You Need To Try This is a running archive of all the awesome drinks and dishes we’ve come across over the course of our professional and private lives — or at least the ones that we have the presence of mind and patience to photograph before they get in our bellies.
The Bartenders Malt by Auchentoshan is a collaboration between the famed distillery in Glasgow and twelve of the world’s most innovative bartenders. The idea was to craft a whiskey for mixing first, drinking neat second, the opposite of every other Scotch on the shelf. The dozen bartenders had competed in the New Malt Order, a competition where bartenders from all over the world submitted a custom recipe for their own blend of bitters. As winners, they became the international collective that would team up to produce the ideal malt. The team not only got to travel to Scotland to see the distillery and Glasgow (one of the most underrated cities anywhere), but they also got to make their own whisky! The crew was made up of bartenders from the UK, Germany, Sweden, the USA and Canada’s own Oliver Stern of BlueBlood Steakhouse in Toronto.
When I heard about this project, I was very eager to see what would come out of the final bottling. When you consider how so many marketing dollars from big liquor companies go to cocktail competitions these days, the concept of The Bartenders Malt is such a fresh relief. Though competitions are a great way for exposure of bartenders and brands, the final results have never been something the consumer can buy off the shelf.
Auchentoshan placed the entire production process – with guidance from former Master Blender Rachel Barrie – in the hands of the bartenders. The team was given “unprecedented” access to the distillery’s whisky stocks. Every bartender created their own malt, and these were all then blended into one master batch. The final product is a whisky of no age statement, though I understand drams from as far back as the 1970’s were used, all with different finishes such as sherry butts, old Laphroaig casks, and used rum barrels.
Weighing in at 47% ABV, The Bartenders Malt has a strong backbone, and the golden copper hue is a great canvas to work with for cocktails. Right off the bat honeyed layers of sweetness hit the nose, with notes of stone fruit and subtle whispers of tobacco leaf. Silky sweetness up front on the palate leads to dark cacao, bing cherry, and a ginger bite towards the back of the tongue. The finish is a long, dry one with pleasant green peppercorns and winter spice.
I want to drink this on its own, or perhaps beside an English Special Bitter Ale. The fact that it stands up on its own is impressive. With all the apricot and honey flavours coming from this malt, my first thought was citrus. I mixed it in a Blood & Sand (whisky, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, orange juice) and was happy with the results. (While the cherry brandy was a natural fit, I would recommend a more bitter sweet vermouth like Punt E Mes.) I think The Bartenders Malt is not just for shaken drinks, as it mixes beautifully into a Scotch Old Fashioned, especially when you swap out the classic cherry garnish with a piece of candied ginger.
Get it before it’s gone at specialty stores like Legacy Liquor, where the product retails for around $60.