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Master of Malt Blog

Category: Features

Eight category defying spirit drinks

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight…

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight bottlings that colour just outside of the lines of traditional category boundaries…

It’s easier to explain spirit drinks by highlighting what they aren’t, rather than list all the potential things they could be. Spirit drinks are alcoholic beverages that fall outside of classic category boundaries. This could be for a number of reasons, i.e. the ABV is too low, the liquid is too young, the category has a geographic indication (which means production is tied to a specific region or country) and so on and so forth. 

Where once this might be seen as a detractor – most regulations are, after all, devised as a commitment to preserving the quality of the spirit – today, experimental producers are using the term as a means to deviate, albeit slightly, from the trappings of a given category. Below, you’ll find eight spirits that err on the side of ambiguity, and are no less delicious for daring to do so.

Martell Blue Swift

The oldest of the big four Cognac houses, Martell, launched Cognac-based spirit drink Blue Swift back in 2018. The bottling, which sees its VSOP Cognac finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks, celebrates the brand’s historic ties with the US – Martell became the first house to ship its barrels to America in 1783. Combine Blue Swift, sugar syrup, Peychaud’s bitters and Pernod Absinthe to make a top notch Sazerac.

Distillerie de Paris Agave Spirit Drink

The first distillery to open in France’s capital city in more than a century, Distillerie de Paris has released more than 90 unique and unorthodox spirits, including this non-Tequila, non-mezcal agave spirit drink, made with agave nectar from Mexico. J’adore. Sip neat, stir into a Tommy’s, or go rogue with an agave twist on a Negroni  – whatever floats your boat.

Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum Spirit Drink

Even the most dedicated rum drinker will admit that the category, while compelling, is hardly known for its conservative regulations. And yet, this spiced Bacardi bottling still doesn’t fit the bill. How so? It’s all in the ABV – at 35%, Oakheart isn’t boozy enough to be called rum, but that’s no barrier to a cracking Cuba Libre. Some of the rums within have been matured in ex-bourbon oak casks, giving inviting brown sugar, honey and burnt vanilla notes.

Luxlo

Luxlo Spirit

At first glance, herbaceous Luxlo is a gin in every conceivable way. Juniper-led? Check. Plenty of botanicals? Check. Pairs perfectly with tonic? Check. ABV? Ah, right – at 20%, it’s a lower-alcohol alternative to traditional gin styles. Sub your full-strength favourite for Luxlo in any gin tipple (though you can’t go wrong with a classic G&T).

Absolut Extrakt No.1

Billed as a modern interpretation of traditional Swedish “snaps”, Extrakt sees Absolut’s signature spirit combined with cardamom and a few secret ingredients. Since it’s no longer vodka and lacks the sugar content to be considered an herbal liqueur, it’s eligible for this list.

Ketel One Botanical Peach & Orange

To make this delectable Peach & Orange creation, the team at Ketel One redistilled their signature spirit and infused it with white peaches and orange blossom – bringing vodka and botanicals together in a category-defying 30% ABV bottling. Serve spritz-style in a wine glass, topped with soda water.

Whyte & Mackay Light

While Scotch whisky and sherry has long been a match made in heaven, now Whyte & Mackay has taken the concept one step further with its 21.5% ABV Light bottling, which sees the two blended together before marrying in former sherry casks and bourbon barrels. Enjoy neat, over ice, or stirred into your favourite mixer. Lovely stuff.

Nc’nean Botanical Spirit

Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery Nc’nean redistilled its light, fruity new make with 10 botanicals – including juniper, coriander, sorrel, heather, and bog myrtle – to create, well… Not whisky, not gin, but in our humble opinion something altogether more special. Pair with tonic and a dash of Angostura bitters, then garnish with a slice of grapefruit.

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Five modern twists on traditional spirits

As some pioneering producers peer into the future for creative inspiration, others have chosen to look to the past, revisiting beloved booze categories favoured by previous generations. We look at…

As some pioneering producers peer into the future for creative inspiration, others have chosen to look to the past, revisiting beloved booze categories favoured by previous generations. We look at five traditional spirits bottlings that have been reloaded for the modern palate…

Whether it’s through reviving regional ingredients or resurrecting long-lost production practices, the spirits industry certainly enjoys indulging in a little nostalgia now and then. Perhaps because it’s a visceral display of human ingenuity that allows us to marvel at how strikingly different our world is now – and how far we’ve come since the dawn of distilling. Or, maybe we’re just pretty fascinated by old stuff. Whatever it is, all the innovation going on in the drinks industry has always been underpinned with a sense of reverence for the past.

However, humans are fickle and trends are cyclical, so we’re lucky that a handful of producers have been busy reimagining traditional spirits for our modern drinking preferences. Through them, the likes of absinthe, brandy, genever, and more, have been presented a path to the future. You might scoff at the idea of, say, brandy being a forgotten spirit, but without a little producer ingenuity and inventiveness, such categories are destined to continue their slow retreat from the back bar before they’re inevitably condemned to the history books. Without further adieu, we present five contemporary twists on traditional spirits…

Bobby's Schiedam Jenever

Bobby’s Schiedam Jenever

Another cocktail hero lost in time, genever fell out of favour in the early 20th century when light, bright drinks became the order du jour. It was a blow that gin’s malty cousin never quite recovered from, but fast-forward to today’s cocktail renaissance, and bartenders are slowly rediscovering the unique flavour profile of ye olde ‘Dutch Courage’. Made in the Netherlands, the veritable birthplace of genever, Bobby’s Schiedam Jenever contains a blend of Indonesian spices – including cubeb pepper, lemongrass and cardamom – that have been infused in traditional malt wine. A truly fresh take on a timeless classic that pairs perfectly with tonic.

Bertoux Brandy

Bertoux Brandy

Once the cocktail world’s darling, brandy was forced to retire from the back bar after the phylloxera outbreak devastated vineyards in the late 1800s. Now Bertoux Brandy co-creators Jeff Bell, from New York bar Please Don’t Tell, and Thomas Pastuszak, sommelier at The Nomad trio of hotels, hope to return the spirit to its fabulous former glory. A blend of pot-distilled Californian brandies aged for three to seven years in French and American oak, Bertoux seeks to pave the way for a brand new generation of brandy-based cocktails (and, of course, reinvigorate the classics that made the spirit so beloved in the first place). Sidecar, anyone?

