whereby a person’s perceived competence is hugely over-inflated with the smallest amount of knowledge. Bad education, between peers or across the bar, is breeding a generation of rabid, jacked up on the power of knowledge fools. Dangerous, dangerous fools. 

A lot has been said about what we sell in our bars. Is it drinks? Is it atmosphere? Is it escapism? Is it experience? Maybe. But no matter your thoughts on the matter, one universal truth is that guests pay for value. Anything you can get in a bar or restaurant can be achieved in the home, albeit at such an extraordinary cost that the value evaporates. It is the value that keeps bums on seats. And this value is becoming eroded. The second a guest knows better than the host, the system is in trouble. And those guests with a little bit of knowledge are being created by us.

Daiquiri Naturale

That’s not a Daiquiri!

That guest that knows cucumber is the best garnish, or that Schweppes is the only tonic for that gin, or that gin should really be drunk from balloon shaped coppas for flavour, they know their gin. This is the guest that knows that a Manhattan should be stirred 30 times in 15 seconds in a clockwise motion, that water belongs nowhere near a Scotch, or that the cork of the vermouth should be waved over the Martini; the guest also knows that rum is sweet because it’s made from sugar and that Daiquiris come in passion fruit or raspberry. Well, that guest is Frankenstein’s monster.

Behind the stick is no better. The archetypical bartender who holds dearly the phrase “that’s not how we did it in my last bar”. That bartender that stirs a Negroni in a mixing glass because that’s what they did in the hotel he came from. You know the one, he’s the one describing every spirit as smooth and fruity, and uses polishing cloths to clean his bar top and discards his used tools in the sink for the long-suffering bar back to clean because that’s how he earned his stripes. This is the chap who knows, and I mean really knows, what whisky goes in a Rob Roy, because the brand ambassador himself bestowed the burden of knowledge upon poor Barry’s special shoulders. Well, I don’t give a fuck, Barry. Where I come from we used to meet disobedience with kneecapping, shall we return to the good old days you miss so much? Thought not.

We should be preaching understanding, not knowing. We should be placing learning above knowledge, even if a few egos have to suffer. Is it too clichéd to quote some old wise character here? Like that lunatic Gandhi: “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom,” or Socrates and his paradoxical “I know that I know nothing.” Humility is in short supply in our industry. To be seen to change one’s mind is perceived as weakness, which is a dangerous spiral. One of the theories of bartending I was taught was the ‘failure of success’, which decried that if you think you’ve made it, you’ve failed. Some of you may know this as ‘sharks don’t sleep’. Only progression and learning are worth praise, and that’s worth remembering.

We should be preaching understanding, not knowing. We should be placing learning above knowledge, even if a few egos have to suffer.  Look up the Dunning Kruger if you don’t know it already, for forewarned is forearmed. Just don’t go preaching it – a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: East London Liquor Company Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1

There are three things we love at Master of Malt more than anything else: high quality spirits, bad puns and Back to the Future, so when a product arrived called…

There are three things we love at Master of Malt more than anything else: high quality spirits, bad puns and Back to the Future, so when a product arrived called Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1, how could we resist?

Today’s puntastic New Arrival is a collaboration between the East London Liquor Company and Renegade Wines. The ELLC will need no introduction to regular readers of this blog but to irregular readers (you know who you are), here’s a bit of background: the distillery was founded in 2014 by Alex Wolpert at Bow Wharf, East London’s first distillery in over 100 years. Last year Wolpert financed his expansion plans with a successful crowd-funding initiative, raising £1.5m. The company makes a range of gins, vodkas and last year released a highly-regarded London rye that has got bartenders all hot under the collar. There are also some more experimental things including a chestnut wood-aged whisky and rum barrel-aged gin but this latest product, an English grappa-style spirit, is perhaps the most unusual thing to come out of this stable. 

East London Liquor Company founder, Alex Wolpert, with distillery team

Team ELLC with founder Alex Wolpert second from right

ELLC’s partner in crime is Renegade Wines, a urban winery based in nearby Bethnal Green founded in 2017 by Warwick Smith and New Zealand winemaker Josh Hammond. No, they don’t have a vineyard in an allotment off Roman Road, instead the pair buy in grapes from all over Europe, have them shipped to London and, using the magic of fermentation, turn them into wine. As well as exotic continental grapes, Renegade also uses honest-to-god Herefordshire-grown Bacchus (hence the name). This grape variety, originally developed in Germany, has found a home in the English countryside and makes some of the country’s best still wines.

