Category Archives: Master of Malt

Oompa-Loompa-Doopity-Dee, enter this contest and win some whisky!

I don’t normally post PR on the blog (I’m actually planning on saving Sundays for the pieces sent to me as there’s a lot of great releases sent my way) but this one had to go up STAT as it gives you an opportunity to win a shit ton of whisky.

Oompa-Loompa-Doopity-Dee, enter this contest and win some whisky!

Win a Year’s Supply of Whisky from Master of Malt

Master of Malt have launched a Golden Dram Competition in which five lucky winners will receive a year’s supply of whisky from the world’s greatest distilleries.

The competition was launched to celebrate the release of Master of Malt’s dram sets – 24 different tasting sets showcasing the world’s finest spirits. Each set includes five beautifully labelled, wax-dipped samples, specially selected by the Master of Malt tasting team. There is a wide range of sets to choose from including an Old and Rare Whisky Tasting Set, a Regions of Scotland, a Super Peaty Whisky Tasting Set, and many more.

120 Different Whiskies

Golden Drams have been hidden in five lucky tasting sets, and if you find a golden dram before the end of November, you win a free Gold Membership (RRP £499.95) into Master of Malt’s Dram Club. Gold members receive a year’s supply of whisky, with 10 exquisite drams every month! That’s a glass of superb whisky every other day!

Dram Club

Master of Malt’s Dram Club is the ultimate chance to try exceptional whiskies from all over the world. There are three different membership options;

Bronze Dram Club Membership (£84.95) includes;

  • A 5 dram box-set every three months
  • Two Glencairn tasting glasses

Silver Dram Club Membership (£249.95) includes;

  • 5 new whiskies to try every month
  • Two Glencairn tasting glasses

Gold Dram Club Membership (£499.95) includes;

  • 10 new and exciting drams every month (a year’s supply of whisky)
  • Two Glencairn tasting glasses.

You can browse the range of dram sets here

Or you can read up on membership into Master of Malt’s Dram Club here

For more information on the Golden Dram Competition, visit

Also, don’t forget, if you do purchase anything from Master of Malt, be sure to enter in the term “JSMWS Sample” in the delivery instructions box – you’ll get a free Master of Malt whisky sample with your order!

A day in the life of… the folks at Master of Malt

And now for the fifth installment to my interview series.

As you hopefully know by now, I’ve started series of interviews to help demystify some of the many aspects of the whisk(e)y industry.  Who makes it, how they do it, how they got into it, how to they sell, promote it, market it, etc…  While this series is called “A Day in the Life”, it will focus on more than on just a single day in the life of a Cooper, Sales Person, Ambassador, Master Blender, Independent reviewer/critic, etc…  I try to get a full picture of what they do from day to day.  Also, I will try to get a little personal (without making said person or people blush).

For previous interviews I’ve done, please see the links below (at the end of this interview).

It is a privilege and and honor to have had the chance to interview, Ben Ellefsen, Justin Petszaft & Darren Rook (aka The Whisky Guy) of Master of Malt.  Ben, Justin & Darren, thank you all again for your time!

On to the interview:

Joshua: Please explain who you all are and what you do for Master of Malt.  Also, how did you first get involved with Master of Malt and what had you done prior to this?

Master of Malt: I’ll tell you a bit about the background of the company, and where we stand now… Whilst the company has been around for over 25 years, it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve started to grow into a larger organization. This has happened as a result of significant investment in both staff and infrastructure, and the growth is still rapidly accelerating. The three of us you’ve mentioned are:

Justin – Managing Director, ultimately responsible for everything (m’lud), but mainly works on making the website ‘cool’. Background in Theoretical Physics, Mathematics, and Web design/coding.

Ben – Sales Director, responsible for most stuff, but heavily centered at the moment in range expansion, stock acquisition and the development of other sales channels. Background in Restaurant Management, and print and web media sales management.

Darren – On-Trade and Events Manager, responsible for selling into all those lovely bars and restaurants we love so much, and running tasting events (coming soon – watch this space!). Background in bar management and hospitality. Most recently ran the London SMWS Members room.

It’s worth noting of course that there are many other noteworthy people involved in the business at many levels – it’s not just us three

Joshua: As you made me aware in our previous conversation, Master of Malt is an online storefront with no brick and mortar.  There used to be a physical storefront, when did you decide to close it and why?