Ballykeefe poitin

Ballykeefe Poitín

It’s taken more than 20 years for distilleries to embrace Ireland’s original ‘illegal’ spirit after the ban was lifted back in 1997, but poitín is making a comeback. Notorious for its potency, today the spirit still carries an ABV of anywhere between 40 and 90% – such is the magic of what was once known as Irish moonshine. The team behind eco-friendly County Kilkenny spirits producer Ballykeefe sought to encapsulate this rebellious essence and repurpose it for a contemporary audience (that’s you and me), and we think they’ve done a rather stunning job. Bottled at a palatable 40% ABV, serve Ballykeefe Poitín long, with plenty of ice and lashings of ginger ale.

Copper & Kings Absinthe

Copper & Kings Absinthe Alembic Blanche

In true Copper & Kings style, the Kentucky-based producer has given the classic Swiss absinthe recipe a delightful American overhaul. Traditional botanicals like wormwood, anis and fennel macerate in Muscat low wine for around 18 hours before undergoing a double distillation in alembic copper pot stills and bottled at a reasonable 65% ABV (no green fairies to be found here, thanks). The resulting liquid makes a cracking Absinthe Julep – all you need is crushed ice, simple syrup and mint. The team has also created an barrel-aged iteration, pictured above, that has been lovingly matured in ex-wine and ex-brandy casks.

Avallen Calvados

Avallen Calvados

Made in Normandy according to some rather strict regulations, brandy’s hipster cousin, Calvados, is also enjoying a revival. Sharing a passion for traditional spirits and sustainable products, Avallen co-founders Tim Etherington-Judge and Stephanie Jordan sought to create the most eco-friendly spirit they could. Described as fresh, fruity and apple-forward, the resulting bottling, made at Domaine du Coquerel, has injected new life into the languishing category. Try pairing with tonic and plenty of ice or alternatively get super-creative with a Calvados Sour.

 

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Christopher Hayman, a life in gin

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week…

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week to talk past, present and future of gin.

The Hayman family are gin royalty. Christopher Hayman is a fourth generation distiller, great grandson of James Burrough (the founder of Beefeater Gin.) Hayman himself has been distilling since 1969 but it was only in 2004 that the name ‘Hayman’s’ appeared on a bottle of gin. Since then, the family business, both Hayman’s children, James and Miranda are involved, has gone from strength to strength. The firm moved to a new distillery in Balham in south London in 2018 and are rarely out of the gin news with its ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign and innovative products like Small Gin. To celebrate Hayman senior’s 50 years in the business, a 50% ABV Rare Cut London Dry Gin will be released shortly. Then on Friday, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week, before he knew about the honour, to discuss 50 years in gin. 

Christopher Hayman next to Marjorie, the still named after his late mother

Master of Malt: In what ways has gin changed since you began distilling in 1969?

Christopher Hayman: I think one of the major changes is that back in the seventies gin was very much a lifestyle drink. Whereas today, which I’m delighted about, people actually want to understand the provenance and the authenticity of the gin you’re making, they want to know where the spirit is from, what grains are used in the spirit, where the botanicals come from, and how you make it. When I first joined the trade there were only a handful of brands where today, thanks to the recent gin craze, we’ve had hundreds of brands! But I think the main thing is the actual interest in gin and the renaissance in gin and people’s deep interest in how gin is made. 

MoM: When did you start to notice a change, that people are suddenly a lot more interested than they were?

CH: I think probably in the last ten to 12 years. It’s different in different markets but in the UK it’s around that time when people started to show an interest. And I think also with bartenders, vodka had been very strong back in the 1990s and I think gin was sleepy but still there, a little bit forgotten. And people suddenly, particularly bartenders, suddenly thought ‘actually, gin is quite an interesting flavour and quality’ and started to use it. So for them, for some bartenders, it’s been a new ingredient you might say! 

MoM: And do you think the boom in gin is slowing down or coming to an end? I mean it’s been predicted for a while…

CH: That’s something I’ve been asked so many times! I’ve just been to the Bar Convent Berlin and lots of people were asking that… My own feeling is that we’ve had incredibly strong growth in the last few years, at some stage or another it’s going to calm down and the rate of growth will slow down. I mean it’s very much a vibrant and thriving category at the moment but I’m sure it will calm down. 

MoM: Why did you launch the ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign?

CH: As a family we’re very committed to classic gin. And I think at that time, it’s a while ago now, we were very concerned that it was losing a little bit of its identity. And as a family we take a long term view and we’re absolutely passionate that the gin category retains its sort of status, not only today but in 15, 20 years time. We were just very concerned that gin retains its respect as a category and people understand what gin is and don’t get confused by some modern gin products.

We are family: Christopher Hayman with his children, James and Miranda

MoM: Do you think the category might need more regulation or more stricter definitions?

CH: That’s a lovely question! Sadly, my own opinion is that it’s a pity that gin wasn’t properly regulated back after the Second World War. Whisky, Scotch whisky did so. I mean there are regulations in operation in the UK and the EU and different ones around the world. I would love to see stronger regulation as such. I mean it is tightening up, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not as strong as I would like it to be. 

MoM: Is it important to you to be making a London dry gin in London?

CH: Very much so. That’s where my great grandfather started and he was very much a pioneer of London dry gin and he developed a two-day process for making our London Dry Gin, which we still use today. And so to us London is the natural home of gin and that’s why we want our gin to be distilled in London. And I often say if my great grandfather walked into our distillery today he would be so pleased to see we were still using his two-day process and maybe if we gave him a sample of our gin he would say ‘hm, that’s my gin!’ 

MoM: Can you tell me just a little bit more about this two-day process? 

CH: We only use English wheat neutral spirit, so we put that into our copper stills. We only use ten botanicals as a family and we put in our recipe, and allow it to steep overnight which allows the alcohol to start extracting some of the flavours from the various botanicals. And then after a day we do a normal distillation. We have tried doing it on the one day just for an experiment but it doesn’t produce the quality or the fuller flavour that we’re looking for in our London Dry. 

