Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: Christmas
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Walsh Whiskey Tasting

Well. It's been a while, blog. We missed you! A combination of a remarkably busy year at work, a big holiday, and some general writing lethargy have all meant we haven't been able to make much time for this little corner of the internet as we'd have liked. But we thought we'd start ourselves back off with sharing our thoughts on a selection of Irish Whiskey! We were lucky enough to be selected to take part in The Whisky Wire's twitter tasting with Walsh Whiskey this evening, who are the masterminds behind the Writer's Tears brand along with The Irishman.


An absolutely magnificent package arrived from the lovely Walsh Whiskey team last week, complete with Santa hats, which made this officially our first festive event of the year. We'd usually say it's a little early, but hey, there's whiskey, so who are we to bah humbug about anything?!


First up is Writers' Tears Double Oak (46%). The nose is soft, fresh and bursting with crisp apple notes, which makes us think of those fat shoelace apple sweets! Vibrant, but with the oak casks (a mixture of American Bourbon and French Cognac) smoothly holding up the backbone. As it opens up it gets softer yet, the sharp apple character rounds out to a spiced crumble with custard. Definitely starting to feel cosy! On the palate, the orchard fruits still are there in abundance, ripe pear sitting nicely alongside that apple we keep banging on about, and a zesty character nestling among it all. Gentle vanilla and cinnamon help make this a delightfully balanced drop. Reminiscent of porridge topped with some spiced stewed apple compote. That's breakfast tomorrow sorted! 
 
Onto whiskey number 2! The Irishman 12 Year Old is a Single Malt, triple distilled, bottled at 43% ABV and comprising exclusively first fill Bourbon casks. On the nose there's the sea breeze at low tide, somewhat heartier and more robust than the last. There's the warmth of open fire, reminiscent of a cognac. Toffee apples and grassy samphire. Maybe even a little lavender? An odd mix perhaps and plenty going on, but the whole thing is harmonious nonetheless and nothing seems out of place. To taste, we're getting dried fruit and salted caramel alongside stewed apricots drizzled with just a little honey. There's a  zippy note of candied orange peel, followed by a rounded, slightly oily walnut character to finish. It's somewhat spicy too, with black and pink peppercorn fragrantly jazzing things up and lasting right through to the end of a lingering, only gently tannic finish. Impressively drinkable.
 
Dram 3 is The Irishman Marsala Cask Finish (46%). This one has been matured in a combination of American Bourbon casks and Oloroso sherry butts, before being finished for 15 months in Marsala hogsheads. More delicate than the 12YO on the nose, it dishes up floral honey, a hint of treacle, sugared almonds, vanilla and, somehow, JAMMY DODGERS. On the palate there's dusty shortbread dunked in cocoa, but alongside dried lime. The effect reminds us of a chocolate lime sweet! A long warming finish makes this a soothing winter dram. We could definitely spend long nights in front of the fire with this one. Usually only available in The Loop, Dublin Airport, so we were very lucky to get to try this one!
 
And finally, we move on to finish with Writers' Tears Cask Strength 2019, weighing in at 53%. Surprisingly gentle on the nose though, that alcohol doesn't punch you in the face. Sumptuous vanilla custard, fudge sweetness and hints of freshly dried hay alongside newly churned butter. Moving on to taste, this whiskey continues to belie the ABV, politely knocking on the door of your tastebuds rather than going at them with a battering ram. Upon sipping, it's creamy AF. Like actually drinking cream levels of creamy. Vanilla, nutmeg, Battenberg slices and dried cranberries in the mix too, alongside a tropical note, possibly dried papaya? We can confirm this is a veritable delight alongside a mince pie. Almost scarily drinkable.

Overall, accessible and elegant whiskies and a great evening spent dramming at home. A huge thank you to Steve at The Whisky Wire for having us along, and the Walsh Whiskey team for such an array of treats to get us well and truly in the Christmas spirit.

Fingers crossed we won't leave it seven months next time!

Cheers,

Jim & Laura
 
Bonus picture of Tosin, obstinately not wearing a hat

Saturday, 26 December 2015

A Beery Advent - The Finale!

And so here it is, merry Christmas! Well, actually, it's now Boxing Day as we were too busy drinking and eating yesterday to finish this post. Hope you all had a good one, folks!

21. Wiper & True - Plum Pudding Porter, 5.9%
Chock full of festive spices from the opening of the bottle to the final sip. This porter has the balance just right - it's fruity without being overly sweet. Roasted malt flavours combine with coffee and chocolate notes to give a rounded mouthfeel with a lovely dry finish. We got to try this one twice as it formed part of December's Karma Citra beer club! Nod to the beautiful branding, too.

22. Art Brew - Christmas Tree Beer, 6.0%
We reckon this is the only beer we've ever come across where an entire Christmas tree got chucked in the brew. Normally, resinous and piney notes in beer come from the hops... and whilst that may also be the case in this instance, it's full on "Oh Tannenbaum" on the nose which completely knocks the socks off any hop aroma. On the palate it's a different story, with enormous, stonkingly bitter hop character working in perfect harmony with the sweet, spicy, sappy spruce. Reminiscent of toffee and ginger too, this is one very unusual and complex beer. A delicious revelation.

23. Dubuisson - Bush de Noel, 12.0%
We couldn't do a beer advent calendar without including such a classic Christmas beer. This certainly did not disappoint on the festive front - vibrant with quintessential Christmas spices, wafts of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger all coupled with a bold Belgian backbone, sweet esthers and a great malty character. Warming yet lightly refreshing.

