Cocktails with… Pomme Pom – Adnams Aged Apple Spirit

This week (26th October – 1st November) is National Calvados Week, but it also marks the launch of Adnams Pomme Pom, an oak-aged apple spirit, or – to put it another way – an apple brandy. Whilst I am a big fan of Calvados (and North American Applejack, too, for that matter), I thought that for this Calvados Week I would look across from Normandy to the other side of the channel to explore this English apple brandy*.

PommePom Bottle

Pomme Pom is made at the Adnams Copperhouse Distillery in Southwold, Suffolk. The distillery takes cider from nearby Hogan’s Cider Farm and distills it in their copper pot stills. It is then aged for at least three years in oak casks.

On its own
Nose: Dried apples with rich notes of wood and warm spice, as well as a hint of caramel and vanilla.
Taste: A smooth mouthfeel upfront, with a warmth that gently builds over time. Rich, woody oak, spice and vanilla notes are followed by fruity notes of apple on the finish. The intensity of the apple notes grows as you sip and lingers for a long time on the palate.

From the fridge
A light chill brings out some of the fruity notes of the spirit, but it still keeps its war mth. The finish is of baked apple, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

From the freezer
Fragrant, juicy apple on the nose. Served from the freezer, the texture is more viscous and the fragrant apple flavour is fuller. There is a touch of tart cider apple flesh to start, then warm, spiced woody notes, followed by a delightful finish of fresh apple and apple blossom – superb!

From a hipflask
Calvados is one of my favourite spirits to enjoy from a hipflask: it is warming, yet fruity, and Pomme Pom ticks the same boxes. As it is gently warmed by being in a jacket pocket, the spirit becomes more mellow and rounded – perfect for a little nip when going on a long walk, especially now that the days are a tad cooler.

Toddy
[25ml Pomme Pom, 10ml Sugar Syrup, 15ml Lemon Juice, 100ml Boiling Water]
Superb, absolutely superb! So warming and comforting; an excellent drink to enjoy outside whilst watching fireworks or to warm up inside after a crisp, autumnal walk. To add an extra bonfire-esque element, replace the sugar with a piece of cinder toffee and allow it to dissolve as you sip.

PommePomToddy

With apple juice
[25ml Pomme Pom, 75ml Apple Juice]
Rich and creamy, with a slight note of custard coming through alongside the spice and creamy vanilla. There is then a warm, woody element, before a crisp, refreshing finish. This is a really simple, but nonetheless delicious drink with lots of depth and character. Best enjoyed with an apple juice that does not come from concentrate.

With soda
[25ml Pomme Pom, 100ml Soda Water]
This is a light and refreshing drink with subtle flavours of apple and wood coming through from the Pomme Pom, as well as touch of creamy spice and vanilla. A pleasant drink for an autumnal afternoon or as an early evening refresher on a hot summer’s day. Best garnished with a spritz of lemon peel oil.

Father & Son
[50ml Pomme Pom, 100ml Still Cider - Shake with Ice]
A simple, but exceptionally cooling and refreshing cocktail. The cider adds a little extra tartness and the Pomme Pom adds a fortifying element, as well as more complex notes of wood and spice. Delicious and very satisfying.

In Conclusion
As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of cider and so apple brandy is a favourite, too. I think that it’s great that, as more distilleries open up in the UK, more are looking at making apple spirit. After all, we make great cider in the UK, so why don’t we make great apple/cider brandy, too?

Pomme Pom is a versatile spirit that works well in both warming and cooling cocktails and, whilst apples undoubtedly have more of an autumnal/winter vibe, I’d happily enjoy it all year round. My favourite drinks were spirit served straight from the freezer, straight from a hipflask, and the Father & Son.
* This used to also be known as cider brandy, but as “Somerset Cider Brandy” (including “Cider Brandy”) now has a European Geographical Indication Protection, the term cannot be used so broadly.

Field-trip to the Irish Whiskey Academy

Irish Whiskey Academy Sign

I’ve been a fan of Irish Whiskey for a while now and I have a number of family and friends who, when it comes to aged spirit, will only drink that from the Emerald Isle. But, despite a reasonable amount of experience drinking it, my knowledge of its production has, until recently, been rather limited. As such, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I was invited to attend the Irish Whiskey Academy in Midleton, Ireland.