MoM: And tell me about this new gin you’re doing, the Rare Cut (coming soon to MoM, check New Arrivals page)?

CH: Rare Cut was thought up by Miranda and James. They said ‘what can we do to celebrate dad’s 50 years in the gin trade?’ And then had a good think about it and so they came up with the idea. It was a little bit of a secret, they decided to produce a London dry, cutting it at 50% rather than at other strength, and don’t ask me how they came up with the name of ‘Rare Cut’ I’m not sure I’m meant to be rare but 50 years is a rarity these days! I was in Canada with James a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the first times I’d tasted Rare Cut and I had it with a Rare Cut Martini, it was so good I had to have a second! 

Hayman's Small Gin and Tonic

Small gin, big flavour

MoM: Who came up with the idea for Small Gin? I thought that was very clever.

CH: It came up through the team, quite honestly. I don’t think it was only one person. We’ve obviously been very aware of what’s going in the lower, no alcohol sector of the market and a number of people have tried to produce a no alcohol ‘spirits’. And this germ of an idea came and we developed it. So it’s had a very interesting response in the trade. Very positive. Two of three people have said to me it’s one of the most exciting innovations in the gin trade for many years it means that you can get the taste of a full gin and tonic with 80% less alcohol and only 15 calories in the gin serve. So it’s got a huge amount of interest and once people understand how it works and we’ve done many comparison tastings and very few people can tell the difference between a regular strength gin and tonic and a Hayman’s Small Gin and tonic. 

MoM: Then finally I just wanted to ask about the new distillery in Balham. Has it become something of a tourist attraction?

CH: I think the answer is yes. We’re getting about 250 visitors a week. We do tours just about every day of the week and it’s great when you see on Trip Advisor that for London we’re number 20 and up with the Big Bens and the Buckingham Palaces of this world. Not only do we have them but we have a lot of trade visitors as well, as you can imagine. So the distillery, besides distilling all our gins, is pretty busy with business of one sort of another. And to celebrate my 50 years in the trade we had a special dinner in the distillery last Thursday evening, I had about 20 people, family, people I’ve known during the 50 years in my trade and had some lovely thank you letters and so on, so there wasn’t a better place to celebrate your 50 years in the gin trade. 

Thank you Christopher, and congratulations on your Lifetime Achievement Award!

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Five minutes with… Alex Wolpert, founder of East London Liquor Company  

East London Liquor Company has graced our shelves with a trifecta of fascinating new whisky releases, including the distillery’s very first single malt – cause for celebration if ever we’ve…

East London Liquor Company has graced our shelves with a trifecta of fascinating new whisky releases, including the distillery’s very first single malt – cause for celebration if ever we’ve heard one. As we blow up the balloons and scatter the confetti, founder Alex Wolpert talks us through the tasty trio…

Those already familiar with East London Liquor Company’s spirits-making philosophy will know they don’t do things by halves. These are the people who, when presented with the opportunity to release the city’s first distilled whisky in more than 100 years, released a London rye made in a combination of pot and column stills and matured in three different cask types. Whether it’s ageing gin in Moscatel casks or distilling 100% English-grown Chardonnay brandy, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Wolpert and his team.

The east London-based distillery has just launched three new whiskies, each as compelling as the last. The first, East London Single Malt Whisky, is double pot-distilled and matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks from California’s Sonoma Distilling Company and ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky for a minimum of three years. Bottled at 47% ABV, given tasting notes include ‘peanut butter, bitter almond and biscuits, developing into a vegetal finish of green tomatoes and light tar, with a delicate and slightly oily mouthfeel’. 

Alex Wolpert looking happy in his distillery, and with good reason

There’s also a fresh batch of London Rye, matured first for a year in virgin oak before being rested in ex-Sonoma and Kentucky Bourbon casks for two years, with six months’ maturation in an ex-peated cask before it was finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez. Another 47% beauty, this bottling boasts ‘a big, umami hit of leather, peat, bouillon, porridge and peanut butter on the palate, with a chewy mouthfeel, wrapping up with notes of candied ginger and light tar to finish’. 

The third and final release goes by the name of ELx Sonoma, a blended whisky made in collaboration with Sonoma’s owner and whisky maker Adam Spiegel. Bottled at 45.5% ABV, the liquid contains London Rye whiskies aged in a variety of casks (including ex-peated, Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks, as well as ELLC’s own barrel-aged gin barrels) along with Spiegel’s own blend of Sonoma bourbons. Here, spice and fruit lead on the palate, with notes of black peppercorn, dried apricots, candied cherries, corn silk and oatmeal.

Thirsty for more details, we called ELLC’s Wolpert for a chinwag. Here’s what he had to say…

Master of Malt: You’ve just released three brand new expressions, including your very first single malt whisky. Talk us through that project…

Alex Wolpert: From our point of view, it’s always been about experimentation – we never set out specifically to make single malt. Our London Rye last year was about, ‘how can we celebrate rye as a grain? How can we get that into a whisky that showcases us as a distillery? How do we find our character as a whisky producer?’. And at the same time we were – and are still – experimenting with single malt, so Andy Mooney, who is responsible for our whisky production, has really taken this approach to its limits. You’ve got extra pale malted barley, double pot distilled and matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks. We talk about it being a balance between nutty bitterness, a sweet, fragrant note, and then a vegetalness which really makes it incredibly moreish. It’s really special. But obviously I’m completely biased. 

The three new whiskies. We can’t wait (but we’ll have to because they’re not here yet)

MoM: It’s been a year since you launched London Rye. How was it received by drinks aficionados? What do the barrel finishes in the new bottling bring to the spirit?

AW: It went better than we could ever have dreamt. We allocated a couple of bottles to 40 of our key accounts, I hand-delivered the London accounts on the Friday and by the Monday most of them were out. It was really rewarding to see that not only were people prepared to take the juice and try it, but actually people came to the venues, asked for it by name and it sold. The whole production team were really very happy and it gave everyone a big spring in their step in terms of how we progress and what we work on. The new bottling feels like a development of what we did last year and it’s really tasty – that peated note adds to the fruity flavours of the Pedro Ximénez in such an incredible way.