After making their delicious wines, there’s lots of stuff leftover called pomace, mainly grape skins and bits of stalk. So what to do with it? Well, it can be used as fertiliser or to feed cattle, but it’s more fun to make it into more booze. Actually, Grape Scott Part 1 isn’t the first winery/ distillery mash-up in England. Hyke Gin, a recent New Arrival of the Week, uses grape leftovers as a botanical, and very nice it is too. Bacchus to the Future Grape Scott Part 1, however, is as far as we can tell the very first English pomace brandy, known in Italy as grappa and France as marc.

You’ve probably had grappa on holiday in Italy. Just the thing after a long meal, it can be rather fiery. Which is why it loves a bit of ageing to mellow it out a bit. ELLC ages its Bacchus brandy in old red wine casks which add richness and colour, but also softens it. Bottled at 47 .1% ABV, the result is punchy and distinctive, like an Italian grappa, but with the edges smoothed off. It makes a great digestif to finish off those long East London lunches, but we think it might do interesting things in a cocktail. Bacchus Boulevardier has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?

 

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The Nightcap: 6 September

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap! When September rolls around, there’s something in the back…

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap!

When September rolls around, there’s something in the back of our heads that says we should be stockpiling things. Maybe it’s a leftover from when humans used to be squirrels (pretty sure that’s how evolution works), but the urge to stockpile summery gubbins is in the air – otherwise we won’t get to enjoy them until June next year! You should see the stack of flip-flops, salad that inexplicably contains more grapes than leaves, and those tiny paper cocktail umbrellas we have amassed at MoM Towers. What we’re not stockpiling is booze news – we share all the stories from the world of drink with you in The Nightcap each week! Let’s get to it!

On the blog this week we launched a new competition with Mackmyra that gives you chance to win your own maturing cask of soon-to-be-whisky! We then gave you an exclusive video tour around Glenfiddich Distillery, including the Robbie Dhu Spring water source, the still house, the bottling process, as well as the maltings and the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery. Elsewhere, Kristy regaled us with tales from Kyrö Distillery, Ian Buxton put on his sceptic’s hat and pondered the future of Chinese single malt and Annie returned to give us five essential tips to make the most of our distillery tours. Henry, meanwhile, chose the intriguing Hayman’s Small Gin to be our New Arrival of the Week before doing his best Fancy Dan impression by making The Made in Chelsea Coupe our Cocktail of the Week. For Dram Club members, we also revealed what to expect from September 2019.

But there’s still more boozy news to cover, and there’s no time to lose! It’s The Nightcap…

The Nightcap

Dr Peter Morris and Dr Ross Alexander working on the potential miracle barley

Gene for drought-resistant cereal discovered in Scotland

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have uncovered a gene that helps drought resistance in crops which could be of huge benefit to the Scotch whisky industry. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which funded the research, 90% of the barley used in Scotch whisky comes from Scotland. The results which were published in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry showed that a particular gene, HvMYB1, controls stress tolerance in barley. Dr Peter Morris from Heriot-Watt University said: “This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future. Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality. As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential that we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key industries like Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s leading export items.” It was the result of over five years work, because, Morris went on to say, “barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double the number for humans, so characterising one particular gene which promotes drought resistance has been a considerable challenge.” Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, commented: “The SWA works closely with specialists at Heriot-Watt University, and others in the sector, to ensure that the industry is equipped to adapt to any changes that may arise from a changing climate. We, therefore, welcome this research which helps to provide resilience against the effects of climate change and to sustain the diversity of barley varieties used for Scotch whisky.” So as the planet warms up, at least there will still be Scotch whisky, which is a comfort.

The Nightcap

Glenfiddich Grand Cru will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon!

Glenfiddich’s new premium malt has a sparkling heritage

Some companies launch a new whisky. Not Glenfiddich, its latest release “redefines celebrations.” How does it do that, you might ask? Well, it’s got pedigree, that’s for sure. Called Grand Cru, it is 23 years old, matured in European and American oak, and then finished in “rare French cuvée oak casks”. These casks “contained the liquid that goes on to become some of the world’s most extraordinary sparkling wines.” We think they mean Champagne. Only very few houses, including Bollinger, Roederer and Krug, still use oak so these casks are likely to have held some exceptional liquid. Why is Glenfidicch being so coy then? Well, the wine in the barrels was still and therefore not legally allowed to be called Champagne. Glenfiddich malt master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “Breaking category conventions once more, this unusual collaboration presented an exciting opportunity to create a spirit that further elevated our unique Glenfiddich style. We experimented with the maturation time and hand-selected the right balance of 23-year-old Glenfiddich casks out of our unique collection of old age malts. The further influence from the oak of the French cuvée casks added an extra layer of complexity thanks to the liquid they once held”. So this is a premium malt meets Grand Cru Champagne which, if not exactly “redefining celebrations”, certainly sounds swanky. RRP is £220; stock should be landing at your favourite online retailer 20 September.