The Irish Whiskey Academy offers trade professionals and passionate consumers alike the opportunity to learn about Irish Whiskey in greater depth. A selection of programs are available and an impressive amount of time and capital resources have been invested in the Academy.

Irish Whiskey Academy Maturation

For our trip, we were on the Discoverer Package – a two-day course where topics covered included the production and distillation of Irish Whiskey – including the differences between pot and column distillation – as well as maturation and blending techniques. The visit also gave us the opportunity to tour the large production site, still house, and maturation warehouse of Ireland’s largest distillery.

Irish Whiskey Academy Barrels

For me, the highlights were seeing the sheer scale of the rack houses (barrel storage), which included tasting a rather amazing 16 year old pot-still Irish Whiskey that had been aged exclusively in an ex-sherry butt, as well as a chance to try blending my own whiskey.

What was really great about the experience, and what I valued the most, was that by being immersed in Irish Whiskey (not literally, of course) for two days, a lot of thoughts and theories simply fell into place. For example, why I personally like some whiskies more than others, and that you really can have too much sherry-cask whiskey in a blend – something that I had heard of, but didn’t believe until I had tried it myself.

Irish Whiskey Academy Tasting

All-in-all, over the two days, I had an informative and thoroughly enjoyable time. You truly can’t get the same experience anywhere else, which makes it a great choice for any Irish Whiskey fan who wants to understand this fine spirit in more depth. Programs are available at a range of timeframes and budgets, including a two hour course, an afternoon course, an all-day course, and a two day course.

www.irishwhiskeyacademy.com

Make Mine a Martini – Barroom Book Reviews

There has been an increasing interest in pairing food with wine for many years now and whisk(e)y is starting to get a look-in, too, but what about other spirits such as gin and vodka? What about moving beyond pairing spirits on their own to pairing them in mixed drinks?

FINAL Book - Make Mine A Martini

Kay Plunkett Hogge’s new book, “Make Mine A Martini”, is a cocktail book that starts to look at this. It features “130 cocktails and canapes for fabulous parties”. I’ve picked out a selection of drinks to try and have paired them with some snacks using the suggestions from the book, a recent chat I had with Kay herself (at a Burrough’s Reserve event), and a little of my own inspiration.

Vodka Cocktails

Sea Breeze
[30ml Vodka - 80ml Cranberry Juice]
The creaminess of the vodka comes through well, making the drink reminiscent of tart strawberries and cream. A wedge of lime add zestiness, but with a half-decent vodka you really don’t need it and, with a characterful vodka like Spirit Works, the extra citrus would likely spoil the balance. This is a nice drink to enjoy with cheese and fruit.

Vodka Drinks - Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Vodka Drinks – Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Screwdriver
[30ml Vodka - 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
A simple, but delicious drink. The trick with this one is to use freshly squeezed orange juice, either using a conventional juicer or a mexican elbow citrus press. It makes a lovely accompaniment to a starter or a salad.

Greyhound
[30ml Vodka - 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
If you like grapefruit, then this would be a great drink to try; a more zesty and lively version of a Screwdriver. However, this is probably not for those that find grapefruit too bitter. A great accompaniment to nuts or other salty snacks.

Whisk(e)y Cocktails

Whisk(e)y cocktails - The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whisk(e)y cocktails – The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour
[50ml Paddy Irish Whiskey, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice, 20ml Sugar Syrup.
Combine ingredients in a glass with ice and gently stir.]
A delightfully smooth Whisky Sour; probably the silkiest and most easy-to-drink I have ever had. If you know any people that decry, “I don’t like whisk(e)y”, I suggest giving them this to try; they’ll be surprised. It’s a simple and sippable drink where the delightful character of the whiskey comes through.

The Green Gimlet
[60ml Chivas Regal Scotch, 30ml Fresh Lime Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup - 3-4 Basil Leaves.
Add all ingredients to a shaker and gently muddle, shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.]
The flavour of the Scotch comes through but has a gentle subtlety to it, the lemon adds some tart zesty liveliness and some extra depth is add by the crisp leafy notes of the basil. Shaking adds a velvety texture to the drink. A great pre-dinner drink to have with appetizers or canapes.