MoM: You guys have collaborated with Sonoma Distilling Company in the past – could you talk about your relationship with them and the creative process behind ELx Sonoma?

AW: We’ve been importing Adam’s rye, bourbon and wheated whiskey for almost four years now. I never set out to have an import arm, I guess it was driven by finding amazing liquid, and his stuff is truly exceptional. Earlier this year I was out in California, I guess I had a bit of our liquid with me, he had a little bit of his and we just thought, why not see what might happen? In the end we made a few different samples, developing it and having conversations about ABV and blending. To end up with a liquid on this level was slightly unexpected, it’s amazing. What I love is that it proves we’re in pursuit of great liquid. If Adam’s high-rye bourbon adds something to what we’re doing, then why shouldn’t we bring them together? There’s a danger in any category that people have tunnel-vision, so it’s lovely to break that up and say, ‘We want to elevate rye – what better way to do that than to work with other great rye producers?’. Plus, Adam’s a lovely guy and we get along well, so any excuse to sit down with him and drink whisky is always gratefully received.

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

Team East London Liquor Company with founder Alex Wolpert second from right

MoM: When you first opened the distillery, your aim was to “produce spirits that are accessible in flavour and price, while being of the highest quality”. So far, are you happy that you’ve achieved what you set out to do?

AW: Absolutely, yes. Nothing leaves the building without us collectively saying, ‘This is really good’.  And for every new release, there’s so much in the background that isn’t ready or doesn’t quite work. So much work goes into finessing every release and making sure it’s of that standard. At the same time, sometimes you have these moments of panic where you think you’re in a big echo chamber – you release something, like our Grape Scott, where you think, ‘Will people like this? Does this work?’. And then you get great feedback and it acts as a sense check. So I’m really excited to hear what people think about these whiskies. Democratising good booze is always going to be at the forefront of what we do, it really informs how we develop and grow as a business, so that’s always going to be what we come back to.

MoM: ELLC’s momentum is super inspiring – what’s the distillery’s next goal?

AW: I feel immensely privileged, we’ve come so far and the team is a real testament to that. We’ve got such an incredible team who make it happen – without amazing product, we’re nothing. I guess our next goal is getting more whisky out and growing our gin footprint. We don’t call ourselves craft, but in an environment where ‘craft’ is perceived as justifying a £35 price tag for a bottle of gin, we want to get more of our £21.50 gin into people’s cupboards so they realise that price tag doesn’t equate to quality. We’re not shy about experimenting, so there will be some new releases on the horizon. It might be a bit unfair to say that without saying what will come, but when we think they’re ready, they’ll get airtime. We’re not standing still, and we’re not shy of pushing the envelope and developing what we do. 

These fabulous whiskies should be arriving at the end of October, keep an eye on our new arrivals page.

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Ce n’est pas un Martini

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar. Stepping into the bar of this St. James…

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar.

Stepping into the bar of this St. James hotel feels like stepping back in time. Not way back, not like centuries. More like decades. It has a bit of ‘50s feel at best. ‘80s at its worst. The carpet is so plush one does not walk as much as wade through the room. It’s eerily quiet, despite the two elderly men in a corner. 

Table for three, I whisper. Right this way sir, says the white-jacketed man. Why do they all wear these jackets? I ponder. It’s somewhere between a uniform and a suit of armour. They all look like they’re carrying concealed weapons. 

I reach my table through the heavy silence, and see that I am the first arrival in the back room which opens only for evening service. I stand to remove my raincoat. It’s been one of those awkward autumn days. The rain falls but the temperature is still high. I can’t tell if I’m sweating or damp from the rain. Both, probably. Double moisture to be soaked up by the depth of fabric underfoot.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, too scruffy for some London bars

“Excuse me, sir”, I’m interrupted. “But we do not allow tee shirts in here”.

“It’s boiling in here”, I protest.

“I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to keep your jacket on.”

I look incredulously around the empty room, wondering who I could possibly be offended by my wearing of a tee shirt. Perhaps the walls are of a certain sensibility, the chairs perhaps? No, it’s definitely the carpet. That bastard mangrove of a carpet hates the sight of flesh.

I have no choice but to relent. I’m meeting two friends, L & C, here for the signature Martini. Apparently nowhere does them quite like here. I’ve been before. I hadn’t rushed back, but the gents insisted. C’s gin is on the menu and he’s quite proud. The damp raincoat stays on. 

Apparently this where Ian Fleming came to write some of his Bond novels and allegedly create the Vesper cocktail a shaken, gin heavy Martini with a pointless measure of vodka. No shaken martinis are any good. The only decent thing about that drink is the Kina Lillet, and you can’t even get that anymore. Nevertheless, here we are, about to spend £20 a pop on the speciality of the house. 

The Vesper Martini, shaken, not stirred

When they arrive we order said Martinis. A generous amount of time later, a rickety wooden trolley is lugged through the carpet. On board are a few enormous frozen Martini glasses. The kind that feel like danger in the hand. We are asked how we like ours. A request for a dry Martini results in a few dashes of house vermouth bounced into the glass, before being discarded ceremoniously onto the carpet. Right, so I can’t wear tee shirt but you can playfully toss vermouth onto the floor? In fairness, I bet you could empty an entire bottle onto this spongy floor without so much as a damp patch. 

The quantities of frozen gin poured directly into the glass are colossal. No shaking here, that’s for damn sure. What an imagination that Fleming chap must have had then. I mean, who else could have dreamed up a Scotch-swilling, colonialist, oft-racist, mass-murderer in this place? I look back towards the bar where now a few elderly, straight-backed chaps in striped suits have gathered and are proudly guffawing.

After ten minutes drinking we still haven’t emptied our glasses and the gin is now warm. It’s a grin and bear it moment to finish. We order another, or rather the first bucket of gin does. After two we are cut off. I’ve heard stories of two gin ambassadors coming here and finishing six of these mammoth Martinis on a few occasions. That seems unbelievable. I know I’d be my unwelcome self after that sort of session. I’d probably be requesting Meatloaf on the bar stereo. The embarrassment would linger. But then again, maybe that’s why neither of those chaps live in London anymore. 

