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Masthouse is a brand of whisky produced at Copper Rivets Distillery in Chatham, Kent. The distillery was founded by the Russell family. Back in 1979, Bob Russell established Topper’s Wine Bar in Rainham. From there he began to export beers, wines and spirits from all over Europe. By 2005, the family were craving complete control over the production of their own unique product and began to plan the building of their own distillery.
Several locations were considered, including London and Scotland but the family were keen to remain in Kent. Then, when Matthew Russell visited Upnor Castle for a family picnic, he spotted the derelict Pumphouse No. 5 in the old Royal Navy Dockyards in Chatham. The following Monday he visited Chatham Maritime and made some enquiries. The Pumphouse, it turned out, was for sale and thus, the family had found their new premises.
Pumphouse No. 5 dates back to 1873. At that time, the Royal Navy were expanding the dockyard to cater for new technologies in steam-power. The Pumphouse was designed with cutting edge hydraulic technology and was used to drain the dry docks. It operated until 1984 but had lain dormant ever since.
The final piece of the puzzle came when Stephen Russell met Abhishek Banik at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh. Banik was teaching Brewing and Distilling to Post Graduates but Stephen persuaded him to come to Chatham to design the new distillery and serve as Head Distiller. Distillation commenced in 2016 and their Masthouse whisky arrived in 2020.
This sample came to me courtesy of Whisky Pioneer, a new monthly subscription service. Whisky Pioneer has a lovely slogan that reads “Whisky shouldn’t cost the Earth…” and they package their monthly samples in a 100% recycled plastic bottle.
They worked with Prevented Ocean Plastic (POP), a company who specialise in collecting plastic from coastal areas. This ocean bound plastic is defined as coming from an area within 30 miles of the coast or a major waterway that feeds the ocean. It comes from countries with a lack of waste management infrastructure and regions overwhelmed by population growth or tourism. Without action, there would be a high probability of this plastic ending up in our oceans.
For just £7.95 a month, Whisky Pioneer send out a 6cl sample of an interesting whisky in their unique, recycled plastic bottle that fits through your letterbox. Past bottles have included whiskies from the likes of Mackmyra and Torabhaig.
Since the sample bottle can be recycled, you can either pop it in the recycling at home or return it, to be used again by Whisky Pioneer.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents. For the record I have since signed up as a fully paid-up subscriber to the Whisky Pioneer service.
Smell: Lots of cereal grains up front. Grist. Vanilla and custard cream biscuits. Lemon and lime. Pickled jalapeno. Olives. Salted peanuts.
Taste: Butterscotch and toffee then some prickly peppery spice. Lime and jalapeno from the nose coming through again. It’s almost tequila-like. Honey and vanilla. Green apples. Malty finish.
Thoughts: It’s got quite an unusual flavour profile this. It reminds me a little of Glasgow Distillery’s Triple Distilled 1770 release, only there’s less cask impact here. On that subject, the cask influence is pretty minimal but the whisky doesn’t feel immature. Young perhaps but not immature. It’s light and delicate but the flavour isn’t too subtle. That’s possibly a result of being bottled at 45%.
A bottle will set you back around £45 which is around what you’d expect from a small craft distillery. It’s quite unusual though so if possible, I’d recommend trying it before you buy. If that isn’t an option, £45 isn’t too much of a gamble, is it?
As for the Whisky Pioneer subscription, I really like what I’m seeing here. I like the effort that’s being put into the bottle and it looks like they’re seeking out some interesting and unusual drams to share with members. Seems like a decent deal to me.