The Nightcap

This geographical protection is huge for Irish whiskey and brands like Tullamore D.E.W.

Irish whiskey secures geographical protection for the Indian market.

Good news for Irish whiskey as it has secured geographical protection for the Indian market. This is the world’s largest whisky market with over 2.3 billion bottles sold last year (though much of what is called whisky would be labelled rum in Britain as it’s distilled from molasses). Thanks to this agreement, now only whiskeys from Ireland can bear the legend “Irish Whiskey” on the label. This is great news for the Indian whiskey drinker and, of course, for the rapidly-expanding Irish whiskey industry. Carleen Madigan, legal advisor to the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Securing the geographical indication for Irish Whiskey in India is another landmark for the Irish Whiskey category. Like similar registrations achieved earlier in the year in Australia and South Africa, this is another major success in our efforts to protect the integrity of Irish Whiskey on a worldwide basis. We will now be able to take much tougher enforcement action against fake Irish whiskey products on sale in India. This protection will also enable us to maximise opportunities to increase sales in this crucial whiskey market as it is an important selling point for the Indian consumer knowing they can enjoy Irish Whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product”. India is still a relatively untapped market for Irish whiskey, only 34,000 cases were sold in India, double the previous year but a long way behind Scotland at nearly 10 million cases sold. This geographical protection should see sales take off.

The Nightcap

Larissa Marrichi, Finbarr Curran and the two new experimental whiskeys

This year’s Method and Madness whiskeys from Irish Distillers are the maddest yet

The Method and Madness series of releases from Irish Distillers is a chance for the team at Midleton to let their hair down and go a bit mad in the on-site microdistillery. This year’s two releases are particularly envelope-pushing, game-changing and mind-blowing as they are part-aged in wood that isn’t oak. Utter madness! Both are single pot still whiskeys, one finished in cherry wood and one in acacia. Cherry wood, sourced from France, is particularly porous resulting in some big bold flavours. Kevin O’Gorman, master of maturation at Midleton Distillery, commented: “The rare, porous wood is different to anything that we have handled before, so it has been a real achievement to create the perfect balance of flavour – the result is a world-first in Irish whiskey, with a nose of coconut fibre and ginger, a palate of fresh green herbs, black tea and unmistakable pot still spices and a long, fresh finish with prickly spice and hazelnut.” Acacia is quite the opposite, having a tight grain. Finbarr Curran, from the maturation research team explained: “The density of the acacia wood presented a challenge in contrast to the wild cherry wood as the maturation process was much slower and required a close eye and nose to achieve the perfect balance. But it was well worth the wait. This stunning single pot still Irish whiskey has a nose of sugared almonds and wood spice, a palate of coffee beans, dark chocolate and chilli and a finish with fading spice, charred wood and barley husk.”The releases will be on sale for RRP of €92. We’ll let you know when they come in.

The Nightcap

Trois Rivières and La Mauny are produced on the island paradise of Martinique

Campari purchases Trois Rivières and La Mauny

The Campari Group has signed an agreement with Chevrillon Group to buy French firm Rhumantilles for a cool $66 million USD. Rhumantilles owns 96.5% of Martinique-based Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs (BBS) Group, which produces the Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny brands, as well as Duquesne rum, which is made for the local market. The deal not only includes those brands, but also the landholdings, the distilleries, the visitor centres and the inventory of high-quality aged rum, adding to the Italian spirits giant’s already considerable rum portfolio which includes the fantastic Appleton Distillery in Jamaica. The company, who said the deal was expected to close during the fourth quarter of this year in a statement released this week, clearly believe in the future of rhum agricole, which already boasts a strong reputation among spirits fans, but still occupies a tiny share of global rum production. The injection of Campari’s financial and marketing could prove a huge boost for the category. Campari said the move would “add prestigious agricole rum brands to its offering and enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumizing category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture.”

The Nightcap

We sail, for rum and country more rum!