24. De Molen - Tsarina Esra, 11.0%
This particular beer was a Christmas gift last year from our good friend Sean at Beer Central, and so we thought it was only fitting to save it for a special festive occasion. For an 11% beer it is delightfully well balanced, not too heavy on the malt but holding strong with a major roasted character. Stewed plums, black treacle, and dark chocolate are prominent throughout. The bottle we had was bottled mid 2014 and had a recommended drink-by-date 2039, so we drank it pretty young... the flavours will only grow and develop as it ages, but we are impatient! An utterly scrumptious and dangerously quaffable imperial stout.

25. Ruhstaller - DiGregorio Barley Wine, 12.0%
Big guy for Christmas day! We bought this on our first trip to the excellent Junkyard in Nottingham earlier this year. On the palate it's resinous and full-bodied with a mammoth malt character. Layers upon layers of flavour - hints of pine wood and citrus come through along with dark fruit and rich toffee. A pleasing level of sweetness is balanced by punchy hop bitterness. Big, boozy and bold - an excellent match for our roast duck Christmas dinner.


Cheers,

L&J

Monday, 21 December 2015

Sprout bhajis and bacon jam

Our Christmas Day starter! Inspired by Bundobust and Fat Hippo, both of whom have provided us with excellent sustenance and a bloody good time during 2015 (see also here and here).

Bacon jam (makes 2 jars)
400g of bacon
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1tsp paprika
1 chilli
100g brown sugar
A generous splash of cider vinegar

Cut the bacon and onion into 1inch pieces and chop the garlic. Fry the bacon until golden brown. Remove from the pan and fry off the onion, garlic and chilli, until the onions are translucent. Then add the paprika and continue to fry for a couple more minutes. Add the bacon back into the pan with the brown sugar and vinegar. Bring everything up to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes to thicken, stirring every once in a while to prevent the sugar from sticking or burning. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then blend to your chosen consistency - we went for chunky. Decant into sterilised jars. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Sprout Bhajis (makes a starter for 2)
200g cornmeal or gram flour (plain flour will do in an emergency but won't provide the same colour)
A generous handful of sprouts
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1.5tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 dried chilli
1tsp salt
1tsp turmeric powder

Add your whole spices to a hot, dry pan and toast until the mustard seeds start to pop. Grind them up in a pestle and mortar. Once ground, add to the cornmeal or gram flour with the salt and turmeric powder and bind together with cold water - enough to transform your spicy flour mixture into a light batter. Chop the sprouts into slices and stir them into the batter. Deep fry in hot oil until golden and crunchy.


The combination for Christmas day is perfect for us - traditional ingredients that you'd expect to see on a festive table, with a definitely non-conventional twist!

Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

Jim and Laura

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Beery Advent - Part 2

Continuing on our beery journey through December... We've tried to select beers that represent a good selection of our favourite breweries (those that bottle, at least), covering a range of styles, with many also having a little story behind them too.


6. Intrepid - Porter, 4.8%
We selected this beer as 2015 has truly been the year of Craft Beer Hour! We've followed this from the beginning and were able to properly get involved with a greatly enjoyable trip to the Intrepid brewery, followed by tea at the fantastic community owned Anglers Rest in Bamford. This beer is pleasantly smooth, with wafts of a delectable hop character that brings a delicate floral nature to the malty mouthfeel, whilst being altogether an easy drinker. A classic porter brought to the more modern palate.

7. Crew Republic - Foundation 11, 5.6%
Fickle reason for picking this initially - Laura cannot resist any beer with an owl included in the artwork. Having tried this on keg a few months ago, we were blown away by the powerfully fruity, refreshing nature of this American-style pale ale, produced by a Munich-based brewery. The bottled version has less hop pizazz, but is still a very tasty drink... Resinous and lightly floral in aroma. Grapefruity and bitter on the palate, with an almost savoury, herbal edge and a dry finish.

8. Northern Monk - Strannik, 9.0%
As soon as this hits the glass, you know you've got a BIG drink. Massively rich and creamy on the nose, with molasses and hints of tannins. On the palate it's thick, almost to the point of being syrupy, with full bodied flavours of black treacle and hot buttered toast. The finish is deeply roasted, with an almost burnt nature that lingers behind. We've been ageing this for about two years - definitely worth the wait.

9. Siren - Barrel Aged Broken Dream, 7.4%
Aged in Ardbeg barrels, this appealed to the whisky fans in us as much as the beer lover! There's a hint of sweet wood smoke from the cask but this doesn't overwhelm at all... in fact we'd have liked a little more! None the less this is a beautiful beer that feels luxurious in drinking - oily, rich and leaves a gentle peaty sweetness on the tongue.

10. Blue Monkey - Silverback in the USSR, 10.5%
There is absolutely no doubt that if this beer was a monkey, it'd have to be a gorilla. Aptly named indeed. We mentioned earlier on that Strannik was on the syrupy side, but nothing compared to this... it's like drinking a melted down liquorice stick, with a similar mouthfeel to a fortified wine. Roasted malt character, and aniseedy sweetness partnered by hop bitterness. Boozy as hell. (Honourable mention at this festive time to our favourite-ly named Christmas beer, King Kong Merrily On High, also brewed by our pals at Blue Monkey!)

Cheers,

L&J

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 19-24

Another adventurous advent reaches its boozy crescendo!

