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Master of Malt Blog

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Cocktail of the Week: The Dark ‘n Stormy

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we…

It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we delve into the cocktail’s history and show you how to make the perfect one, with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, naturally.

Cocktail history can be pretty hard to get to the bottom of. Think of all the competing stories about the origins of the Margarita. Mix tall stories with alcohol and you get a whole world of confusion. To be honest, with most cocktails, we don’t know for certain when they were invented, by whom, how and even why. The Dark ‘n Stormy is different as there’s actually a foundation date, 9 June 1980, that’s 40 years ago this week. This was the date that Gosling’s trademarked its signature cocktail. 

As Malcolm Gosling puts it: “”While in Europe, food and drink products can be granted Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication accreditation to stop them being appropriated, abused and misused, Bermuda has no such thing. With the popularity of Bermuda and the Dark ‘n Stormy® growing in the late ’70s, we felt it was vital that we started the process of protecting our heritage around this special drink.”

Gets our seal of approval, arff, arff

It’s been something of a mixed blessing for the firm ever since because on the plus point, it has its very own cocktail, no other rum brand has that. But at the same time, the family has to decide whether to send in the lawyers whenever someone advertises its cocktail with a different rum or creates a ‘Dark and Stormzy’ or suchlike. What would be in a Dark and Stormzy? The mind boggles.

Anyway, I digress. According to the press bumf, the name of the drinks comes from: “when an old salt observed that the rum floating on top of the ginger beer was the ‘colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under’”. Mmmm, well maybe, or perhaps it came from the timeless opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford: “it was a dark and stormy night.” A line that has become the classic way to open a shaggy dog story, so apt for delving into cocktail history.

According to Gosling’s lore, the Dark ‘n Stormy was invented in the early 1920s by the British officer’s mess in Bermuda. They added Gosling’s Black Seal to their own homemade ginger beer and thus a classic was born. Now, rum and ginger have a rich history together, think of punches. And whisky and ginger has been drunk for years so it seems unlikely that nobody had ever mixed rum with ginger beer before those British officers. But of course,  Gosling’s is trademarking the name, not the drink. Any rum can be in a rum and ginger, but only Gosling’s Black Seal can be in a Dark ‘n Stormy. As Malcolm Gosling eloquently puts it: “Fair enough, mix any rum and ginger beer you want but if it doesn’t have Gosling’s, don’t call it Dark ‘n Stormy®!”

The Gosling’s begins in 1806 when English merchant James Gosling left for America. He stopped in Bermuda and liked it so much that he decided to stay on to sell wines and spirits. The family has been there ever since. His rum blend dates back to the 1850s when it was sold from the barrel. Around the time of the first world war, it began to be bottled for sale, in used Champagne bottles from the officer’s mess, and sealed with black wax, hence the name. The business is run by the seventh generation of the Gosling family.

A pretty two-layered effect

Luckily for cocktail lovers, Gosling’s Black Seal is an extremely nice rum. It’s a classic navy-style blend made with a mixture of pot and continuous still rums from around the Caribbean. There’s plenty of proper aged rum and the sweetness is the perfect foil to. . .  yes, you’ve guessed it. . . ginger beer. And happily Gosling’s makes its own special version (there’s even a premixed can for when you want a Dark ‘n Stormy on the move.) The final ingredient is the lime. In the classic recipe, below, it’s just a wedge but some versions call from lime juice as well and even Angostura bitters. Heresy! A nice upgrade, however, if you’re feeling lively, is a tablespoon full of overproof rum on the top. Gosling’s, naturally. 

Right, here’s how to make a Dark ‘n Stormy. Don’t forget the ®!

50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
75ml Gosling’s ginger beer

Fill a Highball glass with ice and add the ginger beer. Pour the Gosling’s Black Seal over the top for a pretty two level effect and garnish with a lime wedge.

Everything you need including the glass is in this special Dark ‘n Stormy bundle from Master of Malt.

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Master of Malt tastes… whiskies made with different peat varieties

Peat is frequently used as a catch-all term for ‘smoke’, but this essential whisky ingredient is far more nuanced than we give it credit for. Here David Miles, senior whisky…

Peat is frequently used as a catch-all term for ‘smoke’, but this essential whisky ingredient is far more nuanced than we give it credit for. Here David Miles, senior whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, talks MoM through three distinctly different drams made with peat sourced from all over Scotland…

The trinity of partly-decomposed vegetation, dank weather, and a layer of rock close to the earth’s surface are the natural phenomena responsible for creating peat – the soil-like deposits that impart a deliciously smoky flavour into our favourite Scotch whiskies. With the country’s weather on the cooler, wetter end of the spectrum, it’s little surprise that Scotland’s many bogs, mires and moors are packed with the stuff.

