Super, Sonic Drinks – A Sensory Extravaganza at 69 Colebrooke Row

London is currently a hub of cocktail innovation with an army of bartenders constantly seeking to push and raise the bar. Molecular mixology, fine and inspiring garnishes and an array of homemade and small batch ingredients and spirits are all available at bars in 2012; indeed, it is an exciting time to be in the field. But what next? How about sound and cocktails? I headed on to 69 Colebrooke Row for a Sensory Masterclass to find out.

The Sensory Masterclass was a collaboration between the Drinks Factory, Condiment Junkie (soundscape artists) and Professor Charles Spence, who is Director of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford.

First of all, here are couple of quick definitions:

Soundscape – A recording or mixing of sounds used to create an immersive environment. For example, the sounds of the beach or of a forest walk.

Crossmodal Research – The study of the perception of an interaction that involves two or more of our five senses. For example, synesthesia, where you can hear a word and immediately associate a colour with it, or how something can taste “blue”.

After a brief introduction, we completed a couple of quizzes. We listened to six sounds and had to decide which were the sounds of hot liquids being poured and which were those of cold liquids; most people got all of these right. Things were trickier when it came to listening to four sounds and identifying whether they were designed to be sweet, sour, bitter or salty. This was far more difficult, with most people only correctly identifying sweet and bitter, although I think I only got one right!*

We then moved onto some drinks.

#1) The Rose

This was a simple cocktail, consisting of a rose-flavoured sugar cube in champagne that we drank whilst listening to sounds from a country garden. Half of the group were given a sheet with “Cocktail #1”, whilst the other half were provided with a full description of the cocktail, thus testing the power of suggestion. There were wind chimes in the soundscape, which were meant to evoke some of the sweeter characteristics of the drink.

#2) The “Blue” Drink

We were given this drink whilst keeping our eyes closed. We then had to taste it and shout out what colour we thought it would be. With some musky and tannin-like notes, it reminded me of red wine and therefore I suggested red-purple. One lady next to me said that she tasted Wasabi, so thought it was green.**

This turned out to be a reduced red wine, made using a rotovap, I think, and designed to taste blue. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this one.

#3)  Woodland Martini - [Woodland Bitters, Gin, Dry Amontillado sherry]


Whilst wearing a pair of wireless headphones, we sipped the third drink whilst listening to one of three soundtracks; we were then able to switch between them, to see how, if at all, the different sounds affected the flavour.

The result was amazing: with the red channel (a low-pitched sound), the drink was unpalatably bitter, whilst with the green channel (a higher-pitched sound), the drink seemed sweeter; the blue channel (crunching wet leaves on an autumn day) made the drink seem colder. These were all my own personal observations, before any suggestion from the Professor.

The Professor went on to explain that, typically, people naturally associate bitterness with low frequencies and sweetness with high frequencies.

The Woodland Martini really illustrates the potential of combining sounds and drinks, but, in a social context, the headphones could be a bit intrusive. I discussed the use of sonic spotlight (highly directional speakers) as an alternative, which he has also been working with, as well as the potential of having the sounds come from the glass itself.

Why not check out the sounds here?

#4) Barbershop Fizz

The final drink of the session was a Gin-Collins-esque drink that used a variety of herbs and spices to evoke the fresh scent of a new haircut at a barbershop; the hints of pomades and moustache wax that are all familiar to me. There was also a slight hint of Dandelion & Burdock, which I believe came from the Birch.

Once again, we used our headphones to listen to a recording, this time of someone having their hair cut. This soundscape was produced by one of the sound artists using a pair of inverse headphone microphones during an actual haircut. The similarity was uncanny and the drink delicious.

In Conclusion

This was an enjoyable session and an interesting insight into a developing project and research that is at the cutting edge of crossmodal drinks. As the ideas and techniques evolve, I think that the experience will become even more impressive and, with possible innovations in speaker technology, the application of these techniques in a bar*** could become a more unobtrusive reality with a true hint of alchemy in the experience.