19th

Whisky
Timorous Beastie, 46.8%
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Cereals with a sweetness of toffee, dry notes of sherry and strong sea breeze.
Palate: Sticky fruits and lightly spiced with a bold peat hit, with an essence of a mashtun in the form of toasted yeasty grain.
Finish: Winter spice that hangs around for ages all over the mouth and the peat stays up in the forefront.

Vodka
Breckenridge, 40%
Created at the world's highest distillery in Colorado, this is a clean, crisp and refreshing vodka, which I found a really good combination of traditionally flavoured but with a quirky slightly medicinal twist of pine and a hint of floral perfume. Interestingly, this is made from snowmelt water, and you can almost taste the icy environment! Another thing I've discovered this month whilst tasting such an array of top-quality vodkas is the importance of choosing the right tonic - I paired this with my new favourite, Peter Spanton No. 1, which brought forth more sweetness from the Breckenridge.

20th

Whisky
Girvan Grain Patent Still: No. 4 Apps, 42%
Colour: Pale sand
Nose: Fresh and grassy with hints of apple.
Palate: Refreshing lemon oiliness with light oak and a hint of chocolate for balance.
Finish: Very light - not quite enough oomph for my liking, but a gentle peppering with a smooth fruity finish.

Vodka
Finlandia Grapefruit, 37.5%
This was a revisiting of an old favourite... one of the first quality spirits I ever treated myself to a bottle of! I still find this absolutely delicious, with vibrant aroma and flavour of grapefruit - sweet and zingy on the nose and with a more robust almost bitterness on the taste. The addition of Peter Spanton tonic (again) made this sing.

21st

Whisky
Mortlach Rare Old, 43.4%
Colour: Vibrant toffee
Nose: All things Christmas... nuts, fruits, and a dry spiciness with an oddly fresh minty hit.
Palate: Sweet and sherried stickiness with hazelnuts, and a strange savoury hit of wood in the background.
Finish: Long, with festive spice and a dry oaky edge.

Vodka
42 Below Manuka Honey, 40%
Such an intense honey aroma on this one... amazingly creamy and sweet scent. It's fresher on the palate with an alcohol tang. I turned this into a twist on a Toblerone cocktail, with Baileys, coffee liqueur and milk. Impressively the heady honey on the nose was in no way diminished by adding other ingredients to it, and it softened the flavour wonderfully. The top cocktail all advent.


22nd

Whisky
Mackinlay's Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey, 47.3%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Fresh orchard fruits with a twinge of tropical sourness that cuts through, leaving a light spice.
Palate: Raisins and sticky honey, plus a tickle of spice with milky coffee and dark chocolate.
Finish: A little crunch of spice, rounded wood together and an oily orange peel character. A lingering full mouth nature of dark coffee.

Vodka
Pinky, 40%
A stunning little vodka, with a lovely rose hue and the scent of strawberries. Clean and more herbal in the flavour but still with a great fresh fruity, berry nature that doesn't overpower.This worked really well with a good splash of elderflower tonic and would definitely enhance a whole array of fruit juice based cocktails - I can imagine this tasting fantastic with cranberry or pink grapefruit juice. A very elegant drink.

23rd

Whisky
Macallan Amber: 1824 Series, 40%
Colour: Unsurprisingly, it's amber.
Nose: Tons of citrus, with fresh lemon and orange zest. Dried nuts feature in the background.
Palate: Delicate, with spice and dried fruits, predominantly raisins. A perfect breakfast dram.
Finish: Cinnamon and chocolate come through on a short but tasty finish.

Vodka
Aviy Pear, Strawberry and Mint, 37.5%
Seriously sweet-smelling... the pear and strawberry both come out strongly on the nose, with the mint more difficult to detect. Smells and tastes just like those candy necklaces you can get! The mint isn't particularly apparent in the flavour either but helps to balance the drink and provides a drier edge to the finish. Really interesting.

24th - the final dram

Whisky
Lost Distilleries Blend, batch 6, 49.3%
Colour: Delicate spun gold
Nose: Fresh fruit, cider apples and light black pepper. Overall, swaddled just like the baby Jesus but in delicate peat, as opposed to a manger. Massive depth to explore... almost salty but with sweetness, like a piece of salted caramel fudge. Given time, the black pepper returns with a hint of pomegranate.
Palate: Chocolatey, fruity, with oodles more peat and a wave of the seaside. An orange oiliness fills the mouth with elements of leather, tannins and fresh tobacco, that become spicy as the flavour develops.
Finish: Nuts and demerara sugar, a salty finish and a majestic peated element which closes the show with multiple encores.

Vodka
Bainbridge Organic Vanilla, 40%
Tons of sweet vanilla, toffee bonbons and creme brulee fill the nose. This didn't quite all come through on the flavour neat, but it made an EXCELLENT rich, creamy and flavoursome White Russian. Well, I couldn't have ended Vodka Advent any other way!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Karma Citra Christmas

For us, winter is definitely the best season for beers, as stouts, porters, and warming ales full of rich fruits and spice all come deliciously to the fore. Imagine our festive joy when our pals at Karma Citra decided that December's beery activities would be the perfect pairing of winter ales and Christmas fare (with compulsory Christmas jumpers of course).


The proceedings began with Sam Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. This brewery is often showcased at the start of Karma Citra's meet-ups, and it's clear to taste why - the beers are always well executed, prime examples of the style the tasting is themed around. Bottled at 6%, the Winter Welcome was easier to sup down than the ABV would suggest, with sweet clove and brown sugar flavours providing a lovely warm glow at the finish. A solid starter.