“Most of the peat used by the whisky industry is somewhere between 1,000 to 6,000 years old,” says Miles. “The vegetation that creates the peat will have an influence on the flavour of the finished whisky. If you go back that far in time on mainland Scotland, it was basically covered by the Caledonian forest. This means mainland peat has a woody quality; it’s decomposed trees and huge bushes.”

David Miles in action resplendent in a burgundy jacket

Jump north to Orkney or head south-west to Islay and the peat has a very different quality indeed. The Orkney Islands are located at a point where two huge weather systems collide, Miles explains. This means the weather is pretty consistent all year round, with little fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer and near-constant rain. Oh, and the wind blows at around 40mph.

“This means nothing grows tall,” says Miles. “There are no trees or big bushes, the only thing that really grows there is heather.” As such, Orkney’s heather-rich peat gives off very different flavours and aromas when burned. And like Orkney, there are very few trees growing and quite a lot of heather on Islay too – but here, seaweed is the largest influence. “It makes up a much bigger part of the rotting vegetation that becomes our peat,” says Miles. 

To demonstrate his point Miles gave us three very different drams that showcase the uniqueness of mainland Scotland, Orkney and Islay peat respectively using their very own floor maltings:

Highland Park Twisted Tattoo 16 Year Old

Every bit of peat burned at Orkney’s Highland Park is sourced from the island’s RSPB-protected Hobbister Moor, resulting in “a very distinctive peat smoke reek” in its whisky, Miles says. “It’s the only whisky in the world that is peated with Orkney peat,” says Miles. “Every expression of Highland Park has this distinctive quality.”

The distillery produces partially-peated whisky – that is, it only peats 20% of the barley it uses; the remaining 80% is unpeated. Being the sister whisky of the Macallan, Highland Park typically ages its whisky in sherry casks. “They’re what give Highland Park a huge amount of its characteristics and flavour,” says Miles. 

This is where Twisted Tattoo deviates from the norm, having spent its first 14 to 15 years of maturation in old bourbon barrels, before being transferred to Rioja casks. “It gives a very different twist to a classic Highland Park,” he continues. “Red berry fruits on the nose; there’s a dryness to this whisky – it doesn’t have that heather honey sweetness we so often associate Highland Park with. 

“It has a lovely warmth to it, and there’s a creaminess to the mouthfeel. That peat note is quite restrained – it usually is with Highland Park anyway – but it’s almost as if the wine cask has smoothed a few more of those notes out of it. [Peat] is one ingredient in the whole recipe here, and not dominant at all in any way.”

Bowmore 15 Year Old

Established in 1779, making it the oldest distillery on Islay, Bowmore produces fully peated whisky. “We peat 20 to 25% of the barley at the distillery ourselves using Islay peat,” says Miles. “The other 75 to 80% comes from the mainland and it peated on the mainland, so that woody influence has more of an impact on the flavour of Bowmore.”

Owing to this heavy mainland peat influence, the distillery’s whiskies aren’t a homage to Islay terroir. “That classic Islay peat reek – medicinal notes, TCP, Iodine – is a result of the seaweed being part of the equation,” says Miles. With Bowmore, because [Islay peat] is only one fifth to a quarter of the peat influence, it’s a background note. It’s a subtlety and a nuance.” As for the briney, salty quality found in Bowmore? It’s a result of its location, he says.

“The distillery is right on the waterfront in the village of Bowmore in Lochindaal,” Miles explains. “Our No.1 vaults, the oldest continuously-working warehouse in a distillery in the world, sits right on the seafront. Of course, not all of our casks and barrels are maturing in there, but a number are. When the wind’s kicking up, the waves are breaking right over the walls of the vault. The air has a briney quality, so with quite a lot of Bowmore you do get a slightly salty note to it.” 

Bowmore 15 is matured for 12 years in bourbon barrels before being transferred to oloroso sherry casks for a further three years. While this approach isn’t unheard of, it’s unusual for the distillery. “Every Bowmore expression is a combination of bourbon barrels and sherry casks, but they mature separately for the whole time period and then get blended together [at the end],” says Miles. 