Captain Morgan brings the highs seas to Birmingham

Ahoy there rum lovers! We bring you news of a rather exciting nautical adventure. Over in Birmingham, Bompas & Parr has joined forces with Captain Morgan to curate the Lost Lagoon, an immersive and boozy treasure hunt inspired by none other than the buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan himself. Those who choose to explore this mysterious land (or sea) can expect cocktails while they sail through an indoor ocean past a series of islands. In true naval style, at each island they’ll be given rum rations and instructions on how to make a swashbuckling punch. The ultimate goal? To use your wits to eventually find Captain Morgan’s hidden bounty, which (spoiler) is a tiki bar full of delicious rum and nibbles. The aquatic adventure is based at Bullring & Grand Central, running from 26 September to 22 December. “Expect a mix between your best desert island fantasy with punch quests and neo-tiki party vibes,” says Bompas & Parr’s Harry Parr. We hope your nautical navigation skills are up to scratch.

The Nightcap

Littlemill 29 Year Old

Littlemill and Glencairn join forces for latest Private Cellar Collection bottling

Littlemill’s Private Cellar collection has produced some stellar expressions and this latest bottling should prove no exception. Littlemill 29 Year Old, the third release from the series, was crafted by master blender Michael Henry from liquid selected from some of the last remaining casks to be laid down at the Littlemill Distillery, which was recently recognised as the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery fell silent in 1994 and was destroyed by fire in 2004, making this liquid rare and highly collectable. Only 600 bottles will be released across the world. The bottling, which is said to possess the traditional Lowland floral profile, is also notable for its presentation, a limited edition bespoke Glencairn decanter. Glencairn worked closely with Littlemill on every detail, which includes an etched illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. Each decanter is one of a kind and is individually-numbered. The presentation box also includes a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the history of the Littlemill distillery with tasting notes from Henry, who commented on the release: “The latest expression in the Private Cellar collection helps to tell another piece of the Littlemill story. Littlemill has always represented the traditional Lowland ‘floral’ style, and over the years the distillation and maturation processes evolved to maintain this flavour profile”. He added: “Littlemill 29 year old, our 2019 release, focuses on the influence of wood. The original liquid was laid down in refill bourbon casks in 1990. Seven of these were selected and combined, then finished in first-fill oloroso sherry and Limousin oak casks. The oloroso sherry adds further floral notes, similar to the traditional sherry casks used at the Littlemill distillery, while the Limousin oak provides the European oak influence. The result is unmistakably Littlemill, with delicious caramel sweetness layered with spice.”

The Nightcap

The Coral Room is celebrating Sete de Setembro in style!

The Coral Room celebrates Brazilian Independence Day with Capucana Cachaça

Brazilian Independence Day has made its way over to London, more specifically, The Coral Room! The Brazilian national holiday, commonly referred to as Sete de Setembro (for those of you who aren’t so familiar with Portuguese, also known as Seventh of September) commemorates Brazil’s independence, won in 1815 after three years of war against Portugal. Hence why, on 7 September, the bar has teamed up with Capucana Cachaça to put on a lavish celebration of cocktails, DJs and sambaing (yes, it’s a word). The selection of drinks takes its inspiration from the vibrant colours of the Brazilian flag, so expect a thoroughly colourful and delicious evening. It’s not all just fun and games, as The Coral Room will also be donating £1 from every Brazilian Independence Day cocktail to Rainforest Alliance. Good times and good causes. Make sure you don’t miss out on the after party at The Bloomsbury Club either. Dia Da Independence is sure to be a night to remember!

The Nightcap

Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee is the first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years

Introducing Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee

Jägermeister just can’t seem to keep itself away from caffeinated drinks! The latest release from the German brand is perhaps somewhat more refined than the iconic Jägerbomb, but also (hopefully) won’t be replacing your morning brew. Enter Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee. The first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years, the new liqueur sees the original secret Jägermeister recipe paired with cold-brewed Arabica coffee and a dash of cacao. In classic Jägermeister style, the recommended serve is straight from the freezer at a frosty -18°C. “Coffee has become such a huge part of everyday consumer culture,” says UK innovation controller (someone’s got to control the innovation, don’t want it getting out of hand), Tim Hawley. “Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee is perfect for moments of celebration in or out of the home, offering an intricate coffee flavour profile complemented by the classic Jägermeister taste – served perfectly as an ice-cold shot.” Did you know the translation of the Italian word ‘barista’ is ‘barman’? Seems pretty fitting!

