Tag Archives: Master of Malt

Master of Malt Bloggers Blends – my tasting notes on the whole she-bang!

This was one hell of a feat, I tells ya!  My charge to myself: taste ten whiskies over two days WITHOUT getting tipsy – a lot to review but a ton ‘o fun to do.

You might remember I posted on the details of the Master of Malt Blogger’s Blend contest a few weeks back (a brilliant idea – find 10 whisky bloggers and ask them to try and create the ultimate whisky blend).  I hope some of you out there had a chance to participate in the contest.  Sadly the voting is now closed, but Master of Malt made some more sets (they did sell out for a bit if I’m not mistaken but are stocked up again) for you to buy then try.  It was a fun tasting experience.

I will say that this group of bloggers did a great job on their blends and I felt extremely honored to be among them.  It was tough for me to choose a favorite out of these 10 blends.  However, two of then really stuck out for me.  Let’s see if, based on my notes below, you can figure out which two were my favorites…

On the nose A Both sweet and peppery at the same go.  Some lemon tart sweetness and a tad dusty.   A touch smoky but it’s all around the edges – crispy burnt edges.  Twine & paper bags.
On the mouth A Nice soft mouthfeel, honied and a bit of toffee upfront.  Milk chocolate, raisins and nuts (I’ve gotten this in a few other whiskies before – Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar).  Second sip is offering up some clear notes of tobacco and just-lit-cigars.  Like on the nose, there’s a crispiness around the edges (think pepper-rubbed foods).
Finish A Chocolates and pepper and lasting tobacco.

On the nose B A touch sour and bit vinegary.  Band-Aids.  Salted corn (?)… something salty.  Let’s see if I can make sense of it after I get a taste.  Back to the nosing: Salted fruits – clear note of papaya.  Pepper & dark chocolates.  Ginger root.  There appears to be a good deal of grain influence on this one.
On the mouth B Herbal and wildflowery (think daisies and dandelions).  Grain comes through loud and clear with hints of tin cans and plastic bags.  Light teas with and old lemon.  Salty with some vanilla and wood out there in the distance
Finish B Shortish with hints of oak.

On the nose C Very sweet with loads of fresh cherries and other red fruits.  A good deal of oak but in a good way.  Salty and floral (like mother’s day flowers).   Back to the red fruits (raspberries?).  Some black pepper and perhaps a little pear.
On the mouth C Smokey entry (this’ll grab you but good) and very viscous chewy, chewy mouthfeel.  Dark chocolates, tobacco (dark tobacco cigars filled with spice).  Buckwheat honey (the dark syrupy sweet stuff).  A bit of citrus (burnt) and salted grapefruits (focus is more on the salt and less of the grapefruit).  Perhaps even some coffee in there too.  There’s a lot to discover here.
Finish C Medium to long with a good deal of spice, chocolates & fizz.

On the nose D Honied, floral and has some notes of pomegranate and some cardamom in the distance.  A touch of smoke – very inviting; drawing me in.  Some sour notes.  Some sour cherries too.  A touch of spice to it but more on the fruity side.
On the mouth D Cereals, malty and a bit of smoke.  Rolled oats.  Decent mouthfeel.  Not overly complex but enjoyable.  Some very light oak and honey notes.
Finish D Fairly quick finish with some pepper lasting just at the back of the throat.

On the nose E Seems to be a theme here with the sour cherry notes.  Some added vinegar.  Burning twigs and leaves.  Red wine and apricots.  Some nail polish remover.  Smoked lemons.  Really enjoyable nose.
On the mouth E Nice creamy mouthfeel with some grain coming through (in a positive way).  Sour oranges and tangerines.  Some sherry influence – stewed dark fruits.  Citrus tarts with a lightly buttered crust.
Finish E Slightly chalky (think Necco wafer chalky).  Decent length.

On the nose F Smoky yet some citrusy grain influence here as well.  Grilled pineapple and burning bramble.  A touch of pepper and some savory spice.
On the mouth F Smoky again with loads of burnt tea leaves.  Much smokier than any of the other drams so far.  Someone here likes their peat!  Apples and the sauce thereof.  Stewed carrots with a touch of ginger.
Finish FToasty almonds (marzipan) through and through with a decent length to it.

