Master of Malt Whisky Blog

Peat-smoked spirits that aren’t Scotch whisky

Peat-smoked spirits

Scottish distillers may be the undisputed masters of the peat fire, but there are plenty of plucky distillers across the world making their own smoky creations, and with interesting and varied results. MoM invites you to drink outside the box with eight peat-smoked spirits that most definitely aren’t Scotch whisky.

Considering peat is literally a mix of decaying moss, shrubs, grasses, tree roots, dead animals and soil that has become compacted over thousands of years, it can be used to make various boozes pretty damn tasty.

You don’t need to descend on Scotland to source a little peat smoke for your spirits. Indeed, peatlands have been identified in at least 175 countries and make up 3% of the entire world’s land space (that’s 1.5 million square miles, FYI).

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Categories : Features
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Burns Night poetry competition – win a bottle of Robert Burns single malt!

Burns Night poetry competition

Friday 25th January is Burns Night and to celebrate Scotland’s bard we are doing something a little different, a poetry competition!

Robbie Burns was not only Scotland’s greatest poet but he was also famously keen on Scotland’s greatest export, Tunnock’s Teacakes. Sorry, whisky! If Burns had the money, he drank Ferintosh from the Black Isle, which was considered the best whisky in Scotland. When it stopped distilling in 1784, Burns wrote a poem: “Ferintosh! O sadly lost! Scotland lament frae coast to coast….” Though a lowlander, he was not very keen on Lowland whiskies, referring to them as “rascally liquor”. Perhaps though, Burns’s most famous pronouncement was: “Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither! Take aff your dram!” And who can argue with that?

So to celebrate Burns and Scotch whisky, Master of Malt is proud to announce a poetry competition. All you have to do is write a poem about whisky. It’s as simple as that. It could be a sonnet, a haiku, a limerick, or, if you have the time, an epic like ‘Paradise Lost’. You could even write it in the style of Burns. It could be about a specific whisky (shall I compare thee to a Famous Grouse?), or could be about whisky in general. We only insist that your poem must be in English or Scots. The winner will be the one that we think is the best (making us laugh will probably help).
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Categories : Competitions
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Move over, US! British distillers set their sights on rye whisky

It’s arguably the most punk rock cereal of all time, and now rye is causing anarchy in the UK. Here, MoM chats with a handful of British distillers who have managed to tame whisky’s most rebellious grain…

For at least as long anyone reading this has been alive, rye-heavy mash bills have been the domain of US producers. Here in the UK, we’re a nation of single malt lovers – we always have been – but lately, British distillers are increasingly turning their attention to the bad boy of the crop world.

“Rye is gritty, real, and a bit punk,” says Cory Mason, master distiller at The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD), which has focused on rye since it opened its doors back in July 2017. “As a comparison, I’ve always seen single malt as a Cognac, and rye more as an Armagnac, rough around the edges, a bit more hardcore, but still a stunning product in its own right.”

The question perhaps is not ‘why rye?’, but ‘why now?’. Mason highlights growing interest and demand for craft spirits, which he believes is prompting “a real willingness to step outside of traditional UK and European categories”. Specifically, aged rye whisky.

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Categories : Features
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The Nightcap: 11 January

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last Nightcap way back in 2018.

Cast your mind back to New Year’s Eve, we know it seems like a long time ago, Adam came up with some top tips to drink on the night. Between Christmas and New Year, we rounded up our most-read stories of 2018, and looked at Glenkinchie’s exciting plans to become a top tourist destination. Then as January began, Annie fell in love with grain whisky and learned how your other senses affect how you taste. Adam produced a list of mouthwateringly-refreshing drinks and got all seasonal with winter-y botanicals. Kristy peered into her crystal ball (yes, she really has a crystal ball) to see what we’ll be drinking in the next few years and spoke to some bigwigs at Johnnie Walker about the future of whisky. And finally, Henry put in a plea for fortified wines, introduced a new regular feature, Cocktail of the Week, and got all bitter and twisted over amari. See what we mean about bumper edition?

And that’s not all. We had our first Dram Club of 2019 and announced a competition to win a VIP trip to Ardbeg!

Such content. Now we can’t hold back the tide of news any longer. Here it comes!

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Categories : News
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What’s going on with whisky, according to three Johnnie Walker execs

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their take on the fortunes of Scotch whisky, from the accessibility of Scotch to that ‘B’ word…

“The world of whiskies is fascinating – not only because we work in it,” said Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of Scotch and Reserve Brands at Diageo, as she opened the first Johnnie Walker flagship store last November. “We see a whisky renaissance, truly, globally.”