* The Professor then explained that bitterness and sweetness tend to be the easiest for people to clearly identify, both in taste and in sound, with saltiness and sourness being more tricky.
** This raises the question of association adding another factor to the perception of colour and taste. I spoke to the Professor about this and he says that some research has been done getting the public to taste exotic fruits that have relatively unknown flavours in the UK, thus avoiding any association with known items.
*** There is a question as to whether this would ever be part of everyday serves in some cocktail bars, or whether it would be reserved to special sessions. Certainly, at the moment, a lot of background noise impacts how easily you can appreciate the sensations.

Introduction to Cachaça

I’m always interested in expanding my knowledge of spirits and one area that I have neglected on the site is Cachaca*, so I’ve managed to source four varieties of unaged cachaca to taste and explore.

So what is Cachaça?

Firstly, Cachaça (“ka-shah-sa”) is a pretty important liquor, being the third most popular spirit in the world after Soju and Vodka. The majority of it is consumed in Brazil, which is the country from which it originates.

Cachaça is distilled from the juice of fresh, unrefined sugar cane. Rhum Agricole is also made using fresh sugar cane juice, but it differs from Cachaça in a couple of ways:
i) Rhum Agricole is distilled to between 65 and 75%ABV, compared to Cachaça’s 48-52%ABV (so it only needs a small amount of dilution before bottling);
ii) Cachaça often uses rice- or maize-based yeast to start the fermentation process, whereas Rhum Agricole will use sugar yeast;
iii) Rhum Agricole must be produced to the appellation standards and thus must be made in certain locations, whereas Cachaça must simply be made in Brazil (although it will be made close to sugar cane fields, as the cane must be cut no more than 24 hours before being pressed to be fresh enough for use).

But is Cachaça Rum?
Well, perhaps by the same rationale that would describe gin as a “flavoured vodka”, but this is an oversimplification and, when you are delving a little bit deeper into the subject (like this article intends to do), I don’t think it is a helpful one.

Types of Cachaça

1) White
Clear and unaged, with no more than 6 grams of sugar added per litre.

2) Adocada
A sweetened white Cachaça containing between 6 and 30 grams of sugar per litre.

3) Aromatised
A descriptive term for Cachaças that have been flavoured with herbs, spices or fruits.

4) Aged
Cachaça that has been matured in 700 litre wooden barrels. There are a number of types, based around how long it has been matured for:
i) “Aged” – matured for at least 1 year;
ii) “Premium” – aged for more than 1 year; and
iii) “Extra Premium” – aged for more than 3 years.

An interesting aspect of the aging process is that, typically, native Brazilian woods are used for the barrels rather than American Oak, etc.; some examples include Jequitiba, Amendoim and Amburana.

What does it taste like?

To get a handle on Cachaça as a spirit, I thought it was best to start by looking at the unaged version. Here are my thoughts on four examples.

1) Sagatiba Pura
Founded by Marcos de Moraes in 2004, Sagatiba is produced in the town of Patrocinio Paulista in the Brazilian State of Sao Paulo. The name comes from a combination of the prefix “saga” (Nordic for “legendary”) and “tiba” (“infinite” in the local Tupi language). In 2011, it was sold to Campari-Milano for $26 million.

i) On its own
Nose: Smoky with a touch of juicy citrus.
Taste: Wood smoke, raisins (like sherry) and the woody finish of a Highland Scotch.

ii) Caipirinha
Crisp and flavourful, with more of a hint of salty smokiness at the start; this gives way to some sweetness and a tart, lime finish. Clean and cooling.

2) Abelha
An organic Cachaça, Abelha comes from Bahia in Northern Brazil, where the sugar cane is grown organically on highland, sandy soil. The cut cane is processed within 24 hours and fermentation uses culture yeast originally found on green sugar cane.

i) On its own
Nose: A honeyed sweetness & fruity notes, like sloe berries or sweet plum.
Taste: Initially sweet and creamy, this is cleaner in flavour and less fruity than the others with a touch of vanilla and nectarine flesh. There’s an intriguing vegetable hint on the finish, somewhat like asparagus.

ii) Caipirinha
Richer, jammy, fruity flavours, such as peach, with a touch of raw honey. There is also a tiny hint of smoke and a touch of anise on the finish. Clean, yet comforting, this is both cooling and packed full of flavour.