This process contributes to the unique character of the 15 Year Old, “a glorious expression of what Bowmore can do”, he adds. “It combines the sherry cask richness, the smoke influence, vanilla sweetness from the bourbon barrels – it’s all in there but it’s balanced and held together. It’s not going off like crazy in different directions.”

Laphroaig Lore

The self-confessed love-it-or-hate-it dram of the whisky world, Laphroaig is all about that Islay peat influence. The distillery cold smokes 20 to 25% of its own barley – the remaining 75 to 80% is peated at neighbouring Port Ellen maltings – all using Islay peat. “You do not see a flame in the Laphroaig kiln,” says Miles. “When a flame appears, it’s damped down. That cold smoking process helps to give Laphroaig its very distinctive flavour and aroma.”

When you get past Laphroaig’s initial smokiness, it’s actually quite a delicate whisky in some ways – and this is because of its distillation process. One of its seven stills has a unique size and shape, and this brings a different flavour and quality to the new make distillate. The distillers also take “relatively-speaking, a very late cut”, says Miles. “The peaty smoky flavour in the distillate comes through later on in the distillation process.”

Lore is described by the distillery as ‘the richest expression Laphroaig has ever produced’. Where Laphroaig’s flagship bottlings are very much bourbon barrel-matured, Lore incorporates a variety of casks. “There are sherry butts, sherry hogsheads, puncheons…,” says Miles. “We’re using a much wider range of casks than we would use for anything else, and the sherry cask influence on this is much more noticeable, much stronger than in any other Laphroaig bottling.”

There are also a huge variety of ages in each batch, ranging from six to 23 years old. “Those older casks give us the weight, the gravitas, the dryness, while the younger casks give vibrancy and lightness,” he continues. “On the nose, there’s a very distinctive Laphroaig smokiness but it doesn’t have the bite you’d associate with, say, a 10 Year Old. There’s creaminess first, then you get smoke on the roof of your mouth. You’re almost thinking, ‘where’s the Laphroaig?’ and then bang: there’s the Laphroaig!”

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New Arrival of the Week: Salcombe Whitestrand Rum

It’s another rum-heavy week here on the Master of Malt blog. To kick things off we have a special botanical rum distilled in Devon from the people who brought you…

It’s another rum-heavy week here on the Master of Malt blog. To kick things off we have a special botanical rum distilled in Devon from the people who brought you the award-winning Salcombe Gin. 

Salcombe Distillery was founded by Angus Lugsdin and his friend Howard Davies in 2014. Lugsdin’s background was in oil and gas exploration, but he was inspired by childhood holidays in Salcombe on the south Devon coast to set up a distillery there. They began distilling gin in 2016. “We set out with the aim to create one of the world’s best London Dry Gins,” Lugsdin told me. The result was Start Point, named after a local landmark. 

It’s fair to say they have been rather successful. Lugsdin told me, “in our first full year we won double gold at San Francisco, gold at the World Gin Awards and one of the highest ever recorded scores at the Beverage Tasting Institute in the US, with 96 out of 100.” Start Point has been followed by some interesting barrel-aged versions including collaborations with Bodegas Tradicion in Jerez and a sloe gin aged in casks from Niepoort in Portugal. Last year saw a bit of a departure with the release of limited edition gold rum which was aged in ex-bourbon barrels for around six months. 

And now there’s a new rum, inspired by the Salcombe Fruiters, boats that in the 19th century brought produce to England from warmer climates including sugar, molasses and finished rum. It’s called Whitestrand after an area of Salcombe where the ferry boats and harbour master are located. Also, said Lugsdin, “it sounds quite Caribbean.” 

To make its white rum, Salcombe uses a mixture of molasses and unrefined sugar, fermented with a blend of yeasts. You need special yeasts to get such a high sugar mixture fermenting. According to Lugsdin: “we are working with a lot of different yeasts, some for rum, some champagne and some beer, to find the right combination.” Fermentation lasts around 4-5 days depending on the weather. 

This is then distilled twice in a 60 litre copper pot still. During the second distillation a selection of botanicals are added. Lugsdin told me that they use whole spices not essences including fresh lime, coconut and long pepper to bring out the banana bread and apricot flavours of the spirit. It’s bottled at 42.4% ABV. Finally and unusually, there’s no sugar added at the end. The idea is to create something refreshing and elegant not a heavy, sweet spiced rum. Lugsdin recommended mixing it with ginger ale and lime to make a so-called ‘Light and Stormy’ (do you see what they did there?) Or try it in a Mojito (see below).