On the nose G Brown paper bag filled with an assortment of fruits.  Vanilla, oak and more fruits (tough to get past the fruitiness of this).  A whiff of smoke and the smell of that super subtle taste you get from Jicama.  Art class paste.
On the mouth G Warm water mouth feel.  All of the flavors seem to be in the distance: Lemons, pie crust and grapefruit marmalade.  Vanilla ice cream.
Finish GThe finish is a more intense version of what I tasted – near exact.

On the nose H Derumura sugar and spiced rum.  Booze soaked oak.  Sugar cane.  All things dark and sweet.  A fantastic nose.
On the mouth H Not as intense as the nose lead on nor as thick and/or oily as I would have expected.  A touch oaky and dusty.  Wild flowers and various burned things.  Citrus spice with a touch of smoked sugar (if there is such a thing).
Finish H Very fruity with some berries and light brown sugar.

On the nose I Light and flowery, salty and flinty.  Lemons lurk in the back as do sauna stones.  Spiced apples and elderflower.  Some graininess swirled throughout.
On the mouth ISmoky and flinty – slightly reminded of Port Ellen here.  A very, very light version of Port Ellen, mind you.  Coastal & notes of late fall.  A bit waxy too.  This is delicious stuff.
Finish I Long and warming throughout.

On the nose J Oh, this is a nice citrusy light & grainy blend.  Youth & young manhood.  Dusty – like an empty room in a old house.  Fresh cut grass and baked rhubarb.
On the mouth J Fresh, light and clean – like a Sauvignon Blanc of whisky.  Clean & still grassy.  Grainy for sure but in a very pleasant way.  Balanced and delicious.
Finish J Medium and tangy.

This just in from Master of Malt – The Blogger’s Blends are up for sale and you get to vote!

Below is an email I received from Master of Malt regarding their new Blogger’s Blend whisky.  Being that The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society is a part of this great adventure, I thought I’d pass it on to you.  You get to choose the best blend out of 10 – Unlike the US Presidential elections of 2000 – Your vote counts!

What you need to know is below:

The Bloggers’ Blend – Your Vote Counts!

Highland Park 40 NewFor a long while now, we at MoM towers have been thinking that one of the biggest and most valuable resources in the industry is the blogosphere… There are a huge number of incredible whisky blogs out there, run by experts with a huge depth of knowledge about the subject of whisky. 

With this in mind, about a month ago we asked 10 of the most prominent whisky bloggers out there to assist us in the creation of our next whisky. We sent them all highly technical blending kits involving loads of cool scientific bits and bobs, and some superb whiskies, and asked each blogger to create their own blend using the ingredients provided, then send us their recipe. We then followed their recipes, made up their blends and put together the sample sets you now see below.

Now, we can only pick one of the recipes to use as our next whisky, and here’s where you come in… We want you to pick which of the 10 blends we bottle.

Highland Park 40 How to Take Part 

All you have to do to take part in this, the world’s first blend created solely by whisky bloggers, is buy a tasting set with all 10 of the bloggers’ recipes for £29.95, and decide which is your favourite.

The kit contains a unique code to enter into the website to enable you to cast your vote, as well as details on how to vote once you’ve tasted the samples.

Bloggers’ Blend Tasting Set for £29.95.

Buy Now

You can read more about the Bloggers’ Blend on the Master of Malt blog.

The Bloggers…


Caskstrength is one of the best respected blogs on the web. Penned by former rival A&R men Neil and Joel, erudite discussion and commentary abound here, with more than a hint of ‘chappishness’.

Dr. Whisky

Penned by Sam Simmons (AKA Dr. Whisky), global brand ambassador for The Balvenie. Dr. Whisky’s blog is pleasingly irreverent, combining industry opinion with some of the best tasting notes we’ve ever read.

Edinburgh Whisky Blog

Founded in 2009 by Chris and Lucas, (then) students at Edinburgh university, and all-round whisky enthusiasts. Both of them now work in the whisky industry, thanks in no small part to the incisive and instinctive writing style on the blog.