Gin Cocktails

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy
[40ml Beefeater Gin, 20ml Cointreau, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice - Dash of Angostura Bitters. Shake ingredients, before straining into a glass.]
I’ve chosen this drink because, when I met Kay, she said that it was one of her current favourites. I have to admit, it wasn’t a drink that I had ever mixed myself. Now, Kay really likes Beefeater Gin and I think that it’s a great choice for this drink. Whilst the gin still has the classic, bold botanical mix, it also leans slightly towards citrus flavours with its use of seville orange and lemon. These notes work particularly well with the lemon juice and luscious orange notes of the Cointreau.

Negroni
[Equal parts - Beefeater Gin, Red Vermouth and Campari]
At the Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve event where I met Kay, I asked what food would be a good accompaniment to a Negroni. Beefeater’s Master Distiller, Desmond Payne, suggested macaroni cheese with salty bacon in it, which I considered a superb idea, and one that I was eager to try once I got home.

FINAL Make Mine a Martini - Beefeater Negroni Mac Cheese

The result was excellent: the bold bitter and herbal flavours complemented the creamy and intense macaroni cheese, and the salty, smoked bacon added a burst of flavour so that the food stood up to the intensity of the cocktail.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

Basil Lemonade
[A mix of fresh lemon juice, water, muddled basil leaves and sugar to taste.]
This is a delightful, light, and refreshing drink, with fine hints of herbal, leafy basil. It makes a lovely accompaniment to most foods, but especially rich pasta sauces.

Lime & Lemongrass Spritzer
[Muddle half a lemongrass stalk into a tall glass, fill glass with ice, and add lime juice and sugar. Top up with soda water.]
A very light drink, well-suited to sipping during hot afternoons whilst enjoying some tiffin or tapas. The light, but complex citrus notes from the lime and lemongrass are both invigorating and thirst-quenching.

FINAL - nonalcoholic - Make Mine A Martini

Levan-thai-ne Iced Coffee
[Muddle 3 cardamom pods, 1/4 star anise, and a shot of ground coffee in a pestle and mortar. Use these spiced coffee grounds in your cafetiere along with boiling water and then leave to cool.]
Thanks to the spice, the flavour of this is very reminiscent of chai coffee. I like this served frappe with a little cream or milk layered over the top. With or without milk, it’s a lovely choice for the end of the meal.

Make Mine A Martini by Kay Plunkett-Hogge, Published by Octopus Books, ISBN: 978-1-84533-881-7 – £14.99

Cocktails with… Beckett’s London Dry Gin

Juniper is the key ingredient of gin and during the early boom of London distilling, juniper came from the countryside surrounding the capital. After the outbreak of the Second World War, these berries were cleared to make way for agriculture and food production. Until recently, therefore, most, if not all, juniper came from Italy and the countries around the Adriatic Sea.

Becketts Gin uses hand-picked juniper berries from Box Hill in Surrey. These are still Juniperus Communis, but vary in size and oil content to Tuscan juniper because of the colder, wetter climate in which they are grown. The gin also uses fresh riverside mint from Kingston-upon-Thames. Another four botanicals complete the recipe: coriander, sweet orange peel, orris root, and lime.

Becketts Gin FINAL

On its own
Nose: Bright juniper, piney and green, with a dry, resinous quality. There are also some leafy herbal notes and a touch of peppery citrus.
Taste: A good, well-integrated spirit with a smooth texture and plenty of juniper notes upfront, followed by luscious, fresh mint and then some dry citrus and vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
The juniper shines through in this drink and even stands up to the sweeter tonic waters. It produces a smooth and refreshing drink with citrus and mellow herbal notes, and just a hint of chocolate, before a dry, bitter finish.

Martini
Another textbook drink. Lovely juniper notes alongside dry angelica and crisp, slightly creamy vanilla and a notable leafiness. The finish is smooth, clean, and long.