Whitestrand is made in small batches and will, unlike the limited edition gold rum, be part of the Salcombe core range. But there’s also some neat rum ageing in the barrel. In addition to bourbon casks, Lugsdin told me that they have some interesting barrels sourced from wineries. From Salcombe’s track record with barrel finishes, these are likely to be from some extremely interesting producers. The team is currently experimenting with finishes and there should be something to try at the end of the summer. Watch this space. 

Whitestrand Mojito

50ml Salcombe Whitestrand Rum
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
Mint leaves
Fresh limes
Soda water

In a Highball glass, muddle four wedges of lime, four mint leaves and two teaspoons of caster sugar. Add one large measure of Salcombe Whitestrand rum and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Fill the Highball glass with ice, top up with soda water and gently stir.

Salcombe Whitestrand Rum is available to buy now from Master of Malt.

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Dram Club – June 2020

It’s the first day of June, which means we’ve got yet another batch of brand new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to get stuck into! If you’re surprised that…

It’s the first day of June, which means we’ve got yet another batch of brand new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to get stuck into!

If you’re surprised that it’s already June, but instantaneously also surprised it’s not like 2022 or something, you’re not alone. Nevertheless, it is, in fact, June 1st, which means its just about time we take a look at what’s inside the newest batch of Tasting Sets for Dram Club members! Every month, five delicious drams turn up on the doorstep of Dram Club member, perfect for those of us that love surprises that aren’t “Hey, it’s only June, but also it’s June!”.

Dram Club Whisky for June:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for June:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for June:

Dram Club Gin for June 2020:

Dram Club Rum for June 2020:

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Deals of the day return for the weekend

Weekends are already pretty good. But we know how to make them better. That’s right: the Deals of the Day have returned. Everybody loves a good comeback story. Istanbul. Robert…

Weekends are already pretty good. But we know how to make them better. That’s right: the Deals of the Day have returned.

Everybody loves a good comeback story. Istanbul. Robert Downey Jr. Lil Bub. But how many great comebacks actually save you money? This one does. That’s right, we’ve brought back our Deals of the Days for the weekend. A series of deals on a bunch of delicious booze, all delivered straight to your doorstep!

Obviously you’re already basically salivating at the thought of it, but just to whet your appetite even more, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite bargains for this weekend. Make a note of that. This isn’t even all of the deals we’re doing. There’s more to be found here.

Deals of the day

Ardbeg 10 Year Old

There are a lot of people who will fondly remember their first sip of Ardbeg 10 Year Old as the moment they were converted to the wonders of the powerful and peaty dram. This is Islay whisky as you want it, full of coastal air, smoke and more. Today, incidentally, is Ardbeg Day, so you should head to its distillery page to see what else is on offer… Spoiler: there be hella deals. 

What’s the deal?

It was £42.45, now it’s £33.95.

Deals of the day

Roku Gin

We’re big fans of this delightful Japanese gin from legendary spirit-maker Suntory, as you can probably tell, and for good reason. Alongside traditional gin botanicals like juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander and cinnamon, this beauty features six Japanese botanicals including sakura leaf, sencha tea, sansho pepper and yuzu peel. What does all this mean? Amazing G&Ts. Seriously, so aromatic and balanced. Get involved.

What’s the deal?

It was £29.49, now it’s £24.99.

Deals of the day

Doorly’s XO Rum (40%)

How does a great deal on a rum teeming with notes of dark chocolate, toffee apples and oaky spices that was created at one of the most revered and historic distilleries in the world sound? We already know the answer to this one. Who could resist? Doorly’s XO Rum is one of those bottles where you just want to throw away the cork and enjoy with your friends. Shoutout to the excellent bird on the label. I appreciate that.

What’s the deal?

It was £33.83, now it’s £26.83.

Deals of the day

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

The legendary Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky has got a reputation for making all kinds of excellent whiskey and Eagle Rare 10 Year Old is no exception. Indulge yourself with this well-aged Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey and you’ll be enjoying notes of toasted oak, flamed orange peel, maple syrup, oily walnuts, red fruit and vanilla. The multi-award-winner for good reason also features another excellent bird on the label. This is quite the line-up for fans of birds on labels.