The Nightcap

There is no caption that can do this picture justice. I retire.

And finally. . . . Brussels sprout-flavoured gin? Don’t all rush at once

We’ve seen some strange spirits here at MoM, like whiskey flavoured with beaver glands or vodka distilled from milk, but the latest release from Pickering’s Gin might be the strangest yet. Looking to cash in on the Christmas market the distillery has launched six festive gins including one flavoured with Brussels sprouts. Yes really, everyone’s least favourite part of Christmas (apart from the now traditional Brexit discussion) is one of the botanicals. Over 10,000 of the little blighters have been used to create this batch limited edition. Matt Gammell, head distiller and co-founder said: “It was an interesting challenge trying to balance the unmistakable flavour of Brussels sprouts to get the taste just right – and the distillery had a very distinct aroma while the gin was being distilled!” Apparently the resulting gin has a uniquely “sprouty” flavour. Gammel added: “We love the end result and it is the ideal tipple for friends and family to share together this Christmas”. Well perhaps, if you don’t want them to visit next year.

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Five minutes with… Cape Byron Distillery’s Eddie Brook

Head to the hinterland of Australia’s Byron Bay and you’ll find Cape Byron Distillery nestled among 96 acres of lush greenery and macadamia orchards. Here, co-founder Eddie Brook talks about…

Head to the hinterland of Australia’s Byron Bay and you’ll find Cape Byron Distillery nestled among 96 acres of lush greenery and macadamia orchards. Here, co-founder Eddie Brook talks about distilling the sub-tropical pantry on his doorstep in collaboration with former Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan…

More than 30 years ago the Brook family bought a run-down dairy farm (see photo in header) in Australia’s Byron Bay region and set about regenerating the rainforest that once stood there. Today, Cape Byron Distillery co-founder and CEO Eddie captures native flavours from the incredible natural larder he calls home and sends his bottlings across the globe for our drinking pleasure.

Sustainability, community and regeneration are the core principles that underpin the distillery’s approach to spirit-making. Brookie’s Dry Gin came first, co-created with mentor and master distiller Jim McEwan, featuring 26 botanicals – 18 of which are native to the Byron Bay area, followed by Brookie’s Slow Gin, made in the traditional English sloe style using native Davidson’s plums.

Eddie Brook, Cape Byron

Roll out the barrel! Eddie Brook in action

Cape Byron’s most recent creation? A roasted macadamia nut liqueur called Brookie’s Mac.  Roasted macadamia nuts, macadamia nut shell and wattleseed are steeped in wheat-based spirit before Mount Warning spring water and natural sugar cane syrup is added, resulting in a moreish butterscotch, cacao and coffee-flavoured sipper that tastes incredible over ice with a squeeze of lime, stirred through an Old Fashioned, or mixed into affogato.

We called Cape Byron Distillery co-founder and CEO Eddie Brook for the 411* on potent botanicals, rejuviated rainforest, and soon-to-be Australian whisky…

Master of Malt: Hey Eddie! Congrats on the launch of your latest product, Mac. Let’s start by talking wattleseed. Can you give our readers a little introduction to this botanical? 

Eddie Brook: Wattleseed is from the world of bush food. If you look at Australian food culture we’ve got the most incredible pantry of native flavours to pull from and wattleseed is one of my favourites. The best way to describe it is ‘bush coffee’ – the beautiful aroma of roasted coffee meets dark chocolate and semi-burnt popcorn. It’s like coffee in that the quality is only as good as the grower that grows it and the roaster that roasts it. Mac is macadamia and wattleseed, simple in its own right but showcasing those flavours in the best way possible. The macadamia shell in particular has never been used for production before which is pretty exciting. We don’t use any colourings or flavourings, it’s all down to steeping freshly-roasted macadamia and wattleseed in wheat spirit when they’re at absolute optimum flavour for around three months on average, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.

Rainforest, Byron Bay Region

Just a bit of local rainforest

MoM: Cape Byron distillery is surrounded by a macadamia orchard and a sub-tropical rainforest. Did you always intend to forage a large portion of your ingredients, or did this idea develop over time?