Master of Malt: The store was a very useful tool in interacting with customers face-to-face, but with the development of the web into a much more all-pervasive sales medium over the last 5 years or so, we took the decision to concentrate solely on the web for the time being.

Joshua: Do you feel that being an online shop only is an asset or a hindrance to the company and, why?

Master of Malt: Definitely an asset overall, although we do all miss the ability to get in a room with our customers and hear what they’ve got to say. Hence the development of the tasting programmes launching over the next few months.

Joshua: From your standpoint, what would you say your biggest obstacles are in progressing the sales of your whiskies?

Master of Malt: Without a doubt, the biggest barrier to sales is getting customers to try new expressions and whiskies from different distilleries to those they’ve previously encountered. This was (for us especially as we’re web-only) a very serious issue, to which we had to develop a solution. With this in mind, we launched Drinks by the Dram, our ‘try before you buy’ sampling service a few months ago, and it’s been tremendously well received. It makes us very happy to see the positive feedback from our customers and press alike.

Joshua: How many people work at Master of Malt?  Who are they and what do they do?

Master of Malt: We’re currently about 20 people, and without going into personal backgrounds of each, we have a significant team involved in web-design, and another heavily focused on analysis and insight – there’s actually a separate business unit called ATOM insight, which consults for larger blue-chip clients on Marketing analytics and data segmentation as well as feeding back into Master of Malt (nice little plug if there are any Marketing officers for large blue-chips out there J). We also currently have 8 full-time staff in our packaging and warehousing operation.

Joshua: You must have a massive inventory – how many bottles do you stock and how many different expressions?

Master of Malt: Wow – well with the products that are going live this week, we’re going to be tipping over the 3,500 mark in terms of lines we carry. I can think of maybe one other retailer that has more than that, but we’re catching up rapidly…

Joshua: Master of Malt has had an online presence for just over 10 years now and within the past years you’ve launched some fantastic features – a chance to win a 40 year Glenfarclas, “Drinks by the Dram”, an opportunity to win a trip to Ireland to visit the Cooley Distillery, etc… Whos brainchildren are these, how did you come up with them and what can we expect in the near future?

Master of Malt: Perhaps the biggest lesson that we’ve learned in the last few years is to listen to your customers. The initial concept of Drinks by the Dram was actually kind of forced upon us by a few rather enthusiastic customers, and as we implemented and developed it further and further, it became clear just what a good idea it really was.

The competitions that we run are our way of having a bit of fun really. We’re all kids at heart, and whilst a £3 discount on each bottle of Glenfarclas would have been an easy (and no doubt popular) thing to do, it’s not quite as fun as chucking all the money into a hat and letting someone win a once-in-a-lifetime bottle of something truly spectacular.

In terms of what you can expect next, you’ll have to keep watching this space, but I can (exclusively) reveal that we’re going to be running an absolute belter of a competition involving Compass Box soon. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity, and one that everyone (not just the competition winners) can get involved with…

Joshua: Master of Malt has some award winning Single Cask exclusive malts.  Can you go into the process of choosing the malts?  Also, do you have any new bottlings you’d like to announce?

Master of Malt: Our process for choosing new malts is really quite simple – we only bottle if we’re all convinced that we’ve got something exceptional. We’ll taste, on average, over 100 samples before we select a cask to bottle, so whilst bottlings may be relatively infrequent, you can rest assured that they’ll always be tip-top. In terms of new stuff coming up soon, we’re looking at a few at the moment, maybe in the slightly lower (more affordable) age range, and may have a surprise coming up before Christmas in the shape of a slightly more exotic bottling… Can’t say too much about that now, but watch this space.

Joshua: When someone goes to your site they will see a link to the comments left from your customers.  There must be some that have been left that you just HAD to take down.  Perhaps it was rude, crude, perverse, etc…  I’m not a prude and either are my readers (well, that guy is and maybe her but, not the rest of them), care to share one or two?

Master of Malt: In complete honesty, I think we’ve only ever had to remove two comments. One was rather expletive-packed (might be something to do with the fact it was written at 23:30 on a Friday?), and one (for no real reason we could ascertain) cited some slightly curious views about the French, so we edited that one out. We’ll only ever remove them if they’re downright offensive, racist or potentially libelous!

