Review: Master of Malt Whisky Liqueurs
One of the fundamental principles of cocktail-making is that you need to pay attention to the flavours. Get it wrong and your libation will taste like the ingredients are fighting with each other in your mouth, get it right and it will taste as though they are singing in perfect harmony. The team over at Master of Malt have taken this flavour matching idea in the creation of their range of whisky liqueurs which culminates in the world’s oldest whisky liqueur which uses whisky aged for 40yrs.
The Speyside distillery from which the whisky for these liqueurs is sourced is a closely guarded secret, but the quality shines throughout the entire range. The whisky has been aged in sherry casks and it is interesting to see how the flavour profile that is usually so distinctive in a neat whisky varies throughout the different liqueurs. Each liqueur is created using a whisky base of a different age, with sugar and a number of different botanicals added to enhance individuals flavours and create a range of liqueurs that each have their own flavour profile.
Cinnamon, orange peel and cloves have been added to the blend with this whisky, with all three coming through nicely on the nose. The sherry cask-aged whisky is evident with some delicious fruity aromas that are complemented but not dominated by the additional botanicals. There is more than a hint of cola and ginger with spice from the cinnamon resulting in what smells a little like a cross between a cola bottle and an aniseed ball! The sweetness is present immediately on the palate but quickly fades to a spicy mid-palate of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Smoky and woody flavours develop later and give rise to a slightly charred and bitter finish with the sweetness becoming more evident and reminiscent of burnt creme brûlée. This is complex in flavour yet approachable at the same time. The additional flavours have been judiciously used and just the right amount of sweetness brings everything together.
Much lighter on the nose and immediately reminiscent of honey and lemon. The grapefruit, white peach and orange peel are very much evident although there are deeper aromas as well the suggest Christmas cake and in the nicest possible way, silage! Again the palate starts sweet and rapidly builds to almost tangy flavours of tropical fruit. The classic flavours of Speyside whisky are there, but the unusual ingredients with which it has been blended results in a very unique profile. The upfront fruity notes develop into surprising hints of demerara rum before heating up with flavours of allspice and more than a hint of clove on the finish. Were these spicier notes not present at the end I might conclude the sweetness is just a touch too much; instead it helps marry what are some very contrasting flavours and create a rather unique liqueur.
This is a much more conservatively smelling product and you might be forgiven for thinking that this is in fact not a liqueur at all. There is plenty of vanilla and oak, with a hint of freshly baked bread. If you go searching you’ll pick up the additional flavours of cinnamon, orange peel and grapefruit but more so than the younger liqueurs, they are playing a more subtle role here. Although still clearly a liqueur, the sweetness doesn’t hit you as immediately on the palate as the two liqueurs above. Instead it develops with a little more finesse and brings with it some delightful flavours of fresh forest fruits. The cinnamon hangs unobtrusively in the background, whilst the citrus additions cut through the prominent sherry’ed whisky to keep things nice and fresh. The bread that was evident on the nose makes reappearance on the finish with the result being a very finely poised liqueur indeed.
The unmistakable aroma of, oh, hold on a minute, bourbon(!) fills the nose, with rich spiced fruit and nuts tempting you in to taste. When you do, you are rewarded with a spicy upfront flavour that is full-on but balanced. The sweetness follows the pattern already seen and is less dominant here than the younger expressions. The rich spiced fruit from the nose continues on the palate and is complemented by the cinnamon which is perhaps more evident here on the palate than the other liqueurs. It’s buttery, fruity, oaky, leathery, spicy and more. There is no mistaking the age and complexity of this whisky and I can’t help but think out of the four, this tastes most like the liqueur process has enhanced and already fantastic spirit. By far my favourite of the lot and a worthy of the title of the world’s oldest whisky liqueur.
The Maple Whiskey Liqueur
This liqueur bucks the trend set by the others and is in fact based on a secret bourbon. To this high grade maple syrup is added, and hey presto you have a 29.9% abv liqueur. The nose is surprisingly peppery, with the maple very much playing second fiddle to the vanilla-laced buttery and caramel-forward whiskey. The classic bourbon taste profile also asserts itself initially on the palate before the earthy flavours of the maple syrup blends harmoniously with the oak-notes to deliver a wonderfully deep mid-palate with just the right amount of sweetness. Hints of maraschino liqueur combine with a bit more peppery spice before the maple has its opportunity to shine on the long, sweet finish accentuated by a wonderful hint of creme brulee. This is a cracking liqueur in in it’s own right, but add some ice and a few dashes of your favourite bitters and you’ve gotten yourself a cracking Maple Old Fashioned.
The Master of Malt Whisky Liqueurs are absolutely delicious and would be enjoyed by connoisseurs and amateurs alike. The additionally flavouring and sugar have enhanced rather than hidden or subtracted from the whisky base and each liqueur is sufficiently different as to have it’s own identity. With a range of price-points there is something for everyone; this isa product range definitely worth exploring.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.