~

3) Germana
Germana is made by Uniagro, but was originally made by the Caetano family on their Vista Alegra ranch. Germana means something which is genuine, pure, without mixing. Germana was also the name of a mystical nun who used Cachaça in medicinal preparations. Germana uses natural fermentation (using cornmeal-fed yeast in the sugar cane) for their mash.

i) On its own
Nose: Very fruity: figs, raisins; lots of jammy fruit. Also, a touch of spice.
Taste: Quite thick in texture, this is also rather rum-like, with flavours of dark treacle and raisins. It reminds me somewhat of Pusser’s or Wood’s Rum. The finish was clean, woody and dry.

ii) Caipirinha
Cooling and clean, with some hint of smoked ham and anise. Simple, but effective and with character, this is very easy to enjoy, having some depth but not being overly-complex.

4) BocaLoca
Often translated as “Crazy Lips”, BocaLoca make both standard, unaged Cachaca as well as a Passionfruit-flavoured Aromatised version. It is produced near Rio de Janeiro, exclusively for export.

i) On its own
Nose: Vanilla and cinnamon, like a cinnamon swirl, coffee and chocolate.
Taste: Sweeter, with a lot of vanilla, this is closer to a vodka than rum. There’s a creamy touch of sweetness and an initial burst of chocolate (reminding me of a pain au chocolat), followed by a dry and slightly bitter note on the finish, leaving a resounding sense of the combination of a breakfast pastry and a cup of coffee.

ii) Caipirinha
With vanilla and coconut elements, this is very clean, with a little sweetness at the end. It’s different to the others, having less flavour, but is nonetheless still quite intense and pleasant to drink.

*Rum is also under-represented, but with so many great rum websites out there, I have decided to steer clear; professional courtesy, if you will.

In Conclusion

As with almost other spirits, the flavours and characteristics of Cachaça can vary immensely (even among the unaged varieties), which was particularly well illustrated by the four that I tasted today. The differences came through both when sipping the spirit neat and when mixing them in a Caipirinha.

http://www.rhum-agricole.net
http://www.alcademics.com/2009/02/cachaca-intensive.html
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A Gin-Soaked Letter from America

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Dear Friends & Drinkers of Graphic Bar,

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As your gin-writer in residence, I am always exploring all things juniper. This August, I found myself in New York City and there was one spirit that was on my mind: GIN.

Bombay Sapphire Fruit Cup

Bombay Sapphire Fruit Cup

We started off early at Heathrow Terminal 5 with a mug of Bombay Sapphire’s Summer Cup. This comes at a time when this category is gathering more momentum and moving beyond Pimm’s with both Master of Malt and Chase launching new products in August.

The Bombay Sapphire Summer Cup was a mix of Bombay Sapphire Gin, Red vermouth and Orange Liqueur, served with ginger ale from pitchers with a fruity garnish.

Our second day saw a trip to the liquor store to pick up “essential supplies”; our shop of choice was Park Avenue Liquor at 292 Madison Avenue. I like to think of this as New York’s Gerry’s. The family who run it were both friendly and knowledgeable, and there is a great selection of gins, as well as Scotch and American whiskies, liqueurs and other spirits.

I picked up some Comb 9 Gin from New York State, which has a honey spirit-base (essentially distilled mead). This gives the gin a smooth and silky texture, with a lot of floral notes upfront. The gin describes itself as a New York Dry Gin, which is essentially a contemporary version of the Classic London style.

Comb 9 makes a crisp and floral Martini with a decent dose of coriander, which will appeal to fans of flowery gins such as Bloom or G Vine; it produces a pretty tasty Negroni, too.