What’s the deal?

It was £36.99, now it’s £28.99.

Deals of the day

Larios 12 Botanicals Premium Gin

Did you know that the English are not the only gin-crazy folk in Europe? The Spanish love their gin, and globally Spain ranks among the big players in gin consumption year after year. It’s no surprise when they have a gin as good as Larios behind every back bar and on every supermarket shelf. Check out what all the fuss is about.

What’s the deal?

It was £21.47, now it’s £16.47.

Deals of the day

VIVIR Tequila Añejo

VIVIR Tequila wants to be part of the conversation that treats Tequila seriously and to do that you need to make seriously good Tequila. Luckily for VIVIR, that’s exactly what it does. The Añejo was distilled from Highland Weber Blue Agave which is cooked traditionally in clay ovens, and the spirit was matured in ex-Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey casks for 18 months.

What’s the deal?

It was £39.95, now it’s £29.95.

Deals of the day

Jura 21 Year Old Tide

Arguably the big hitter of our weekend deals, Tide is a 21-year-old single malt released as part of Jura’s Aged Vintage series. It was twice matured in American white oak bourbon barrels and then hand-selected virgin American white oak casks before it was bottled at a hefty 46.7% ABV. You can expect notes of gingerbread, allspice, buttery caramel digestive biscuits and tropical fruit. It also comes in a pretty funky presentation box, which is always a bonus.

What’s the deal?

It was £149.95, now it’s £99.95.

Deals of the day

Grant’s Cask Editions – Rum Cask Finish

If you want a less decadent dram that you can put to good work in a number of cocktails, then we recommend Grant’s Cask Editions – Rum Cask Finish. Master blender Brian Kinsman created this expression to add some spice and fruit-forward deliciousness from the rum casks to the classic Grant’s character. It really works. 

What’s the deal?

It was £20.95, now it’s £15.95.

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Cocktail of the Week: the Gulliver’s Travels

This week’s cocktail is New York meets Ireland. It was created by Samuel Stepney at Underdog in Manhattan using Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey. It’s often overlooked in preference…

This week’s cocktail is New York meets Ireland. It was created by Samuel Stepney at Underdog in Manhattan using Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey.

It’s often overlooked in preference to rye or bourbon, but Irish whiskey can be a great mixer. This week’s recipe is doubly Irish as it’s not only made with an Irish whiskey, Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old, but also named after one of the great works of Irish literature, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It was created at the Underdog, a bar located right at the tip of Manhattan island in Battery Park. Its creator Sam Stepney began tending bar with a stint at TGI Fridays. Not very cool but a surprising number of successful bartenders got their break at this chain. 

From there he moved to a bar on Staten Island with the tremendous name of Bootleg Mannings. Stepney said: “It was essentially a massive warehouse converted into a sports bar with a stage and outdoor space. The owner/manager at the time wished for Bootlegs to be a whiskey/craft beer bar and then proceeded to will it into being. During this process, as I learned more and more about whiskey, craft beer, and now classic cocktails, I was eventually inspired to make my first original cocktail which was a riff on an Aviation called the Frequent Flyer”.

Then three years ago he moved to Underdog, a Manhattan stalwart since 2013. He loves working in New York because “it is constantly growing and evolving. But unlike some other big cocktail cities, we champion the classics, and the heritage of the golden age of the cocktail in New York without being swayed too much by trends or gimmicks.”

The idea for the Gulliver’s Travels came from working at Underdog: “This particular menu needed a stirred and boozy cocktail that was not a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned variation”, he said. “I wanted to do something that would be strong but also accessible, bright, and maybe a little elegant. Essentially, I came up with a more spirit-forward reimagining of a Corpse Reviver #2 or 20th Century cocktail.”

He went on to explain some of the flavours in his choice of Irish whiskey: “I found myself picking up a ton of chocolate, banana and orange notes”, hence the use of creme de cacao and banane du Brésil, “I wanted to augment those notes but only enough to make sure that Knappogue 12 was still lead vocals. I love Lillet, it is one of the few modifiers that I will willingly drink straight, and it has that nice touch of lime/orange citrus that I was looking for.”

He also recommends the 12 year old Marsala cask expression from Knappogue but it’s not all about Irish whiskey: My other favorites generally rotate during the seasons and whether I’m on vacation or not, but since the pandemic has exiled me to Staten Island, this lockdown has been appropriately rum-heavy”, he said. “The most used bottles at the bar are Cynar and rye to make Ryenar shots for the guests, and at home it’s typically a nice overproof rum, probably Wray & Nephew.” Sounds like he’s doing lockdown in style.