Negroni
A textbook Negroni: totally classic, with a bold, punchy juniper flavour, deeper herbal notes, citrus, and – again – a hint of chocolate before a dry, bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Beckett’s Gin is a great example of a classic gin and still shows that there is room for innovation in the gin category whilst staying faithful to traditional flavour profiles. The works that Beckett’s do to support British Juniper is commendable and my favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Cocktails with… Dà Mhìle’s Seaweed Farmhouse Botanical Gin

Today is Trafalgar Day and, as such, I thought it was fitting to feature a somewhat nautical gin; namely, Dà Mhìle’s Organic Seaweed Farmhouse Botanical Gin. This gin uses a cut down variation of the botanicals in their Original Gin and, after distillation, it is infused with seaweed from the Newquay coast, before being triple filtered.

Da Mhile Seaweed Gin Final Shell

Da Mhile Gin with the serving suggestion of sipping it from an oyster shell

On its own
Nose: Complex and intriguing, with floral hints of rose, as well as citrus, coriander, some dry juniper and pine notes, and salty leafy notes.
Taste: A very strong flavour, with the same note that are found on the nose. This is a mostly smooth spirit, with just a touch of warmth at the end. The bold flavours of the gin should make it a great candidate for mixed drinks. There is some pleasant spice elements on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
A very powerful drink. Notes of resinous pine and juniper, citrusy coriander, and some herbal notes towards the end, plus a hint of chocolate. Plenty of flavour and rather cooling.

Martini
Bright and powerful, with a great juniper hit, as well as some complex, leafy, slightly salty, green notes.

Negroni
A smooth and complex Negroni; again, the floral and salty green notes of the gin come through well and add character. This would be a good choice for those who like a Negroni with plenty of flavour.

Da Mhile Seaweed Gin Final Fish

A glass of chilled Seaweed Gin as a fine accompaniment to seafood.

Gimlet
Excellent and a great choice for Trafalgar Day. The tart lime works well with the green leafy notes of the gin and its fresh, slightly salty element.

In Conclusion
Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin is a bold and flavoursome spirit that, as it was designed to do, goes well with seafood. My favourite drink was the Gimlet.

Cocktails with… Bombay Sapphire Distillery Laverstoke Mill Edition

I was recently at the grand opening of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke Mill, coverage of which can be found here. As a parting gift, each attendee was given a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Distillery Laverstoke Mill Exclusive Edition. This is packaged in a bottle inspired by the distillery’s intertwining glasshouses and, like those glasshouses, was designed by Heatherwick Studios. This bottling is additionally noticeable as glass stopper replaces the usual screw cap.

Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Edition

As if that wasn’t enough, the liquid inside, whilst containing the same classic ten Bombay Sapphire botanicals, is bottled at 49.0% ABV, compared with the usual domestic versions, which are bottled at 40.0% ABV for the UK and 47.0% ABV for the USA.

On its own
Nose: Dry juniper, coriander, and light pepper spice. Less citrus and nuttiness than the 40% ABV.
Taste: Lots more of the woody spice notes come through, such as orris and liquorice, which add a very subtle sweetness. The citrus notes are less forward. Despite the extra ABV, the liquid is smooth in texture and viscous, with a full mouthfeel.

Gin & Tonic
Delicious. A lot of the citrus of the gin comes through, which is more subtle when it is tasted neat. There is also a lovely juiciness, even without a garnish, which complements the complex herbal and woody notes. Clean and refreshing.

Martini
Bombay Sapphire was the gin that switched me from vodka to gin martinis, back in the Blue Room at Vinopolis, so it was great to have a new edition from this new home. The higher ABV gives the drink the clean and piercing power that I expect from the very best martinis.

Negroni
A symphonic harmony between the flavours of the gin and the other ingredients. The botanical flavours shine through well, with particularly intriguing notes of spice and pepper on the finish.

In Conclusion
Whilst the stunning bottle and packaging would be reason enough to want this bottle on your shelf, I was also impressed by the liquid inside: the spirit is more complex, dry and less citrusy than the standard UK domestic expression. My favourite drink was the Martini.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Launch – Laverstoke Mill

Yesterday saw the grand opening of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire. Since the creation of Bombay Dry in 1960, Bombay Sapphire in 1987, and Bombay Sapphire East in 2011, the gins have lacked a home base that would allow people, both trade and public, to visit.