Next up was Blue Monkey's Bludolph (5%). Always fans of a pun, this Nottingham-based brewery is one that definitely appeals to us (their other festive offering is the excellently-named King Kong Merrily On High). This was a nice pale ale, but not particularly festive - a promising cranberry aroma didn't quite follow through to the taste, which was hoppy and light.

Laura's all time favourite beer, Titanic Plum Porter brought glad tidings of goodwill next. This 4.9% porter is just delicious, with a rich, warming and fruity flavour that reminded us of plum gingerbread and those little chocolate coated Lebkuchen biscuits.


Time to line our stomachs with a platter of Christmas treats... turkey, brie and cranberry sandwiches, proper stuffing, and pigs in blankets. A shot of homemade lemon vodka brought by some of our fellow beery friends was knocked back alongside this feast, which was a fiery yet sweet brilliant palate cleanser... Na zdrove!

Red Willow Baubleless followed, a 6% beer which blends their chocolate and imperial stouts, before being barrel aged for 6 months. Anyone that knows us will recognise that these are three components which all appeal to us immensely, and we were very pleased to have two of these safely stashed in the cupboard at home. The blend and ageing works really well in this producing a well balanced, tasty beverage which starts off sweet and ends on a drier note with a slight oilyness from the oak. Bloody lovely.

We finished on a seasonal Brewdog special, Mulled Dogma, which adds sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Kraken rum to the already very tasty Scotch ale. Christmas isn't Christmas without a pan of something mulling on the stove and this was a really fitting end to a fantastically festive afternoon. Alongside this was served a hearty slab of Chocolate Orange cake and cream, which was a perfect accompaniment.


I think it's fair to say we headed home with a seasonal swing in our step, and we're really looking forward to seeing what the team come up with in 2015!


Cheers,

L&J

Friday, 19 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 13-18

Having reached the half way point, our intrepid journey through the world of fine spirits shows no sign of slowing down...

13th

Whisky

Paul John Edited, 46%
Colour: Dried Straw 
Nose: Aromatic - light peat, sugared mint leaves with a dried fruit and an edge of fresh strawberries.
Palate: Fruity on the tip of the tongue, a really smooth mouthfeel complemented by a bit of fresh red pepper
Finish: Oily star anise on the end, with a soft crunch of coffee bean to close and a deep tannin undercurrent.


Vodka
English Spirit Raspberry, 37.5%
A beautifully rose-tinted, light and fruity vodka, made with freshly picked raspberries. I'm not sure this was quite the season to be drinking this as the subtle flavours would be perfectly suited to a hot summer's day. Delicate and aromatic, a dram of this neat didn't quite stand up to my cosy evening in, so I added a dash of Chase elderflower liqueur, which created a smooth, rich and luxurious short.

14th

Whisky
Balvenie 12 Year, Single Barrel First Fill, 47.8%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Alcohol initially, apple brandy followed by a sweet coffee.
Palate: Light spice with apple juice sweetness, all rounded off by a crisp woodiness.
Finish: A robust oakiness with a lavender honey flavour to follow up

Vodka
Vestal Pomorze 2013, 40%
I found this to have an overwhelming, slightly one-dimensional nose - earthy and a little petrol-esque. The palate was much lighter and more fragrant, but overpowered by the smell. This wasn't quite to my taste, however it would have been really interesting to have drunk this alongside the Kaszebe from earlier in the month to have a direct comparison of the effect of terroir... I could definitely notice a difference but couldn't quite work out what it was.

15th

Whisky
Rock Town Arkansas Bourbon, 46%
Colour: Stained Oak
Nose: Very fresh initially, strawberries seasoned with fresh ground pepper, with dusty wood and bibles.
Palate: To sum up the taste in a noun, I would have to say "church"... the oak is delightful and there's a pleasing underlying brown sugar sweetness.
Finish: Nutty, with more brown sugar in the undertone.

Vodka
Davna Czeri, 38%
This. Is. Phenomenal. A traditionally produced Polish cherry vodka which just absolutely sings of all things cherry. A nose of those cherry lip sweeties, with a slightly medicinal flavour like cherry cola or children's cough mixture (and I mean that in a good way). Little hints of spices including clove and cinnamon are hidden underneath, which makes the whole drink much more rounded. Despite the high ABV this was an easy sipper, more like a liqueur than a spirit. This was enjoyed neat alongside a little piece of dark-chocolate coated gingerbread. Hideously festive.

16th

Whisky
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Old Special Reserve, 40%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Light and fresh with a prickle of sweetness and a dash of spice smothered over dried fruit.
Palate: Light orange chocolatey flavours with honey and a smooth and creamy texture. The sherry element of the ageing process becomes really apparent all the way through.
Finish: A vanilla custard tickles the tongue with a bourbon chewiness at the very end.

Vodka
Chase Rhubarb, 40%
I really enjoyed this one. Old fashioned sweetie shop all round... gentle, deliciously enticing nose encompassing nougat and Love Hearts, with a flavour that was whole-heartedly those hard boiled rhubarb and custard sweets. Again, I drank this neat, but this would work brilliantly in a berry-based cocktail or in a bellini. Chase can quite simply do no wrong.

17th

Whisky
Nikka From The Barrel, 51.4%
Colour: Reddish Straw
Nose: Sweet sherry with a freshness, and a delicate floral splash that rounds off with oak.
Palate: A bold sweet spice coupled with deep raisin, and a hint of charred oak that underlines the richness.
Finish: A light cinnamon and a tickle of prickly spice, alongside a herbal note verging on rosemary which fills the nose.