As we leave, I can understand the two Martini limit. The afternoon is still blindingly bright, it’s still raining, and, in the lingo of the location, we are a bit spiffy. I suggest a beer to bring us back to reality. Drinks here are indeed worthy of their notoriety. Only it’s not really a Martini, is it?

*Who following the Charge of Light Brigade said: “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre, c‘est de la folie” – “It’s magnificent but it’s not war, it’s madness.”

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.

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Vintage Cognac masterclass with Eric Forget from Hine

Where you age spirits can make a huge difference to the finished product. To learn more, we spent a morning with Eric Forget from Hine, trying vintage Cognacs, some matured…

Where you age spirits can make a huge difference to the finished product. To learn more, we spent a morning with Eric Forget from Hine, trying vintage Cognacs, some matured in the warmth of France, others in cold grey England. Yeah, it’s a tough life.

The results are in from the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC): while global Cognac sales are doing very nicely thank you, the shocking news is that Europeans and, more particularly, the British just aren’t drinking enough of the stuff. What are you playing at? It wasn’t always this way, Cognac as we know it was largely created for the British market, often by British and Irish merchants. Perhaps the most British of all the Cognac houses is Hine, which was founded in the 18th century by a Dorset lad called Thomas Hine.

Until recently, a descendant, Bernard Hine, was still involved with the company (now part of French drinks group EDV SAS) but he has stepped down due to ill health.  Hine still specialises in a peculiarly British style of Cognac called early-landed. This dates back to when brandy was shipped in cask to Bristol and connoisseurs noticed how it aged differently to the French-matured product. Hine now matures these special Cognacs at Glenfarclas in Scotland (in its most humid warehouse) which then have to be shipped back to France for bottling (damned bureaucracy). Earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to meet with Eric Forget, cellarmaster at the company since 1999, for a comparative tasting of Bristol-aged versus Jarnac-aged Cognacs, as well as the core range.

Eric Forget

Eric Forget deciding whether it’s good enough to be a vintage Cognac

Hine is famous for its pale, elegant style. Forget explained the philosophy: “everything is finesse, delicacy and fruitiness, no harshness or bitterness.” There’s a lot less wood influence, to achieve this, he doesn’t use Limousin oak which he thinks has aggressive tannins, “we use Normandy, Limoges or Paris oak, northern oak trees have a finer grain and less tannin.” 

Forget doesn’t want the wood to mask the fruit: “We want to keep terroir, floral flavours, and maintain balance for all products.” The fruit comes only from the Champagne region. Hine owns 120 hectares in Grande Champagne, “we are vine growers. We also purchase from other growers and distillers, the same people every year,” Forget told us. The company never buys in aged Cognac. Hine distills on the lees: “lees means you can age for a long time, they give it body,” he explained. 

99% of grapes in Hine Cognacs are Ugni Blanc. Forget is sceptical about other grape varieties: “the rest forget it, very susceptible to rot”. But he’s not averse to experimentation. New crosses with some American genes are being developed which have some of the character of Folle Blanche (one of the old pre-phylloxera Cognac grapes) but with more resistance.  According to Forget: “we might see something in seven to eight years. Cognac changes in time, if well-managed, why not? We are not conservative. There are lots of young people in industry. I am the only old person at Hine.” 

Hine HQ in Jarnac

Perhaps to butter us up a little, he praised the British taste in Cognac, where delicacy is prized. He was less complimentary about the American and Chinese markets: “They believe dark Cognac is better, big mistake!” Hine produces a brandy called Homage to Thomas Hine ; named after the company’s founder, it’s a tribute to the lighter style that was popular in 18th and 19th century Britain. “VSOPs are meant to be pale, 200 years ago Cognac was paler,” Forget told us. Homage is a blend of early-landed Cognac, “to give it finesse” and other lighter brandies. 

Homage is a blend, but Hine’s speciality is its vintage products. “Vintages are easy, just select the best and there’s nothing to do”, Forget joked. The differences between the Jarnac-aged brandies and the Bristol-aged products is marked; in 1984 Forget was pleased with the early-landed but “the Jarnac-aged one was not so good, so I blended it.” He gave us the 1983s to taste, the French one was peachy and floral whereas the English one was angular with flavours of gooseberries and English hedgerow flowers.

In 2015 Hine launched a completely new product called Bonneuil, which not only came from a single vintage, but a single vineyard in Grand Champagne. Such a thing was almost unheard of in Cognac. The idea was to sell it with less age so that it expresses the terroir more than the effects of ageing. The first vintage was the 2005, we tried the deliciously fruity 2008. In it’s delicacy and fragrance, Bonneuil might be the quintessential Hine product. 

Hine Homage, note not too dark colour

The company doesn’t produce vintages every year, only in special years, “like d’Yquem” said Forget, referring to the legendary Sauternes château. He decides after five years whether the brandy is good enough for vintage, “otherwise we blend it,” he said. As part of the commitment to delicacy, vintages are only kept in wood for around 20 years before being transferred to glass demi-johns. And Hine use zero boise in any products and no caramel in the vintage or Homage.

Forget talked us through the range with a twinkle in his eye and an honesty rare in the often over-hyped world of booze. He’s not averse to criticising Hine’s own products: he wasn’t so keen on the opulent 1975 we tried, the vintage was too high in sugar apparently and the style is not typically Hine (I rather liked it). The early-landed 1975 in contrast is lean and citric. He’s also candid about the trend for vintage Scotch whisky: “vintages for Scotch are just marketing. It’s nonsense.”

Hine’s number one market is now China but, according to Forget, “China is very difficult because they keep changing the rules.” This is followed by America, Russia and then the UK. Mainland Europe isn’t doing so well. Compared with whisky, demand for rare Cognacs isn’t so strong. This comparative lack of interest, however, means that beyond a few bling-tastic bottlings, Cognac is seriously undervalued. So it might be time to have a look, or don’t because it means there’s more for us.