Right, here’s how to make a Gulliver’s Travels: 

40ml Knappogue Castle 12 Year single malt
20ml Lillet Blanc
7ml Banane du Brésil Giffard
3ml Creme de Cacao Giffard

Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir until cold and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Express oil from lemon peel and discard. 


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Get a head start on Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is on the horizon and you know it always comes around too fast. Get ahead of the curve by sorting out a brilliantly boozy gift that can be…

Father’s Day is on the horizon and you know it always comes around too fast. Get ahead of the curve by sorting out a brilliantly boozy gift that can be delivered straight to his home.

You know it’s only a few weeks until Father’s Day, right? These occasions have a habit of creeping up on you and it’s easy to panic buy and be the child who buys dad another pair of silly socks or branded mug. We sympathise. Father’s Day is arguably the most difficult occasion to shop for. Dads always say they don’t need anything. And that’s probably true. So you need to buy him something he really wants. A bottle of something special may just be your best bet in your quest to remind your dear old dad how much he’s appreciated. Where can you find one of those? Right here. That’s where.

Get a head start on Father's Day!

The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 

Our very own Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set is very much a home-run when it comes to great Father’s Day gifts. It says Father’s Day on it, for a start. It really looks like you made an effort when you buy something like this. Especially as we guarantee there are five 30ml drams of superb whisky from world-class producers in this exclusive set. Plus, right now it’s over 25% off. 

The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set Contents:


Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

The ONE Sherry Expression

Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch

Loch Lomond 12 Year Old

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Warming, spicy and utterly delicious, this well-rounded single malt from The Balvenie was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held a select blend of Caribbean rums chosen by malt master David C. Stewart MBE. Perfect for those who love a good Scotch and for those who want something with a touch of the tropical to mark all this good weather we’re having.

What does it taste like?

Tropical fruits, namely passion fruit, sweet vanilla, apples, mangoes, orange and creamy toffee.

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Talisker 10 Year Old 

If sweet maritime peatiness, orchard fruit and pleasant spice sounds like the kind of profile your pops would enjoy, then you’d have a hard time bettering this classic Island dram from the Isle of Skye. Talisker 10 Year Old is one of those classic expressions that’s always got a welcome spot in any good drinks cabinet.

What does it taste like?

Smoke, sweet pear and apple peels, maritime salt, seaweed, peat, black pepper, brine and dry barley. 

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Jaffa Cake Gin

What if your father isn’t fussed with whisky? For those who have something of a sweet tooth, we recommend Jaffa Cake Gin. Yep. It’s a gin made to taste like Jaffa Cakes and even includes the timeless treat in its botanical selection. Now we’re talking. An insanely delicious Negroni awaits. Extra dad points are awarded if they position an actual Jaffa Cake on the glass in the style of a citrus wheel garnish.

What does it taste like?

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes!

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva 

If rum is more your dad’s thing, then you’ll want a good premium expression that boasts a large number of fans and a trophy cabinet like Michael Jordan. Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is a delightful blend of dark rums distilled from molasses in ancient copper pot stills before being matured in small oak casks for up to 12 years. This Venezuelan treat is delicious served neat or in cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Daiquiri.

What does it taste?

Dark chocolate, vanilla cream, espresso, orange peel, liquorice and sweet toffee fudge.

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Faustino I Gran Reserva 2008 

It’s hard to underestimate the brilliance of a seriously good bottle of red wine, which is exactly what we have here. This Gran Reserva comes from one of the most famous producers in the Rioja region, Bodegas Faustino and the 2008 vintage was crafted from Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes. By law Gran Reserva Riojas have to age for at least five years (two of them in oak). All that time means that by the time you reach for the corkscrew the wine has taken on some seriously complex flavours, which are best enjoyed when paired with roast lamb.

What does it taste?

Rich and subtly oak, but still manages to show off some bright summer fruit sweetness.

Get a head start on Father's Day!

Bathtub Gin

If you’re on the lookout for classic juniper-forward gin, you might as well go for a serial award winner. From Ableforth’s comes this year’s World’s Best Compound Gin at the World Gin Awards, Bathtub Gin. It was named for the 1920s Prohibition method of infusing botanicals in a bathtub, but don’t worry, this tastes a little more sophisticated than that. It was crafted with six botanicals using an interesting technique known as cold compounding. The result? An aromatic, rich profile filled with notes of orange citrus, fragrant spices and a good core of juniper. 