Honesty is really important to us, so leaving in the ones that are critical is very important to our growth as a business. You don’t get to silence a pissed-off customer in a shop, so why should we be any different? That said, the vast, vast majority of the comments are overwhelmingly positive which can only be encouraging!

Joshua: As you may have guessed, some of my readers may be of the Hebraic persuasion (they’re Jews).  While I can not speak for all, many Jews will not partake in the consumption of whisky (or anything from grains for that matter) during Passover.  Do you feature any kosher certified tequilas, cognacs, mead, etc…

Master of Malt: Indeed – I have to profess that my knowledge of this area is somewhat limited, and whilst several distilleries (notably Bruichladdich, Auchentoshan and a few others) are now beginning to grasp the fact that there’s a significant market out there for Kosher products, other spirit producers have been less forthcoming with actively promoting products as Kosher. I’ll conduct some research and get back to you on this one, as it’s a very good question. Equally if any of your readers know for a fact that some of the products we stock are Kosher, please let us know, and we’ll be sure to promote them as such!

Joshua: One thing I try to focus on with my blog is what dram to drink for a particular mood or season.  Do you approach personal consumption in this manner?

Master of Malt: I think it’s inevitable, yes. We all drink whisky the whole year round, but the ‘diet’ does tend to vary a little more in the summer months in favour of Martinis, Rum-based cocktails, and even the odd beer or two

Joshua: How did you all get into whiskies?  Did you have a gateway whisky?  Do you have a story that goes with it?

Master of Malt: With a lot of hard work is the honest answer. We started reasonably young on whisky (insert an age that meets the minimum requirements in your particular country), but at first knew it was something that would be rewarding once we got there rather than being something we were immediately into. My personal ‘eureka’ whisky moment was in the tasting bar at the Whisky Experience in Edinburgh with my (now) wife. I described my tastes to the barman, and he immediately pulled a bottle of (very new) Uigeadail off the shelf. I’ve never had a more profound experience with any whisky before or since, and that’s when I knew it was something I wanted to get into in a big way. Goes to show the power of well-trained staff.

Joshua: What passions, other than whisk(e)y do you have?

Master of Malt: Wow, well speaking for the rest of the directors too, I’d put together a list as follows:

Food (big-time)


Champagne – Paticularly older NV stuff.


Properly made cocktails

Prog. Metal

Cars (particularly R.W.D. with skinny tyres)

The life and work of Richard Feynman.

Mr T.


Joshua: Do you have a list of Top Drams or perhaps some Desert Island Drams you’d like to share?

Master of Malt: Perhaps the best way to answer is if you were only ever allowed three whiskies – I think mine personally would have to be: Ardbeg Uigeadail (one of the first batches), the recent 1976 Karuizawa from No 1 Drinks, and a bourbon. Which one, I can’t quite make my mind up about. Maybe Noah’s Mill? Then again some barrels of Blanton’s are pretty special too…

Joshua: Without giving out names & places (basically, without getting yourself into any trouble), do you have any funny, interesting or bizarre stories from any of your events/travels that you wish to share?

Master of Malt: What stories Yossi? What could you possibly be talking about? Us industry types are all completely responsible sober types who generally get home of an evening nice and early and curl up with a mug of cocoa before bedtime… Definitely nothing at all untoward, and whoever told you the story about a certain couple of people wandering around London until 6am looking for an all-night Salt Beef Bagel shop is lying. Lying I tells ya.

(yes we found it, and it was worth the walk)

Joshua: Lastly, if you had a message or lesson to give people who are just getting into whiskies, what would that be?

Master of Malt: (not neccesarily something you’ll hear from a retailer all that often) Price does not neccesarily equal quality. If something’s expensive, the chances are it’s expensive due to rarity rather than absolute quality. That’s not to say that there isn’t a correlation between price and quality of course, but the graph is far from linear. If you’re unsure about whether or not to buy that £500 bottle, for goodness’ sake TRY IT FIRST!!! That’s what Drinks by the Dram is for!

Master of Malt people – thanks again!!