Guid Scotch Drink

Written by Scottish ex-Pat Jason Johnstone-Yellin (now residing in the USA), Guid scotch Drink is a healthy mix of reviews, advice and some truly epic distillery tours. Guid Scotch Drink also offer distillery tours and lectures…

Founded in 2009, The JSMWS blog is packed full of irreverent humour, and supremely detailed tasting notes (delivered with images for each of the most prominent flavours – a superb idea). A must-read blog for everyone…


The longest-running whisky podcast on the Internet, with weekly episodes featuring whisky news and interviews with distillers, blenders, authors, and other whisky experts. A true heavyweight of whisky journalism.

Whisky Connosr

Billed as ‘the Whisky Social Network’, Connosr also has a blog offering industry insight, and some superb competitions for users. The blend was provided by a panel of Connosr’s most prolific users.

Whisky Mag

Published 8 times a year, Whisky Magazine is the perfect complement to the dram in your glass. Every issue brings you fascinating articles on the art, science and romance of the ‘water of life’.


One of the most active whisky forums on the web, WhiskyWhiskyWhisky boasts over 1,000 members, discussing an incredibly broad range of topics across the wonderful world of Whisky.

Whisky for Everyone

Husband and Wife team Matt and Karen co-write this superb blog which offers in-depth opinion, tasting notes and distillery information. The site is also host to excellent buying guides and FAQ’s about whisky.

You can read more about the Bloggers’ Blend on The Master of Malt blog.

Unpacking the whisky and tools to make the BEST (hopefully) Master of Malt blend!

I was so excited to receive and open my box of blending tools and whiskies from Master of Malt, I had to make a video.

I’d, of course, like to thank G-d but would like to also give special thanks to Master of Malt, my wife, our crappy little point & shoot, iMovie, our compost bin and our kids pictures (both of which can be seen in the background of the video) for making this possible.

I hope after this my video will be considered for a “Drammy”!

Master of Malt creates a whisky liqueur for single malt connoisseurs

I don’t post many PR pieces (not because I don’t want to; I usually don’t have the time.  I’ll figure it out one of these days…).

This one tickled my fancy for sure.  I’m not a liqueur kind of guy but the description sound very nice – especially if it is what they say it is!!  I’ll have a review going up on this in a few weeks.  To me, it sounds ridiculously delicious.


Whisky Liqueur for Single Malt Connoisseurs

Master of Malt have created a whisky liqueur for single malt Scotch whisky drinkers.

Master of Malt’s (http://www.masterofmalt.com/) Whisky liqueur is made exclusively with all-sherry matured, 10 year old single malt whisky from a very famous Speyside distillery. It is flavoured with many Christmassy spices including cinnamon and cloves, and two kinds of orange peel. The result is a rich and complex liqueur aimed at the discerning single malt whisky connoisseur.

Master of Malt’s Sales Director, Ben Ellefsen, described the thinking behind the new venture: “We wanted to go against the grain and say “here’s a liqueur that a whisky connoisseur can enjoy”. Our new liqueur is made with all natural ingredients, based around an absolutely superb 10 year old Speyside single malt whisky, which was matured solely in sherry casks. The flavours we added were chosen to complement the Scotch, and bring it to a new level – this is in contrast to many of the mass-marketed liqueurs which use huge levels of sweetness and flavourings to hide the lack of complexity in the (often cheap, young, grain) whiskies they are based on.”

“Our new whisky liqueur is delicious neat or in a Rusty Nail cocktail, but we heartily recommend you have it in an ice-filled tumbler, garnished with a freshly cut strip of orange zest…”

You can buy Master of Malt 10 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur for £26.95 here: http://www.masterofmalt.com/liqueurs/master-of-malt-10-year-old-speyside-whisky-liqueur/

Master of Malt Whisky Liqueur

  • Made exclusively with 10 year old, all-sherry matured Speyside Single Malt
  • Flavoured with Christmassy spices including cinnamon and cloves, and two kinds of orange peel
  • Handmade in very small batches

About Master of Malt

  • Established in 1985
  • One of the UK’s leading Online Spirits Merchants
  • A highly rated independent bottler, all of whose single cask whiskies scored over 90 points in the Jim Murray Whisky Bible 2009

Master of Malt Blog – http://www.masterofmalt.com/blog

Master of Malt Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/masterofmalt

Master of Malt Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/masterofmalt

Master of Malt – http://www.masterofmalt.com/


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