What does it taste?

Juniper-rich bouquet, cardamom, orange blossom and cinnamon.

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New Arrival of the Week: Dunderhead Rum

There’s a bit of a rum theme this week at Master of Malt. No particular reason, we just love the stuff. We’re particularly excited about a bottle that has just…

There’s a bit of a rum theme this week at Master of Malt. No particular reason, we just love the stuff. We’re particularly excited about a bottle that has just arrived in our warehouse: it’s funkier than Fela Kuti, fruitier than a tube of Fruit Pastilles and riper than a prize-winning pineapple, it’s Dunderhead rum!

There’s no mistaking high ester Jamaican rum. That smell: pineapples, bananas, fruit so ripe it’s almost rotten. So wrong and yet so perfectly right. That’s what you get with Dunderhead rum. It’s a blend of rums from around the Caribbean but it gets its name from its most noticeable component country, Jamaica. 

Dunder is the leftovers from fermentation. In most rum producing countries, these would be used a fertiliser. Not so in Jamaica, it goes into so-called dunder pits. Essentially holes in the ground full of rotting fermented molasses. Mmmmmmm, rotting fermented molasses! You hear rumours that sometimes animals* wander into these pits and die, all adding to the funk. This might sound revolting but all the bacteria working away creates esters. Esters are volatile compounds produced by fermentation; they include ethyl butyrate, which smells of pineapple and ethyl acetate, which smells of nail varnish. 

This dunder is used to add complexity to fermentations with fresh molasses. It might sound bizarre but it’s not unique to Jamaica. Similar things happen in bourbon with sour mash and in the production of baijiu. In Scotland, many distilleries keep their old pine fermenters in order to encourage the build up of bacteria that create interesting flavours. The Jamaicans just take it really far. Fermentations take place over many days with natural yeasts, all good for creating those magical flavours.

Modern multi-column distillation would remove most of these flavours so high ester rums tend to be made with shorter old school columns or traditional pot stills. Distilleries such as Long Pond and Hampden are famous for producing this style of rum, though Appleton Estate, probably Jamaica’s most famous distillery, produces a much cleaner spirit and doesn’t use dunder. These rums are delicious drunk young for the full pineapple and banana effect but also certain esters are formed during the ageing process giving you balsamic and Madeira-like flavours. Extremely high ester rums can be so strongly flavoured as to be almost undrinkable on their own but they are highly prized for blending. A special class of rums known as ‘continental flavour’ are produced with off-the-scale esters and used in minuscule quantities to create rums in Germany. You sometimes see this bottled on their own and they make an amazing experience. Be warned, a little goes a long way. 

Can you spot the esters?

So that’s dunder and now back to Dunderhead. This uses some of that Jamaican magic blended with other rums from around the Caribbean before bottling at 42% ABV. Look closely at the label and you’ll see that the jewels around the neck of the skull make up ester compounds: ethyl propionate (smells like pineapple), ethyl acetate (nail polish), amyl acetate (bananas) and ethyl butyrate (more pineapple). Very educational. The taste is approachable but you’ll still feel the thunder of dunder. Expect flavours of banana, pineapple, orange zest and honey. Then there’s sweet toffee, brown sugar and molasses with a grassy green banana flavour.  

How should you drink it? Well, this is a mixing rum par excellence, those bold high ester notes can compete against anything. Try it mixed  with ginger ale or Coca-Cola, or in a Mai Tai. We spoke with Peter Holland from the Floating Rum Shack and he reckoned it would be good in Trader Vic’s Grog:

2 parts Dunderhead rum
1 part lime juice
1 part fresh pineapple juice
1 part passion fruit syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters

Shake all the ingredients with lots of crushed ice. Pour, ice and all, into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint.

Dunderhead rum is available now from Master of Malt.

*These are just rumours. No animals were harmed in the production of Dunderhead rum.


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Cocktail of the Week: The Paloma

This Friday the 22 May is World Paloma Day, when todo el mundo celebrates Mexico’s favourite cocktail. Here’s how to make it the slightly fancy way. Say the words ‘Mexico’…

This Friday the 22 May is World Paloma Day, when todo el mundo celebrates Mexico’s favourite cocktail. Here’s how to make it the slightly fancy way.