Vodka
Stolichnaya Chocolat Kokonut, 37.5%
Liquid Bounty. Mmm. Rich, tropical aroma leads on to a flavour which starts off as fresh coconut and builds to a tasty chocolatey smoothness. As with the Ciroc coconut earlier in the month, I just had to White Russian this (and the Stoli just edged it). Well, it is Christmas...

18th

Whisky
Arran Batch 4, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 52%
Colour: Pale golden
Nose: A sweaty sailor clutching a dry sherry with a red wine smile.
Palate: Phenolic, herby and grassy with rounded mouth of a deep richness of more red wine.
Finish: a light delicate spice with a bold deliciousness verging on orange.

Vodka
Square One Basil, 40%
Made with four different types of fresh basil, this is one herbaceous little beverage. The nose is fresh and fragrant, with a hit of liquorice root which makes the smell oddly absinthe-esque and a touch medicinal. On the palate, fresh basil is balanced by a rich, smooth and spicy fruitiness. I added Peter Spanton Lemongrass tonic to this which allowed the more heady, perfumed notes of the vodka to come through, and a grinding of fresh black pepper to cut through the aromatics and add a crisp edge.

We'll be back next week with the final instalment (cracks out tiny violin).

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 7-12

And so our epic advent spirits quest continues...

7th December

Whisky
Glenfarclas 10, 40%
Colour: Straw gold
Nose: Sherry, with apples, raisins and hint of spice through the high-alcohol hit.
Palate: The drink begins smooth but builds to a sticky, burnt oak-y character with a sweet winter spice and a light fruit.
Finish: Stays around in the mouth for a long period of time with oak and spice and tickles with a light spice.

Vodka
Blackwoods Botanical Vodka, 40%
Primarily known for their gin, Blackwoods also distil this product using a range of local Shetland botanicals including meadow sweet and marsh marigold. My first impression upon opening the bottle was a huge hit of pure alcohol which was slightly off-putting and meant I wasn't expecting much complexity of flavour. However, it was clear from the first sip that I'd underestimated this spirit - delicately perfumed flavour with hints of parma violets and soft citrus including grapefruit, and really smooth in the mouth.

8th

Whisky
Dalmore 15, 40%
Colour: Ruby
Nose: BAMM, sherry right off the bat, with a nutty sweetness, like hazelnuts and sugared almonds.
Palate: Sherry continues with orange oil and a sticky sweetness, with a drier nut taste than compared to the nose. A great tickle of sticky ginger and a hint of seasonal spice follow.
Finish: A little prickle of Christmas, nuts and malt with sherry sweetness that ends out the drink.

Vodka
Square One Cucumber Vodka, 40%
I'll admit I wasn't overly looking forward to this one, as I couldn't really imagine how it would work - and I'm not generally the world's biggest cucumber fan. However, I was truly pleasantly surprised - the cucumber flavour was delicate, yet completely balanced out any alcohol rawness from the vodka, resulting in a refreshing and very quaffable little dram. I think this would work really well in a summer cocktail, and can imagine sipping on it alongside a chunk of watermelon. I'd anticipated adding tonic to this, but when it came down to it I didn't want to overwhelm the dainty flavour of the drink, so drank it neat with a squeeze of lime.

9th


Whisky

Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43%
Colour: Deep, rich bronze.
Nose: Complex - sherry prominent, bursting with dark fruits.
Palate: Fresher fruit with an almost liqueur-esque edge of cherries.
Finish: Nutty earthiness with a fresh cream finish and a pinch of spice. The sort of whisky you can chew over for hours.

Vodka
Konik's Tail, 40%
Thickly sweet and creamy, with a pleasing level of just-enough alcohol bite, this small batch spirit is the quintessential elegant vodka. It's rich and complex, with a perfumed edge that reminded me a little of parma violets. Definitely made for sipping, for me this almost compared to a good single malt whisky and I couldn't bear the thought of adding anything to it. Straight up, room temperature, delicious.

10th

Whisky
Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve, 48%
Colour: Rose copper
Nose: Spiced sherry and cherry with a sprinkle of pepper for balance.
Palate: Buttery cherry brandy and oak, with star anise and cinnamon.
Finish: Sweet nuttiness with a light sherry character that sits in the mouth with a delicate spice, and a fresh dusting of ground nutmeg.

Vodka
Brennen & Brown Vodka with a hint of Cardamom & Plum, 38%
Definitely the most intriguing sounding vodka so far, I was really looking forward to this one. A huge waft of Christmas aroma hit me as soon as I opened the bottle, with cardamom prominent but alongside cloves, brown sugar, and fruity festive undertones. This all carried through into the taste - my favourite local bakery, Forge Bakehouse, make an amazing little pastry called a cardamom snurr, which I still haven't quite worked out if they're sweet or savoury - and this vodka provided the same sensation on the palate. I also thought this would have tasted phenomenal alongside a good chunk of Christmas cake. My favourite to date.

11th

Whisky
Glenfiddich 18, 40%
Colour: Golden copper
Nose: Raisins, apples and plums, with a lightly medicinal hint. A little like a used wallet. Caramel and mint also featured.
Palate: Heaps of tannin and dark chocolate, plus a hint of sweet mint, with a cranberry-like finish
Finish: Spice and light smoke with a fruity sweetness that stay on the palate for a long while.