Across the world, there has been a rise in “Destination Distilling”; that is, the idea of a distillery being something more than a production facility, becoming an attraction for tourists to visit.

Plymouth Gin has been open for the public to tour since 1985 and has had it’s present visitors centre since 2007, Beefeater opened their centre earlier this year, and income from visitors is now an integral part of the business plan for most new distilleries.

Bombay Sapphire’s new home for their distillery and visitors centre is in North Hampshire and has come after years of works and million of pounds of investment.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

The Glasshouses (Mediterranean and Tropical) growing specimens of all of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire. They are heat from the excess heat from the stills.

Laverstoke Mill operated as a paper mill from 1719 to 1963. From 1725, it held the sole contract for the production of the Bank of England’s banknote paper, at one time providing the paper for over 100 countries and colonies in the British Empire. In the second half of the 20th Century, however, the mill closed and fell into disrepair, until it was discovered as a potential location for a new distillery.

The new Bombay Sapphire Distillery had its grand opening on 17th September 2014 and I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Distillery and Glasshouse

The Distillery in the background, toprical glasshouse to the right and designer Thomas Heatherwick in the foreground

As we arrived, the most striking feature was the glistening River Test, which runs through the site, surrounded on both sides by centuries-old mill buildings, all newly refurbished.

After some welcome drinks, including the delicious “Laverstoke”, including the non-alcoholic one that I picked up by accident, I was whisked upstairs to have a chat with Valarie Brass Global Brand Director for Gin at Bacardi Global Brands. This was a great chance to discuss some of the bigger picture aspects of Bombay Sapphire and the key focuses of Bombay Sapphire: “Creativity”, “Beauty” and “Expression”. There was obvious excitement about have a place to “bring to life key principles” and to “talk about what we believe in” something that I can imagine was quite difficult before such a large and growing brand had a dedicated base.

Mediterrean Glasshouse

An Orange Tree Inside the Mediterranean Glasshouse

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the two glasshouses: one tropical, and one mediterranean in climate. These were designed by Heatherwick Studios and are heated by the residual heat from the stills. Even though I had seen designs and 3D models of them, I nonetheless wasn’t quite prepared for how spectacular they were. The chance to see so many classic gin botanicals all growing together was fascinating.

The "secret bar" which will be Sam Carter's new "office" about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

The “secret bar” which will be Sam Carter’s (at the bar) new “office” about 10 minutes after this picture was taken it was packed wall to wall.

After this excitement I decided to slip off to the “secret bar” (Empire Bar) which was being tended by the distillery’s in-house senior brand ambassador Sam Carter. This bar doubles as a training facility for a variety of guests, trade and bartenders. Up here I had a mix of Bombay Sapphire, Pink Grapefruit Juice and Vanilla Syrup – the grapefruit and vanilla producing a chocolate flavour in addition to their own character – a phenomenon known as “Transmogrification” – something I consider a Sam Carter signature.

After that joint started jumping (see picture) I went in search of further adventure and found another bar inside one of the old vaults where the finished banknote were kept. This came complete with the original cast iron grate door at the entry. Here I was treated to an Aviation cocktail and a pleasant chat with gin experts Geraldine Coates and Patience Gould where we also had a sneaky sip of Bombay Dry at the new ABV.

Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill Edition

No Bombay Sapphire event would be complete without one of their glamorous gift bags, and this event did not disappoint. In addition to some fine barware we got a bottle of the rare Laverstoke Mill Edition of Bombay Sapphire – beautifully packaged but for me, even more excitingly, bottled at an unusual 49%ABV. See here for tasting notes.

All-in-all I had high hopes for the distillery and my expectations were exceeded; an opening on this scale will never happen again and so it was great to be part of it. The distillery itself opens to the public in October and for me it is a must for gin fans and a great visit for anyone who is a fan of botany, stunning scenery or historic architecture.

For more details check out their website. Later this year National Geographic will be screening a documnetary about the creation of the distillery.

Bombay Sapphire Family

A New Home for the Family.