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Master of Malt tastes… Midleton Very Rare 2019

Once again, those fab folks at Midleton Distillery have produced a spectacular blended whiskey in the Very Rare series. We were invited to Dublin to give it a taste… There…

Once again, those fab folks at Midleton Distillery have produced a spectacular blended whiskey in the Very Rare series. We were invited to Dublin to give it a taste…

There are certain annual releases that whiskey fans always mark on their calendars. Since 1984, The Midleton Very Rare series has been one of them. A creation of former Midleton master distiller Barry Crockett, it’s a collection of exceptional blends featuring liquid that is, as you’ve no doubt deduced by now, very rare.

What began as a passion project for Crockett has since become a matter of legacy for his successor Brian Nation, who was given the task of selecting the casks that make up each release in 2014. Nation often describes it as the pinnacle of Irish whiskey, and it’s no surprise that it’s the only regularly-produced bottling from Midleton that actually features the name of the famous distillery.

You can imagine how excited we were to try the 2019 edition at its launch at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. That excitement quickly turned to elation when we realised we would not be tasting one Midleton Very Rare bottling, but five. Nation had arranged a ‘Tasting Through the Decades’, which featured Midleton Very Rare 1984, the first expression released, Very Rare 1989, which turned 30 this year, Very Rare 1997, the year Nation joined Irish Distillers and Very Rare 2014, the first released with Nation as the master distiller.

Midleton Very Rare

It’s the 36th edition in the renowned and highly collectable range

Only once we had enjoyed a dram of each did we then taste the 2019 edition of Midleton Very Rare. What the taste through the decades demonstrated that while every bottling in the series is made from special single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys, each individual expression is markedly different from the last. Every year is a different story, a new revelation about the sheer quality of Midleton’s inventory and a personal statement from the master distiller. The only consistency is the quality.

So, what’s the story with Midleton Very Rare 2019? It’s a blend of whiskeys matured exclusively in lightly-charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels for between 13 and 34 years, making it the oldest collection of casks ever used to create a Midleton Very Rare. Nation described this as adding “a level of fruitiness you don’t tend to get from the other releases”. He also revealed that this year there were four or five iterations of the whiskey that were tested until he settled on the chosen blend before us, “you don’t normally get it right first time!” As usual, there won’t be much of it to go around, with Nation estimating there’s around 5000 cases of this edition. It’s notable that the number increases every year to cater for the demand.

The only question that remains is, how does this year’s dose of annual-awesomeness compare? First thing’s first, it’s delicious. But then, you already guessed that. Midleton Very Rare 2019 has an individual profile, like the other expressions, and there’s a raft of notes here that weren’t present in the other drams. Most notably tropical fruit, which Nation said is a result of the older casks. The genius of the blend, however, is that it doesn’t lose the distillery character, which is still present in every drop. It’s another sublime demonstration of what Midleton Distillery has to offer, and I’d happily fight each and every one of you for a bottle. Good thing it will be arriving at MoM Towers soon…

Midleton Very Rare

Midleton Very Rare 2019 Tasting Note:

Nose: Pot still spices – tannic oak, cinnamon and nutmeg – are straight out the block before they are tempered by creamy vanilla, rich toffee and plenty of ripe orchard fruit (green apple and Conference pear). A complex sweetness then builds underneath from muscovado sugar, tropical fruit in syrup and a touch of oak char.

Palate: More green apple, ginger root and just a flicker of tablet fudge sweetness, then sugary cereal and a prickle of oak spice before hints of pineapple and mango add another wave of tropical goodness. Charred vanilla oak also returns from the nose to provide the backdrop among a touch of creamy nuttiness.

Finish: An earthy element to the spice appears in the finish among more crisp, ripe and almost candied fruits and gentle tannins.

Overall: An artful, intriguing and well-integrated blend, the older casks have given this edition an almost rummy element (mostly tropical fruit), but its standout strength is the exceptional clarity of the distillery character that forms the core of the expression.

Midleton Very Rare

The 2019 Edition is a blend of whiskies matured lightly-charred ex-bourbon barrels between 13 and 34 years.

To partner the launch of Midleton Very Rare 2019, the brand announced that it has created an online members’ programme named the ‘1825 Room’, Made for discerning whiskey lovers to pay homage to Midleton Distillery’s influence on Irish distilling since its foundation in 1825, it will offer information and features about Midleton Very Rare. There’s also an exclusive online store that will have five rare vintages for sale from 2nd October for one month. “The new 1825 Room gives us a unique opportunity to offer rare releases, which we have acquired over time or released from our archives, to whiskey fans and collectors around the world,” explains Brendan Buckley, international marketing director at Irish Distillers.

Here’s where things get really interesting. To mark the new 1825 Room, Midleton has offered members the opportunity to purchase a bottle of the very first 1984 vintage at the price of £40 Irish punts, which equates to about £45 sterling or €50.80 now. As you can imagine, demand will be high, so purchasers will be selected through a ballot system. You can access the ‘1825 Room’ through midletonveryrare.com.

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Not whisky, not gin – an introduction to Nc’nean Aged Botanical Spirit

If you want to know what the future holds for Scotch whisky, look no further than Highlands distiller Nc’nean. We sat down with Annabel Thomas to chat about her latest…

If you want to know what the future holds for Scotch whisky, look no further than Highlands distiller Nc’nean. We sat down with Annabel Thomas to chat about her latest creation – a trio of cocktail-inspired aged botanical spirits – and unearth the story behind Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery…

“My mission when we founded Nc’nean* was twofold,” Thomas says, addressing the room at the distillery’s Aged Botanical Spirits launch. “One was around sustainability: to create a Scotch distillery that pioneered the very highest environmental standards to show what could be done in that area. The second was to bring some fresh thinking to the Scotch whisky industry, both in terms of the products we create and also the way we communicate and behave.”

The distillery was established in 2013 on the Morvern peninsula, after a life-changing trip to Islay prompted Thomas to take action. “There are lots of distilleries in a small space so it’s easy to do a quick recce,” she explains, “after a few tours, a theme emerged: we’re doing things the traditional way – the way they’ve always been done. I have no problem with that, tradition is the rock upon which Scotch as an industry has been built, but we also have to move with the times.”