EB: When my family bought the 98-acre farm it was completely run-down, there was barely a tree growing on the land, so my upbringing was regenerating rainforest. We hacked away weeds and replanted trees so I suppose I had a connection to our landscape, which is an area called Northern Rivers. We are blessed with this densely-populated thriving ecosystem of incredible native flavours and that was the world I was brought up in. Every year mum and I would harvest Davidson’s plums from the rainforest and made jam with them. When my journey through the food and spirit industry led me to meet my absolute idol, and now mentor and business partner Jim McEwan, I learned how to bring those products together. We’ll go walking through the rainforest and harvest native ginger and raspberries, we’ve got rye berries growing, we’ve aniseed myrtle and cinnamon myrtle – it’s honestly like having a massive pantry, you’ve just got to work a bit harder to get the ingredients. 

MoM: Having previously worked for a spirits importer and distributor, did you feel daunted about being a newcomer in the industry? Or was the idea a no-brainer because of the incredible Australian ingredients growing in, quite literally, your back garden?

EB: Oh for sure, of course you can’t help but look to see what other people are doing. I’ve always been in awe of these great products, in particular I was lucky enough to be an ambassador and brand manager for The Botanist. The story of that spirit represents more than just product in a bottle, it came about by working with botanists to showcase the flavours of Islay. Through knowing those brands and also working with Jim, I knew our foundations were real and strong, too. The world of native Australian flavours, especially rainforest botanicals and ingredients, is mind-blowing. When I take people through the farm and they taste native raspberry or I pick some aniseed myrtle, you can see that child inside them come to life; it opens up their eyes to the flavours and that’s what I wanted to bring through our spirit. We want our gin to taste like gin, but by bringing in those native Australian flavours we’ve created something new and exciting.

MoM: As a distiller, what are you especially proud of? Was there a botanical or ingredient that was harder to work with, for example?

EB: Finding the initial balance for our dry gin was an exciting challenge. When we’re talking about native Australian ingredients, the reason they’re not in the pantry or on shelves is that they are extremely potent flavours – incredible in their own right, but you’ve got to know how to use them. Take dorrigo pepperleaf, for instance, which is like Sichuan pepper meets an Earl Grey tea leaf. When you balance that in rye, it completely pops. But the one that I’m most proud of is our Brookie’s Slow Gin. As a country we don’t grow sloe berries, they’re very much cold climate, but we do have the Davidson’s plum – the same one mum and I would pick when I was a young boy to make jam – a type of bush food that only grows in Northern Rivers through small farmers. In our first year we purchased three tonnes, last year was 12 tonnes, and next year we’re looking to purchase 24 tonnes. With the success of this product we’re growing the local industry and connecting people around Australia with native ingredients and the land.

Mac. by Brookie's (2)

Brookie’s Mac liqueur with real macadamia nuts to the side

MoM: Let’s talk about the new make spirit you’ve laid down. Which natural resources lend themselves to distilling in the Byron Bay region? How will the climate impact the resulting whisky?

EB: There’s something quite magical about whisky and the way the barley, the malting process, the yeast, the fermentation time, the distillation, the cask and the environment all have a huge impact on the liquid. We’re quite lucky with the whisky production laws in Australia which give us a bit of flexibility and creativity in how we can approach this incredible category. One of the major ones is that we don’t have to produce our own wort – we’re very lucky that our dear family friends own a brewery just down the road which is Australia’s number one independent craft beer company called Stone & Wood. Jim and I worked with them and selected a certain Australian barley strain and two yeasts, one of which has never been used for the production of whisky before, to make our new make spirit, which has flavours of lychee, kiwi, pear and apple skin. The wash is fermented and twice-distilled with no computers, it’s all down to sensory from the teachings with Jim, and then it goes into full-sized ex-bourbon casks which rest in barrel houses on our distillery located in the hinterland of Byron. You’ve got the sea air mixing with the rainforest, it’s a really unique climate. It’ll take the heat out of summer and the rainforest takes the cold out of winter so that’ll have an impact on our spirit. We’ll see a faster maturation in Australia, the equivalent of maybe a five year old in Scotland we’ll see in about three years. It was a pretty special moment when we found the heart of our spirit – I was running the still with Jim, who was nosing [the new make]. He closed his eyes and when he looked at me a grin peeled across his face and he said, ‘Eddie, hand on heart this is one of the finest spirits I’ve ever produced’. We have to wait two years until it becomes whisky, but there are some very exciting times ahead.

MoM: If there was one thing about you’d like everyone to take away from Cape Byron, what would it be?