Vodka
Faust Cranberry, 40%
This shocked me when I pulled it from my advent box of treats with it's vibrant scarlet hue. The scent and flavour was all-out cranberry, no surprises there... clean, smooth, slightly dry, and fruity. I turned this into a little martini, with sweet vermouth and orange bitters, which made a really tasty and (oddly) slightly medicinal cocktail. I enjoyed this, but it was the first one all advent that didn't deliver anything above expectations - does what it says on the bottle.

12th

Whisky
Monkey Shoulder, 40%
I've heard a lot about this Dufftown blend but not previously had the opportunity to try it. Having recently found some excellent blended malts including Big Peat, I was looking forward to sampling this.
Colour: Vibrant copper
Nose: Toffee and orange, very light. Sherbet limes and Bucks Fizz.
Palate: Almost fizzy... more sherbet and a lemony citrus flavour, combined with honey. Very easy to drink.
Finish: Just the right amount of fieriness, mingled with icing sugar. A fine example of how good blends can be.

Vodka
42 Below Feijoa Vodka, 40%
Now I am always a fan of learning a new word, and feijoa was definitely a new one on me. Apparently it is a tree which produces fruits also known as "pineapple guavas". I have to say though I didn't think this smelt or tasted of either of those things - the aroma reminded me of antiseptic medicine and the flavour a little of mouthwash. Having said that I wouldn't say I disliked it... just very odd! After sampling a little bit of this I've saved the rest for a cocktail night - I can imagine it working well either just with soda water or lemonade, or with apple/pineapple juice for a more tropical flavour.

So there we have it, half way through!

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Whisky and Vodka Calendars: windows 1-6

Following on from one of the best purchases of last year we have again bought a Drinks by the Dram advent calendar each. For Jim is the whisky calendar and for Laura a change from last year's gin selection to flavoured vodkas. 

1st December

Whisky
Haig Club, 40%
Colour: Light straw coloured grain whisky.
Nose: Prickling with sweet Szechuan peppercorn from the initial high alcohols, with almost cinnamon swirl sweetness later on as the drink opens up.
Palate: Sticky almost sourness of oak and bourbon with a mouth feel that is ever so slight, accompanied by vanilla custard on a baked banana.
Finish: Surprisingly short, with just a tickle of alcohol and a demerara sugar sweetness. The mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, but with an interesting overall taste.
Marketed by David Beckham (an excellent marketing ploy), and showcased in a rather garish blue bottle, this whisky is definitely a talking point but the drinking experience overall is ultimately a little underwhelming. Interesting though, and would be a good way to introduce a non-whisky drinker to the world of whisky.

Vodka
Cold River Blueberry, 40%
Full of fresh blueberry scent that whacks you in the face as you open the bottle - this follows into the flavour as would be expected. This fruitiness is balanced on taste by a herbal note, which I couldn't quite work out (possibly sage?). Overall, this has quite a heavy, cloying flavour - but in a pleasant way. I kept it simple with just a lime wedge to accompany to get the full flavour from my dram, but this would work really well with lemonade or in a cocktail - I'd go for a julep with simple sugar syrup and a good sprig of mint.

2nd

Whisk(e)y
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey 46%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Orchard apples and fruit with a tingle of warmth, with a light overall aroma.
Palate: Fruits and cinnamon and a hint of clove. An overall apple pie flavour rings through the drink.
Finish: Light herbal finish, almost lavender.


Vodka
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Besmoked Vodka, 40.2%
I've sampled this in a pub before as sheer curiosity made this absolutely irresistible, and I was really excited to open my little window and find this hiding in there. I was originally disbelieving that this would live up to it's name, but I will readily admit how wrong I was - it is just unbelievably smokey! To the extent that it tastes almost like a meat... a really good bacon to be more precise. Oddly, though, it's still a refreshing beverage, and the smoky nature mellows into sweetness on the finish. I chose to drink this neat which was powerful and delicious but if we'd had any tomato juice in I'd have gone straight for a Bloody Mary! This is the most intriguing vodka I've ever come across, which takes you on a journey from full-throttle fire to delicate embers.

3rd

Whisky
Evan Williams Single Barrel (2003 Vintage), 43.3%
Colour: Deep ruby
Nose: Cherries, apples and cinnamon, with hints of chocolate and a classic bourbon oakiness.
Palate: A sour apple freshness, accompanied by a delightful oaky flavour with a light plum wood char.
Finish: A short finish that prickles with a little black pepper, accompanied by a BBQ'd orchard fruits skewer.

Vodka
Chase Marmalade, 40%
A gorgeously bitter-sweet drink that more than meets with expectations, this has an intense marmaladey hit that's full of orange zest, with the vodka itself even having a light orangey hue.
The sweetness lingers for ages after polishing this off. My garnish of choice for today's dram would most definitely be a good twist of orange peel, and for a cocktail a glug of sparkling wine would allow this to really shine. Utterly lovely.

4th

Whisky
Jura 16 Year - Duirach's Own, 40%
I first had this on a sunny day at the Jura Hotel, the distillery tap (almost) a child's stone throw across the road from the picturesque stillhouse on the island, and an adult's stone throw from Islay.
Colour: A light ruby red
Nose: Biscuity, sweet sherry oak smell
Palate: The flavours move on to a bolder slice of Christmas cake with nutty marzipan and an oily, quite creamy coffee.
Finish: Like being sat by the fire warms your outside, this dram warms your inside with oak and dark chocolate. The oak barrels permeate all the way through all sensory aspects of the dram.