Inside the Ncn’ean, sorry Nc’nean, Distillery

Building a distillery from the ground up meant the entire site could be engineered for sustainable production, from the biomass boilers that generate renewable energy to the waste products that feed local cows and fertilise the nearby land. That’s not to say it’s been a walk in the park. Far from it. “Getting a 40-ft by 60ft biomass boiler – that’s like two shipping containers stacked on top of each other – down a narrow single track road with bridges that go around corners, taking it off the lorry, and getting it into a barn, was one of the challenges,” she says.

Then there was the small matter of buying, processing and distilling organic barley. “We were told horror stories when we were thinking about doing it – that it would be hard to find or impossible to work with and give us terribly low yields, but it’s been absolutely fine,” Thomas says. “There are 10 organic malting barley farmers in Scotland and all of their harvest is collected together and malted for us by Muntons. They send us five tonnes a week.”

In 2018, Nc’nean released its inaugural Botanical Spirit, which sees its light, fruity new make redistilled with 10 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, sorrel, heather, and bog myrtle. The three new aged iterations that recently followed – which sees the liquid matured in bourbon, vermouth and Mondino casks – came about quite by chance. 

“I was chatting to a bartender in London about our Botanical Spirit, and he asked me if I’d ever thought about ageing it,” Thomas explains. “And the answer was no. Despite the fact we’ve got over 1,000 casks of whisky maturing in the warehouse, it hadn’t actually occurred to us. We had a little bit left over from the last batch that hadn’t yet been bottled, so we took one of the bourbon casks that we normally mature our whisky in, filled it with Botanical Spirit, and left it for four months to see what would happen.” 

The aged botanical spirits in all their glory

The resulting liquid was so delicious, they decided to experiment further using different casks. “That was where the cocktail link came in,” she continues, “we were trying to decide what barrels to start with and the cocktails that we like drinking the Botanical Spirit in seemed like a good place to start. Mondino, a German organic bitter liqueur, is a favourite pairing of ours, and they happen to do an aged variety so they had some casks. The Botanical Spirit also makes an amazing Martini, so we got a vermouth barrel. Each barrel brings out different aspects of the spirit, it’s quite fascinating to see.”

You’d forgive the team for resting on their laurels, but these products mark the beginning of what promises to be an exciting chapter for Nc’nean and also Scotch whisky. “We’ll have our first whisky out in June, so we are working very hard on that: designing the bottle, creating the recipe, all those things,” Thomas says. “It’s very exciting after what will have been seven years of work. We have some other ideas up our sleeves too, other products based on our new make. But they’re not very far progressed at the moment – just a twinkle in the eye.” 

*A little note – Nc’nean is the correct spelling, it was previously ‘Ncn’ean’ but apparently everyone found it too hard to pronounce, so the apostrophe has moved. If that’s still no help to you, it’s pronounced something like ‘nuck-nee-an.’

 

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Small distillers are the real losers in the EU/ US trade dispute

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been…

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been affected. Industry expert Ian Buxton looks into the rights and wrongs, winners and losers in the battle of the tariffs. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the price of some American whiskeys has been going up. And some craft whiskeys which we hear about on this side of the Pond seem unduly hard to find. What’s going on? 

It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Well, the Donald would blame someone else, of course, and he’s been quick to point the finger at Airbus Industries and the European Union. But he may have a point.

Just over a year or so ago the World Trade Organisation (WTO – an acronym you’ll hear a lot more frequently if the UK does indeed finally execute a no-deal Brexit) determined that EU aid to Airbus constituted an illegal subsidy that disadvantaged Boeing, its main competitor.  So, seeking to Make America Great Again and punish the EU, President Trump imposed stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

Rather than backing down, the EU retaliated with its own new tariffs, including a stinging 25% rate on American whiskies. As some cynical commentators observed, this may not have been unrelated to the fact that much US distilling takes place in the Southern states that tend to vote Republican.  Politics, eh – it’s a dirty game.

As a result, prices have risen and major European importers have cut back their orders. In fact, for the 12 months to July, US whiskey exports to the EU fell by a massive $160m as around one-fifth of the sales just dried up. The folks at Brown-Forman, who make around 60% of the US whiskey we drink, have been especially hard hit. We’re talking about Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Early Times – all fine products and justly popular. In their most recent financial results, Brown-Forman reckon they’ve lost around $125m in sales. Even for an industry giant that’s got to hurt. 

This dispute has been grumbling along for nearly 15 years but, under Trump, the American response has been increasingly robust. In fact, reports suggest his administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 100% on $1.8 billion worth of European spirits and wine, with potentially dire consequences for Scotch whisky and British gin (never mind Cognac; the French can look after themselves!)  The US distilling industry trade body DISCUS is urging restraint, fearing tit-for-tat European retaliation. “American whiskeys have become collateral damage,” said Chris Swonger, DISCUS’ head honcho.

major fire at Jim Beam

The big boys will probably be ok

Brown-Forman is big and profitable, it’ll get over it. It’s a rather larger problem for small craft distillers who add such variety to the scene, especially when they’ve invested in new bottles and packaging. Well, according to Mountain Laurel’s owner Herman Mihalich (they make Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, but his European distributor has stopped ordering) “we went from a marginally profitable business to breaking even.” Prior to the new tariffs, Europe accounted for around 10% of his sales but these dried up almost overnight.

That feels bad enough, but consider the plight of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Virginia, who have thousands of unfilled bottles just waiting for their tasty rye whiskey. What’s the problem: just fill ‘em up and sell them in your own backyard, you say. Well, there’s the rub – they can’t. Owner Scott Harris was all geared up for a European sales drive and, just ahead of the tariff spat, invested in 70cl bottles for Europe.  Sadly, they’re useless in the USA where the law says spirits must be sold in 75cl containers The difference is only the size of a mini but means a mountain of expensive glass that he can’t use.

As he told the Reuters news agency: “We had one distributor we signed a deal with. He just stopped returning our phone calls. We’ve been trying very hard to get into the UK and France, and we can’t get any distributor to talk to us right now.”