When someone like Diezhandino gives her assessment on the state of Scotch, you sit up and listen. And it’s far from a throwaway sentiment: Scotch whisky exports soared by 8.9% in volume terms to reach £4.36 billion in 2017 (the latest figures currently available), and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. The number of distilleries in Scotland is at a record level (the Scotch Whisky Association reckons there are now 128 in the country, the most since 1945). It really does look like boom time for whisky!

But challenges persist, especially around accessibility. Too many people still think whisky isn’t for them. What’s being done to roll out the metaphoric red carpet and welcome in new drinkers? Why are people starting to explore the category? And should we collectively be worried about the impact of things like Brexit? I commandeered Diezhandino, as well as Duncan Elliott, Johnnie Walker global marketing and innovation director, and Greg Klingaman, global head of retail and strategic partnerships, to get their take on the current state of Scotch.

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Categories : Features
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Cocktail of the Week: the Brooklyn

The Brooklyn

Introducing a new Master of Malt blog series (trumpets sound): every Wednesday we will present our cocktail of the week. It might be a new serve from a swanky bar or something more familiar. First up, we have a forgotten classic from the golden age of cocktails: the Brooklyn!

You’ve probably had a Manhattan, and maybe a Bronx. But did you know that there are cocktails named after other boroughs of New York City, the Queens and the Brooklyn*?

The Brooklyn was invented around the beginning of the 20th century. It is first mentioned in J.A. Grohusko 1908 bartender’s handbook, Jack’s Manual. The Brooklyn is part of the great family of whiskey-based cocktails that includes the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac and, of course, the Manhattan. But whereas the Manhattan is made from ingredients that most cocktail enthusiasts will have in their cabinets, the Brooklyn requires more specialist kit. The secret ingredient is Amer Picon, a bitter French drink made with gentian, quinine and oranges.

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Categories : We're drinking...
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That’s amaro! The best and bitterest liqueurs from Italy and beyond.

Italian bitter liqueurs

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs which are madly fashionable among the cocktail cognoscenti. No wonder, as they make versatile mixers as well as being delicious on their own.

Italians love bitterness. You can taste it in the coffee, in the wine (there’s a Puglian grape called negroamaro – black and bitter) and, most notably, in a class of liqueurs called amari, meaning ‘bitter’. They are made all over the peninsula by steeping herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables in alcohol, then sweetening and diluting the concoction. The best known is Campari but each part of Italy has its own amaro, like Fernet Branca from Milan, or Amaro Montenegro from Bologna. These brands have their roots in the 19th century, but Italian families and monasteries have been making versions for much longer.

Until recently, they were seen as a bit old-fashioned, the sort of things drunk by old men in cafes alongside an espresso. But in recent years they have become fashionable with bartenders all over the world. This has inspired people outside Italy to make their own. There are now a number of boutique producers in America and Britain, and even specialist amari bars like Amor y Amargo in New York.

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The best January refreshments!

The best January refreshments

The annual season of overindulgence has ended. You’re probably in need of some good refreshment. These fab tipples ought to do the trick.

It’s time to face up to facts. We overdid it last festive season. Again. There’s no point denying it. We spent most of December non-stop consuming. We put away more pigs in blankets than a fairytale wolf. Our plates were more potato than ceramic. Cheese boards and selection boxes trembled in our wake. It was the best of times. But it could never last.

Now we need some refreshment. To swap indulgence for invigoration. The kind of booze we treat ourselves to is a fine place to start. So, feast your eyes upon these fresh and fun tipples, a list of drinks we think make up some of the best January refreshments around!

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The winners of the VIP trip to The Ardbeg Distillery are…

VIP trip to The Ardbeg Distillery

Three individuals will soon gaze upon the breathtaking views from the Seaview Cottage. The warmth and smell of peat bonfires filling their noses. They are the victors. Our competition has concluded and a VIP trip to Ardbeg Distillery is their prize!

Islay. Ardbeg Distillery. Distillery tours. Tastings. An enhanced Ardbeg activity. Two nights’ accommodation at the distillery with meals and more. All of this awaits the lucky three victors (and their plus-ones).

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Categories : Competitions
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How sound affects flavour… with Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool

How does your environment alter what you choose to drink, without you even knowing it? This is what happened when sensory experts from the University of London’s Centre for the Study of the Senses gave MoM a taste of sonic seasoning (try saying that five times fast…).

We tend to view our senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste – as separate entities, don’t we? We think that what you touch, for example, can’t possibly have much influence on what you taste.

Turns out we aren’t giving biology enough credit, as we discovered throughout the course of an evening hosted by Silent Pool in partnership with British philosopher Barry Smith, director of the at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University of London and co-director for the Centre for the Study of the Senses (rather cleverly shortened to CesSes).

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