Vodka
Vestal Kaszebe, 40%
This vodka has been recommended to me on many an occasion but isn't one I've tried before. On the first sip I was somewhat baffled - it has quite a raw, earthy flavour that reminded me of potato peelings! Not unpleasant, just something totally different to any spirit I've tasted before. A splash of high quality tonic lifted the whole flavour to a delicate yet complex herbal delight.



5th 

Whisky
Bowmore 12 Year, 40%
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Salty earth notes, lemon sweetened with honey, and balanced overall with a light bourbon edge plus sweet peat.
Palate: A light peat that ripples with more honey sweet lemon, and a tickle of vanilla with a slight seaweedy underlying flavour.
Finish: There is a strong peat that hits all the way through the drink, with seaweed and warmth from the sweet oak, that keeps this delicious whisky hanging around in the mouth for a long time.

Festive Bison
Vodka
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, 40%
This is one of the most popular Polish vodkas on the market, but not one I've had the pleasure of sampling before. Neat, the nose is sweet and full of dessert aromas, all marzipan and apple pie. The palate is more herbal in nature, with a hit of sweet hay. I made this into a little cocktail creation with the classic apple juice pairing. My version used cloudy apple juice, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top for a festive edge - a perfect winter drink.


6th

Whisky
Spirit of Hven - Seven Stars No.2 Merak, 45%
Colour: Vibrant Copper
Nose: Black pepper and dark chocolate Toblerone giving honey nut sweetness,
Palate: A smooth chilli spiciness of black pepper that punches straight up front and with a light cinnamon heat that continues along the tongue.
Finish: The crisp heat continues for a lovely length of time, with a great hint of dark chocolate sweetness lingering on the palate.

Vodka
Ciroc Coconut, 37.5%
Originating from France, this grape-distilled vodka is a real twist on the sort of spirit I'm used to. The nose is packed full of sweet, sticky coconut accompanied by other tropical fruits including pineapple, meaning the aroma as a whole is rounded pina colada. Given time to breathe, a fresher scent that's more coconut water becomes apparent. The flavour is smooth, soft and sweet - just like a Bounty! After sampling this straight up, I just couldn't resist turning this into a White Russian cocktail with coffee liqueur, whole milk and a tiny squeeze of chocolate syrup. Mmm!

Cheers,

J&L

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Advent Calendars 2014

They have arrived! Things of beauty, joy, and goodwill for all. Or for both of us at least.

Bonus bottle of festive Big Peat too!
We've gone for whisky and vodka this year, with gin, tequila, rum and cognac calendars also available from the lovely chaps over at Master of Malt.

You can view last year's round ups here, here, here and here - and since polishing off our Christmas Eve dram we've been waiting for pre-advent to roll back around. We'd heartily recommend them to anyone still trying to decide whether to invest in one... Yes, it's a fair dollop of cash, but the contents work out to be great value for money and we found absolute delight in things we wouldn't be able to afford full bottles of. A proper treat every day, and just the perfect way to warm yourself up for Christmas.

Bring on December 1st!

Cheers,

L&J

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent - the final batch of drams! 18-24

As Christmas day draws near, so more and more of our little advent windows are emptied. Here are our reviews of the last few drams...

Day 18
Laura - Greenhook Ginsmiths Gin. Another American one and I have come to expect good things from across the pond. This is a fine example of a classic gin, with a clean juniper flavour and a beautiful aromaticism. A good one to sip on!
Jim - Yellow Spot. An Irish whiskey of great quality with a nose of vanilla poached apricots, and a bourbon sweetness. This is accompanied by a velvet caress across the tongue tasting of fruits and a nutty touch down the neck.

19
L - St George's Rye Gin. You can definitely taste the rye! It's hearty, smooth and very rich. Once again this month, I have found myself surprised at just how unique a gin can be. It's described on the St George's website as "a gin for whiskey lovers" which I would definitely agree with - it even won over my usually gin-hating uncle, who was drawn in by the delicious malty aroma.
J - Auchentoshan Three Wood - two sherry casks and a bourbon come together to make this sweet, tropical fruit nose and a palate of treacle and dark fruits such as cherries. The colour of red bronze brings with it light nuts and a long finish of sticky sweet oak.

20
L - City of London Dry Gin. A fairly harsh (but not unpleasant) juniper flavour that softens into a lovely warm finish. I love the history and story behind gin, as well as just drinking it, and this company truly embodies this, even down to featuring plenty of fantastic Hogarth-esque imagery on their website. I'd really like to pay the distillery a visit!
J - Johnnie Walker Platinum Collection. Smells of pudding... fruits, custards and (oddly) smoke. All round, a very festive nose. A tickle of smokiness continues across the roof of the mouth. Fades to a nutty dark chocolate.

21
L - Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Bathtub Gin Navy Strength. Surely a good sign when your gin is ever so slightly brown. This is 57%, and in Jim's words, "fucking incredible". It smells cinnamony, and a bit like a very tipsy gingerbread man. The key notes I got on the taste were brown sugar and cardamom, a winning combination. The finish lasts for AGES, and as well as the cardamom spice there's also some clove in there. I could rave about this gin for hours.
J - Scapa - malted toffee and rich caramel on the nose. Spiced oranges present in the taste, with a smoky finish across the palate.


22
L - Mason's Yorkshire Dry Gin. Being from Yorkshire myself, I was very excited to see this one. It is lovely - peppery, fragrant and clean. A credit to my beautiful home county!
J - Glenfiddich 15 year old Distillery Edition. Spiced custard on the palate, with a hint of freshly ground black pepper and a long finish of buttery sweetness, followed with flavours of sherry.