My previous interviewees are:

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun! and Malt Maniacs

Sam Simmons of The Balvenie

Stuart Nickerson of Glenglassaugh (Part one and Part two)

Alan Shayne of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) of America

Master of Malt Tomatin 19yr Single Cask 40% ABV

Highland region – Master of Malt Exclusive Single Cask Tomatin 19yr – 40%ABV –  £60

About 3 weeks ago I posted a review of the Master of Malt Tomatin 19yr Single Cask, Cask Strength whisky.  In that post I told you about a new program I have with the good folks at Master of Malt whereas you can get free whisky samples just by ordering whisky from MoM and using “JSMWS sample” in the delivery instructions in their online shopping cart.

I’ve provided a link after the review for more details on that program.

Truth be told, I am new to Tomatin.  The only expressions I’ve ever had are the Master of Malt ones but if these are any indication as to the quality of their whiskies well, they have a new devotee.

On the nose Same familiar nose as their Cask Strength version I reviewed a few weeks back.  It’s actually giving me some sting that I was not expecting.  Not with 40% ABV.

Lemons, drying cement, white wine (think Gewürztraminer), refreshing nose, fresh Scotch Tape strips (wow, where the F*** did that come from??  It’s there though).

Sweet & malty, an absolute tease of smoke and a good amount of oak.

On the mouth Oily entry with a clean flow of honey and malt a touch of cardboard and candied lemon rinds (immensely and increasingly sweet).

Finish Drying and long with the lemons demanding their presence be know.

In sumAnother triumph for Master of Malt.  A seriously enjoyable malt for those who wish to discover as well as for those just wishing to relax and enjoy the rest of their day (as well as be rewarded for satisfying workday).

If I had a full bottle of this (or two), it would be my go-to summer dram.  This or the Scapa 16yr.

Click here to find out how you can claim you free whisky (and details regarding my relationship with Master of Malt).

Master of Malt Tomatin 19yr Single Cask plus FREE WHISKY – a new and ongoing JSMWS exclusive offer

Highland region – Master of Malt Exclusive Single Cask Tomatin 19yr – 57.6%ABV –  700ml bottle – £70 (sadly, this is no longer available from Master of Malt.  However, their 40%ABV version is, for  £60 – click here for that)

On the nose Clean fresh fruits, buckets of oaky goodness (though not over-oaky in a bad-chardonnay-way), lemon zest, acetone, fresh baked bread (almost like eggy challah), Stella D’Oro “S” cookies.  The nose is bright and inviting – more people should be like this nose…

On the mouth This whisky is a Master of Malt!  OK, seriously though, this is filled with a ton of malted milk balls (minus the chocolate coating), very sweet and a medium-chewy mouth feel, hoisin sauce.

When I first tasted this I thought it had Glenmorangie sort of profile but now I think my taste buds were off that night.  This whisky has it’s own personality and what a great personality it is.

Finish Tangy, lasting, the roof of my mouth has a zingy-burned feeling and the sides of my tongue are loving every second of this experience.

In sumWhile this is a gorgeous whisky, as I’ve stated above, it’s no longer available.  You may be able to find a bottle through or perhaps other whisky auction type sites but, Master of Malt does not carry it any longer.  This was single cask, cask strength stuff and only a few hundred bottles were produced.  I still have about 1/2 of my bottle left and I only break it out for the nicest of occasions.

I know what you must be thinking right now — Joshua, thank you for the tasting notes.  This is all well and good but how do I claim my free whisky!?!?

I’ve been working with Master of Malt on a deal to give my readers something cool; something exclusive and special – FREE WHISKY.  It’s just my way of saying “Thank You” to all of the folks who keep coming back to my blog (and a nice “Welcome” to all of my new readers as well).   Master of Malt agreed to give a free a “Drinks by the Dram” 3cl sample with any order that came through my blog.  All you have to do to claim the sample is, when ordering from Master of Malt, enter the term “JSMWS Sample” in the “Delivery Instructions” box of their online shopping cart. Easy right?  However, if you don’t enter this term into the box, you will not receive your free whisky.  (Note: one sample per order)

While you will not be able to choose the sample, the smart folks at Master of Malt will couple samples with your bottle orders accordingly (E.G. if you buy a bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan, you’ll get a 3cl sample of their exclusive Islay 12yr.  Order a bottle of Highland Park 18yr and you’ll receive a free 3cl sample of the MoM exclusive Orkney 12yr whisky — get it?)