EB: I would love to see people reconnect with nature. When people come to our distillery they get a sense of what nature used to be. We had the greatest rainforest in Australia in our backyard and that was destroyed. Regenerating the world might be greater than you and I, but every little bit can make a difference. We’ve brought our land back in 28 years and now it’s a thriving rainforest – giving that sense of empowerment to people is my end goal; to change people’s perceptions and open their eyes to the land.

*slang for information from the American directory enquiries number. In Britain you could say 118 118 instead, though you will get some blank looks. 

 

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Win! The Mackmyra private cask ownership experience!

Ever wanted to own your own maturing cask of spirit, soon to be whisky? Now you can, courtesy of Swedish distillery Mackmyra! It’s a whisky lover’s dream – not just…

Ever wanted to own your own maturing cask of spirit, soon to be whisky? Now you can, courtesy of Swedish distillery Mackmyra!

It’s a whisky lover’s dream – not just having the drinks cabinet of dreams, but owning an actual cask, too. And Mackmyra wants to make this very dream come true for one very lucky drinks geek!

Mackmyra became Sweden’s first dedicated whisky distillery when it was founded in 1999. Now in 2019, the year of its 20th anniversary, it operates two sites, with a fierce focus on flavour and innovation. There’s peated (using bog moss and juniper!) and unpeated spirit, and there’s a real passion for capturing the local sense of place, too. And now, one mega-lucky winner can go behind the scenes at the whisky-maker with a cask of their very own!

So… what’s up for grabs?

Super simply, 30 litres of unpeated new make spirit, destined to go into a 30-litre first-fill ex-bourbon cask, complete with a personalised brass plaque. That cask will then be matured in one of two Mackmyra’s warehouses for at least three years. Victor’s choice! You can select between The Bodås Mine (the distillery’s primary warehouse, which has high humidity and stays at around 7-10°C all year round – you won’t be able to visit your cask here though, mind) or the Forest Warehouse (concrete-built and half-buried into a bank, with a drier atmosphere, a higher temperature in summer, and as such, a greater angels’ share – and you can visit it!).

Mackmyra cask

You could be the proud owner of a cask!

The winner will be able to monitor their whisky’s maturation journey, receiving a 50ml sample each year so they can see how it’s coming along. Once a least three years and one day have passed, it’ll be time for that lucky so-and-so to get their mitts on the actual whisky (that is, unless you want to let it mature for longer, which you’re free to do so).

The whisky will be bottled up, complete with labels bearing the winner’s own message, and then delivered. Be warned, though, Mackmyra can only deliver to the UK, Denmark, Germany or France – if the winner choose to further ship them elsewhere, they may be subject to duties and taxes by authorities at the destination country at the winner’s expense.

Loving the sound of the private cask ownership experience but fancy adding an extra flavour dimension? The winner will be given the option of upgrading (at their own expense) to peated spirit (£200), or to oloroso sherry, American oak or Anniversary casks (£600). You can even choose to start the process with a four year old spirit for £300.

I want the private cask experience! How do I enter?

Super simple! Snap up one of these delicious Mackmyra bottlings, and we’ll pop your name in a hat, just like that. Magic! (See T&Cs)

Mackmyra Whiskies

Snap up one of the delicious Swedish whiskies and you’ll be in with a chance to win!

To make it even easier, we’ve lopped £3.50 off MACK by Mackmyra, and a whole fiver off the mouthwatering Äppelblom! We are good to you.

You could also snap up Brukswhisky, Svensk Ek, Svensk Rök, or Svensk Rök/Amerikansk Ek from the core range, or Skördetid, Gruvguld, the Moment series, Fjällmark, Efva, Prestige, or Ledin from the seasonal line!

So. If you fancy winning the chance to join Mackmyra’s private cask ownership experience (provided by and Mackmyra’s sole responsibility), you know what to do! We’re not jealous of the winner at all…

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Five essential tips for making the most of your distillery tour

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll…

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll want to make the most of your distillery visit. From unusual questions to tips and tricks, we tapped three distillers for their esteemed insider knowledge…

Take it from us, there’s never been a better time to be a full-on spirits geek. Whether through distillery tours, blending workshops, tailored tasting experiences or cocktail masterclasses, the masterminds behind our favourite sips have flung open their doors, filling both our minds and our glasses with spirited brilliance.

For most distillers, provenance is a huge part of what makes their liquid so unique. Native botanicals, regional production methods, local water, warehouse climate; whatever it might be, these unique factors form part of its DNA. There’s nothing quite like experiencing that sense-of-place first hand. It’s a lesson in history, science and art, all rolled into one.