23
L -Breuckelen Glorious Gin - well this definitely lives up to it's name. Very aromatic, with a creamy, almost herby scent (rosemary is one of the five botanicals in this). The flavour is citrussy but with a malty hit that keeps it smooth. A long finish that tickles in the tum.
J - Yamazaki 12 Yr. A sweet tender tasting whisky, with a flavour of delightful flowers which skips across the tip of the tongue. The orange sugar flavours creep up the nose and down the throat, before the end slinks away with a fruity woodiness that fills the mouth.

24 - And so we reach the final dram!
L - Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin - a savoury character in the flavour soon gives way to a sweet, citrus finish that resonates in the throat for ages, which I particularly appreciated today as I finally polished off the last sip of what has been a great advent!
J - Glenfarclas 40 yr - Spectacular. Apples, and peppered dark chocolate drift across the nose, with a light sherry. The rich characterful texture gently caresses the tongue with medjool dates, and figs seasoned with spice and demarara sugar. The finish is much like chewing on a leather jacket wearing gingerbread man. Simply divine.

Overall... what can we say?! It's been a rollercoaster of flavour and an absolutely incredible ride! Both calendars were sensational, not a bad drink between them, and despite the fairly big outlay they represent fantastic value for money. We've both had the opportunity to taste drinks we would never have thought to buy a full bottle of, or even come across in a bar, and each revelation has been a delight.

This will very likely become an annual event - head on over to Master of Malt to join us next year!

Slainte,

Laura and Jim

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mulled Cider

With Christmas comes the use of mulling spices to liven alcohols and soften moods. Whilst wine is the usual booze of choice when it comes to mulling, cider is another viable option, using a similar concoction of spices but with the addition of dried fruit such as raisins to sweeten and a vanilla pod if you are feeling fancy.

Start first by zesting an orange into a pan. Chop the orange in half then stud it with cloves. To that add 100g of sugar and a handful of raisins, then the rest of the whole spices...
A cinnamon stick
A vanilla pod
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cardamon pods
And a roughly chopped thumb of ginger

Then add the cider. We normally use a 3L bottle which you can pick up at most supermarkets and corner shops, the kind often seen suspiciously full discarded by park benches - it will lose the fix as you mull it.  Heat this gently (never boiling as you don't want to lose the alcohol) for at least 30 minutes. The flavours will continue to improve the longer you leave it and the house will smell frankly divine.

Press the fruit to release a little of their juice and serve in heatproof glasses or mugs with a dash of dark rum and fine grating of nutmeg. Don't throw away the fruit - sprinkle the raisins over the top of ice cream or stir them into cream before serving with a christmas pudding.


Enjoy!

J and L

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas Salt Beef Test Run

So it is coming round to that time of year, where the season of bitter cynicism meets the festive marketing of toys and other crap we don't need wrapped under the guise of joy and giving. A time of year where shops and radio stations feel it is their duty to play the turgid 'Christmas hit' loop with an air of enforced regimented happiness that always makes the yuletide gay. (Note from the wife: these are the opinions of Jim and are not representative of the household as a whole!) With this enforced frivolity comes a time where being drunk at 10 in the morning can be excused with words like "I'm just taking in the christmas spirit". The Coca-Cola red frivolity train does on the other hand bring with it a cargo of encouraged overconsumption, punctuated with plausible table conversation:
"I could not possibly eat one more iota, for I am replete." 
"Another mince pie, good sir? 
"Oh yes please, fine fellow".  
This gluttony of food brings also a liquid excess, happily for me this is what makes the season genuinely jolly.

Some recipes can be ready and delicious in 15minutes, for others a little more time is needed for the complexities of the recipe as a whole. Then there are some that takes over a week to make some of the most exquisite food imaginable. Salt beef is one of those - while it is always possible to buy the beef ready cured from some butchers and supermarkets, it never has the class of producing your own brine and curing what eventually becomes a delicious piece of meat.


This was a pre-christmas test run, so I used a smaller piece of meat and a smaller amount of brine, but this is a recipe that cries out to be mass-catered.

Ingredients:
Beef brisket
For the brine:
300g Salt
200g Sugar
Orange rind
1tbsp Black pepper
1 stick Cinnamon
2 Star anise
1 tsp Cloves
2 garlic Garlic
1 tsp Cardamom pods
20 grams Prague Powder #1 (optional)

For Poaching:
1 Carrot
1 Onion
2 sticks of celery
half a head of garlic
Bunch of herbs (Thyme Rosemary, Oregano, Bay Leaves)


Bring together all of the brining ingredients in a pan with plenty of water about 1.5l. Bring to the boil in order to dissolve the salt and sugars. Add the Prague Powder now, this will help the meat to keep its colour. Allow to cool, and then pop the meat into a freezer bag and ladle the brine over the meat until completely submerged. Seal the bag, taking care to remove any air that may still be in the bag, and cover well - we used silver foil, and an extra bag for safety! When this is done place in the cellar or a cool place for 5-7 days, turning the bag over daily.

After the meat is ready, give it a light rinse to remove any excess brine. The next step is to poach the meat until it becomes tender, taking care not to boil it as the meat will toughen. Poach with a roughly chopped carrot, onions and celery, as well as a half a head of garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs.

Serve on bagels with plenty of pickles.

Ho ho ho!

Jim


======*Update*======

This recipe has been featured on the Love Salt Beef website here.

Love Salt Beef is the perfect place for those of you who are into making, buying and more importantly eating salt beef.