While my main reason for agreeing to this arrangement is to help keep you all coming back, you must know that I will be receiving a small commission from Master of Malt on any business I bring to them.  I would not be honest if I did not tell you this.

Last week in my Master of Malt Drinks by the Dram Arran sample tasting post, I told you that Master of Malt gifted some samples to me for review.  I wanted to be upfront about this as my reviews are, and will remain to be, completely independent and not influenced in **any way** be it by free samples or payment.  If I don’t like a whisky, I’m going to tell you.  If I like a whisky I’ll tell you.  My nose, my tongue, my reviews.  It’s this simple.

Additionally, while I am offering you free whisky through Master of Malt, I’ve added in (on the right side of this blog) the online stores I frequent which are also fine, fine establishments.  Just because I’ve made an arrangement with Master of Malt doesn’t mean I wont tell you about any great deals that may come from Shoppers Vineyard, The Whisky Exchange, etc…  In the end, I am here for you – to (hopefully) educate you with my reviews, make you laugh, keep you informed of news in the whisky world and hell, I’ll get you some free whisky too!

Master of Malt – Drinks by the Drams plus one review – The Master of Malt 12yr Arran Single Cask

Master of Malt

In case you are not familiar, Master of Malt is a spirits shop based in East Sussex, UK.  “MoM” (as may people lovingly refer to them as) specializes in the sales of malt whisky (be it Scotch, Irish, American, Japanese, Swedish, Australian and Kiwi, Welsh, Indian or Canadian) – they do it all.  They’re also getting into other fine spirits such as Rums, Gin, Vodka, etc…

These men and women are true Masters!

Something new for Master of Malt, and the wide world of whisky sales in general, is their innovation of selling 3cl sized samples of many of their whiskies!  They now offer, not just for the distillery owned bottles, but samples of their exclusive bottlings as well.  Very smart on their part if’n you ask me.  The program is called “Drinks by the Dram” and they have many whisky expression available for you to try (for a small fee) before you buy the full bottle.  Click here to check out their offering.

I got my hands on some of their samples (mainly of their exclusive expressions) and… do these samples look cool or what?  Even my wife thought they were “cute”.

Being that I have about 10 or 12 of these samples sitting at home, I thought that I should start opening, tasting and reviewing these cuties.  So I will get them into my regular rotation and see if I can review a new Master of Malt expression every Tuesday (for the next 10-12 weeks).

Just a note here: when I refer to the “Master of Malt expressions”, I want you to know that these are not simply whisky blends that they concoct.  No, these (or, at least many of them) are single cask, cask strength whiskies.  So when they come out with a new bottle, chances are there’s 200-400 bottles per chosen cask, and once those bottles are gone, you’ll never see them again.  These MoM bottlings are truly unique.

Here is a review of their 26yr Bowmore I did a short while back – amazing stuff!

With regards to the samples in question, and in the “spirit” of full disclosure, I will tell you that these 3cl sweeties were gifted to me by Master of Malt for analytical and reviewing purposes.  My guess is that most of these whiskies are going to be quite nice but, if I find one I don’t care for, I will say so (heck, just look at the first Bruichladdich review I did).  These are unbiased and independent reviews.

Master of Malt Arran 12yr

Without further ado, I now begin my weekly review of the Master of Malt exclusive bottlings (or the samples thereof):

Islands region – Master of Malt Exclusive Single Cask Arran 12yr – 54.7%ABV –  700ml bottle – £45 (as stated above, you can also get a 3cl sample of this one)

On the nose Big nose, soapy (not like Bowmore but soapy still, castile?), apples, sandalwood and ocean breeze, tamarind juice and a touch of smoke (my imagination?)

On the mouth Big chewy caramels!  A touch of chocolate (milk), orange, fantastic.

Can’t get past the caramels; I don’t want to actually (this reminds me as to why I seek out the caramel squares in a box of chocolates).

Finish Decent length, the milky caramel goodness remains, you’d never know this is a cask strength Arran, warming but not burning in any way.

In sum The palate and finish are delectably delicious, the balance is slightly off (from the nose to the palate/finish) but the palate and finish by themselves make up for it in ways you would not believe!

This would be a nice springtime whisky but could also warm you up in the Autumn and winter seasons.