To really get the best of this unique experience, we quizzed the people for whom distillery tours are their day-to-day. Heed their do’s and don’ts to make the most of your big day out (and remember to scope out the gift shop’s distillery exclusive bottlings while you’re there! It’s the best place to nab a gem…).

Glenrinnes Distillery

Oh, hello there Glenrinnes!

#1 Introduce yourself

Perhaps you’re a huge fan of the distillery and it’s been a lifelong dream to visit? Or maybe the local hotel receptionist recommended you drop by, and this will be your first time tasting neat gin. Whatever the reason you’re there, make it known to your guide. The best tour experiences are always the most interactive ones, says Meeghan Murdoch, operations manager at Glenrinnes Distillery in Speyside, since engaging in visitors’ knowledge helps them tailor the experience to the interests of the group.

#2 Come with the right mindset

For starts, arrive punctual and sober, says Andrew Anderson, head of distillery tours at Balcones Distilling in Texas. For the sake of your tour guide, mainly, but you’ll also enjoy the experience more if both your mind and palate are fresh. By all means, hit the bar up – there’s a certain magic about enjoying a dram on its home turf – but do so on your way out. Remember to turn your phone off (or set it to silent) so your guide has your full attention, and don’t answer it during the tour.

Shh… They’re snoozing…

#3 Soak up the atmosphere

Distilleries are often beautiful buildings with hundreds of years’ worth of history, says Greg Hughes, managing director of Jameson Brand Homes and Education at Irish Distillers, and Jameson’s Bow Street and Midleton sites are a fine example. So, give yourself enough time to take in your surroundings. “Make an afternoon of it rather than coming in, having a quick tour and dashing off,” he says. “You lose some of the magic of these historical sites.” And don’t forget, your guide is a local, so make the most of their travel tips. “We’ve a really friendly team and they loved being asked where to go next, whether it’s a hotel, a bar or restaurant or another whiskey attraction.”

#4 Ask *all* of the questions

Any question that pops into your head. Even the one you feel embarrassed about asking. “We are here to interact, engage, and teach you about our craft,” says Anderson, “[your guide] will not think you’re stupid.” ‘Do you own the distillery?’, ‘Can I drink the dump bucket?’, ‘How many miles of pipe is in the distillery?’, and ‘Can we try the wort?’ are all legitimate questions he and the team have received. While some questions are trickier to answer than others, Hughes adds, “we love to see it, there’s a real enthusiasm there. When people are asking questions you can tell they’re really enjoying the experience – you don’t need to be a whiskey expert to have passion.” So, ask away.

Glenrinnes Distillery

Chances are, the distillers know what they’re doing with those stills

#5 Don’t ‘give it the biggen’*

Perhaps your uncle worked at the distillery three decades ago, or your best friend is involved with marketing the distillery. Regardless of what you already know about spirits production, local history, the brand, and so on, be gracious to your guide. “Don’t try to catch out the tour guide on your own knowledge,” says Katrina Stewart, Glenrinnes’ distiller. “Respect their experience and understanding and have an open discussion.” In the same vein, be open to learning about new ways to approach the production process, says Anderson. “Do not answer questions as if you’re the tour guide unless prompted or opened up to contribute – be attentive, and do not speak while the tour guide is speaking”.

* Urban Dictionary defines this as “When someone attempts to make themselves appear tougher or cooler than they really are”. So now you know.

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Discover the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery!

Copper plays a vital role in whisky-making. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we explore just how influential the element is up at The Balvenie Distillery!…

Copper plays a vital role in whisky-making. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we explore just how influential the element is up at The Balvenie Distillery!

Denis McBain has spent an incredible 60 years working as a coppersmith at The Balvenie. We check out the importance of his craft and get all kinds of geeky with the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition programme. 

Want to know more about the next EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Check out the educator’s website for all the deets!

Balvenie Distillery

The Balvenie Distillery

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Discover the bottling process at Glenfiddich!

We join the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition for a behind-the-scenes tour around the bottling plant at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery! It may not be the most glamorous part of…

We join the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition for a behind-the-scenes tour around the bottling plant at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery!

It may not be the most glamorous part of the whisky-producing process, but we’d struggle to get our mitts on the good stuff if there were no bottling lines. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we check out the operations up at Glenfiddich Distillery, with dry good coordinator Steven Leighton.

Want to fully immerse yourself in the wonderful world of whisky with the EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Head to the website now!

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich Distillery

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