Say the words ‘Mexico’ and ‘cocktail’, and most people will reply ‘Margarita’ but in Mexico itself, the Paloma is far more popular. It makes sense, Margaritas tend to be very strong, not ideal for sipping all day in the sunshine without things getting exciting. They also contain Cointreau or Grand Marnier, things that most people don’t have lying around. 

The Paloma in contrast is a long drink made up of Tequila, which most households in Mexico will have,  plus fresh lime juice and grapefruit soda. Oddly enough, over here it’s the grapefruit soda that might not be so easy to find. You could substitute with another citrussy drink like bitter lemon or old-fashioned sparkling lemonade, or you can make your own soda using fresh grapefruit, fizzy water and caster sugar as I’m doing below. 

The word ‘paloma’ means ‘dove’ in Spanish. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of World Paloma Day, it’s a new one, this is only its second year. Soon every drink will have its own place in the calendar: like International Pornstar Martini Day, World Snakebite & Black Day and National Shandy Week.

As with all Tequila cocktails, in fact all cocktails, it’s worth using a decent spirit. Cheap nasty Tequila will make your Paloma taste, well, cheap and nasty. I’m using Vivir Blanco, made from 100% Blue Weber agave. It’s double distilled In Jalisco and blended with local water from a volcanic spring. The result is smooth, delicious and ideal for mixing.

The final touch is entirely optional but it’s quite a fun way of adding character to your drink. At the end pour in a teaspoonful of mezcal, I’m using the quite difficult to pronounce QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan. Feel free to leave it out but it does give the drink a wonderful kick of complexity without overpowering the fruit or Tequila. Consider it a supporting spirit. 

Oh, and finally to salt or not to salt? Salt is counterintuitive as it actually makes the drink taste sweeter so you need less sugar but I find a whole rim coated in a thick layer of salt too, um, salty. So, I just wet the rim of the glass and dip it in a couple of places in crunchy sea salt. 

Pretty in pink, it’s the Paloma!

It’s worth making it up in batches and keeping in the fridge to drink over the course of a summer’s afternoon. Right, here’s the recipe.

60ml Vivir Blanco Tequila
Juice of one ruby grapefruit or approx 100 ml
30ml lime juice
Teaspoon of caster sugar
Sparkling or soda water
Teaspoon of QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan mezcal (optional)

Rub some Tequila round the rim of a tumbler or Highball glass, dip it in sea salt but don’t coat the entire rim. Add the grapefruit juice, lime juice, Tequila and sugar. Stir thoroughly and taste. Add more sugar if it’s too tart for you. Fill with ice, stir and top up with fizzy water. Add a teaspoon of mezcal and garnish with a lime wedge or piece of grapefruit. Or both.



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Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.

This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.

But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.

We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

Who’s joining us? The Character of Islay Whisky Company and its head of whisky, Sam Simmons for a tasting. What a way to kick off proceedings!

What whisky will we be tasting? Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old, Green Isle, Grace Île and Fiona Macleod.

When is it? Friday 22 May at 7:30pm

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

Who’s joining us? Lagavulin and its distillery manager Colin Gordon for an evening dram and a chat. Grab a tasting glass and get your questions ready for Colin!

What whisky will we be tasting? Lagavulin 8Lagavulin 16.

When is it? Saturday 23 May at 8:30pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A

Day Three

Who’s joining us? Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

Who’s joining us? Caol Ila and its distillery manager for an evening dram and a chat with Pierrick Guillaume.

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

Who’s joining us? Laphroaig for a lunchtime taste and learn session with distillery manager John Campbell. It will also be hosting its own celebration, #LaphroaigLive from 18:15pm.

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

Who’s joining us? Bowmore for another lunchtime Live, with time with distillery manager, David Turner. We’ll have a chat about all things whisky, so ready your questions!

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang

Day Seven

Who’s joining us? Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.

What whisky will we be tasting? Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

Who’s joining us? Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘). 

What whisky will we be tasting? Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and the very exciting Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, which is usually only available from the distillery.

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

Who’s joining us? Jura and Whyte & Mackay’s Gregg Glass, who will be online with us for an evening tasting. 

What whisky will we be tasting? Jura 10 Year Old.

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

Who’s joining us? Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!

What whisky will we be tasting? Ardbeg 10An Oa and Blaaack. 

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.


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