Well, as the poet would have it,
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

For you and me all this means little more than not getting our favourite craft bourbon or rye this Christmas, or having to pay more. For employees of US distilleries affected by this trade war, it could get worse – DISCUS are warning of thousands of job losses if the dispute continues. But I have a plan. As I note in the recently-released latest edition of my 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Canadian whiskies are a steal. You can thank me later.

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A lesson in blended whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub

If there are two things Ireland is exceptional at, it’s whiskey and hospitality. And when it comes to combining the two, nowhere on earth does it better. We squeezed into…

If there are two things Ireland is exceptional at, it’s whiskey and hospitality. And when it comes to combining the two, nowhere on earth does it better. We squeezed into London’s smallest Irish pub, tucked away in Islington-based neighbourhood bar Homeboy, where co-owner Aaron Wall gave us a masterclass on the Emerald Isle’s greatest exports…

You really, really ought to see it for yourself. With seating for just eight, Hop House 13 on tap, and its very own miniature snug, London’s smallest Irish pub is every bit as magical as it sounds. You’ll find it nestled in the back of Homeboy in Islington, which opened its doors back in December 2018 with one overarching mission: to become the home of modern Irish hospitality in London.

But Dublin-born co-owner Wall – who the bar is named after; his passion for his home country earning him the nickname ‘homeboy’ – has another, more ambitious mission up his sleeve. And to achieve it, he’s taking a fresh approach to the category. An approach that involves whiskey highballs.

“We want to make Irish whiskey exciting and fun, and for me, that starts with the blended Irish whiskey category,” he says. “There’s so much diversity there, the sky really is the limit. Irish whiskey was once the top-selling spirit in the world, and if it’s shown in the right light, marketed right, and brought to people’s attention in the right way, then it can be again.”

Homeboy

Homeboys Ciarán Smith and Aaron Wall

Homeboy’s new Irish Whiskey masterclass series brings the two together: combining convivial hospitality together with Wall’s enthusiasm for and extensive knowledge about the wider Irish whiskey category. After a welcome Guinness in the main bar, we’re led to the pub for a preview of the blended masterclass, which begins – from a historical perspective – pre-temperance, accompanied with a welcome tot of Tullamore D.E.W.

“Me and my business partner opened the bar up with the change in our pocket, and we couldn’t have all the whiskey we wanted at first – we could only have the whiskey that we could afford,” explains Wall. Much of that, he says, was blended Irish whiskey. “Having that conversation was fantastic, it gave a great foundation for where Irish whiskey is now and how it can build, in particular where these flavour profiles sit when it comes to cocktails.

“There are a million and one gins out these days – we decided when we opened the bar that we’d stock six and we’ve got 17 at the moment – but when I sit down with [brand owners] and say ‘tell me about your product, tell me why it’s better [in a cocktail] than another gin’, a lot of people don’t really know where to go with that conversation.”

Homeboy

Homeboy, London’s smallest Irish pub

Wall, who has tended the bar for years at London stalwarts London Cocktail Club and Callooh Callay, decided to take that approach with his Irish whiskey offering – exploring how each flavours pair with other ingredients and cocktails. Tullamore D.E.W., he says, suits drinks that might usually contain a medium-aged rum. “Drinks that can handle robust flavours, even down to coconut and pineapple, Coca-Cola. It doesn’t overpower the drink, it doesn’t cut through everything else, but isn’t overshadowed by it either.”

This attention to detail is reflected across the entire menu. Even Irish cocktail classics have been given a carefully-considered reboot. “People think your Irish coffee is such a basic drink, and it is at its essence, but it can be messed up so easily,” says Wall. “If you use espresso or instant coffee, or really good craft coffee in a drip coffee machine, the whiskey just cuts through.” Instead, the team combines commercially roasted coffee with Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey – “because it’s a bit punchier” – and a Demerara syrup, “which has all these biscuity notes and gives a lot of richness and body”.

To inject the fruiter flavours found in coffee from craft roasters, the team created their own Irish coffee bitters “made with a neutral grain spirit from the Teeling Distillery,” says Wall, “loads of spices, cacao, star anise but also orange peel, lemon peel, to give it a little bit of brightness”. The cream on top, he says, is whipped in very minimal batches. “Irish coffee shouldn’t be about eating through the cream to get to the coffee – it should be sipped through, like you would a pint of Guinness, I suppose. Good Guinness is like good coffee.”

Homeboy

The bar is home to rebooted classic Irish cocktails

You won’t find many stirred-down drinks on the menu at Homeboy. “Whiskey doesn’t get too many of those light, crisp drinks,” says Wall, who points to a drink on the menu called Emerald Collins. “We use Slaine Irish Whiskey because that Sherry cask finish brings out that sweetness from the American virgin oak casks, a little bit of Cynar to give it a bit of earthiness, a little bit of St Germain for floralness, lemon, a touch of sugar, and then it’s topped with soda,” he explains. “It’s just a great-tasting highball – Irish whiskey can live in so many different spaces.”

As we ricocheted through the past, present and future of Irish whiskey, it soon becomes clear why Wall’s industry peers have nicknamed him “the Irish ambassador”. The man is Irish hospitality in human form. He knows more about Irish whiskey than we could ever hope to know. And, perhaps more importantly, he’s excellent at sharing his expertise. As we depart, we’re handed an envelope containing, among other things, two teabags. They’re Barry’s, an Irish brand, he explains.

“About a year and a half ago I was back in Dublin, and myself and my father went out for a few pints,” says Wall. “In Ireland, when you get back from a night out, it’s more likely the kettle goes on than a bottle of whisky comes out, so we stayed up and had a couple of cups of tea. It was amazing to have that time with my dad and I wanted to give that opportunity to our guests, so we always give two teabags with every bill, so when you get home you can have a cup of tea and talk about the night you had. For me that night was special, he gave me the encouragement to [open Homeboy] and ended up coming over and helping us build the bar, so it’s been a massive journey.”

Homeboy

A fab Irish whiskey masterclass awaits!

The next Irish whiskey masterclasses will take place at Homeboy on 15 and 16 October and 12 and 13 November. For more information, visit the website.

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