Distiller Alan and I at NY Distilling

Distiller Alan and I at NY Distilling

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Our trip also saw us visit two distilleries, the first of which was New York Distilling in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They make a regular gin (Dorothy Parker) and a Navy Strength Gin (Perry’s Tot). Their Shanty Bar was the location of our Navy Strength Gin tasting, where we tasted five gins, all bottled at 57%ABV, including the classic Plymouth Navy and the excellent new offering from Hayman’s, Royal Dock (both of which are available at Graphic Bar). The final two were FEW’s Standard Issue (hitting UK shores soon) and Leopold’s Navy Strength.

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Distiller Brad and I at the Breuckelin Distillery

Distiller Brad and I at the Breuckelin Distillery

The second distillery we visited was Breuckelin (the Dutch spelling of Brooklyn), who make a regular gin, an aged gin, and two whiskies (Rye and Wheat). In addition to a tour with distiller, Brad, we also conducted a tasting of nine Yellow Gins in a continuation of the project that we started back in London at Graphic Bar.

The weekend saw the culmination of 6 months of preparation: The United States of Gin Tasting, a taster of which was experienced at Graphic on World Gin Day 2012. The concept was a simple one: try one gin distilled in each state of the US. Not every state has a distillery that makes a gin, but we aimed to get 30 and that was exactly what we got.

A tasting of 30 American Gins

A tasting of 30 American Gins

The tasting was organised by the author of America’s Gin Website, The Gin Is In, and myself, and some of the highlights included Southern Gin from Georgia, Bardeney from Idaho, and, my personal favourite, BIG GIN from Washington State.

We had a rather pleasant flight home with British Airways and I had a rather lovely gin and tonic with Gordon’s at 40%ABV (much better than the 37.5 stuff).

Hopefully this has given you a taste of the gin delights that New York has to offer, but, at the same time, it’s always good to be home. Time for a Gin & Tonic, I think…

All the best, David T. Smith

Imbibe Trade Show Competition (On-trade only)

This a little message from the folks at Imbibe about a competition with a rather excellent prize, unfortunately for my consumer readers, this is only open for folks working in the drinks industry and so the general public are not eligible to enter.

But as some consolation for those who are not eligible please scroll down for a note on a New York inspired cocktail just for you.

CLICK HERE to register for Imbibe Live 2012

New York Cocktail amde with J.W. Dant Bourbon



New York Cocktail

60ml Rye or Bourbon whiskey (we used J.W. Dant Bourbon)
20ml  fresh lime juice
10ml grenadine
5ml sugar syrup
Add orange peel & lemon twist in shaker
Shake with ice & strain


The Taste
(by Mrs. Smith)

The nose was delicious: fresh, fruity and sweet, but in a refreshing way that reminded me of fruit chews. After the sweetness, more genuine fruit notes came through: orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon all came to mind at various points.

The taste started off with a lovely lime flavour that has a sherbet-like sharpness to it. This then fades into a more weighty, but still sweet woodiness, followed by a creamy vanilla flavour.

The finish was a lighter version of the creamy butteriness that you can get with some ginger beers; the fresh fruitiness endures, however, and keeps the flavour vibrant until the very end. Lovely.

Star At Night – The New Gin Bar in Soho

There a new Gin Bar in town!

The Star at Night is a café by day, but, in the evening, a transformation occurs and it becomes a table service gin bar. The bar itself has been running for 10 years, but has only recently embraced gin on a wider scale. The café with which it shares the location has been running since 1933 and has been in the same family for nearly 80 years. I’ve not had the chance to go there yet, but am reliably informed by a few sources that it has a great 30s/40s atmosphere, with a lot of furniture and decoration from that period. There is also a vaulted cellar that will be used for special tastings.

I spoke to the latest generation of proprietors from the family, Julia, and she told me a little more about the concept behind the bar. They had hosted a few one-off gin parties, where they would stock a selection of ten or so gins and allow people to taste and explore the category. Such was the depth of interest in the differences between the gins, rather than just wolfing down Gin & Tonics, the focus of the bar soon shifted and the London Gin Club was born. The club is all about undertaking a celebration of gin and providing gin fans with the chance to meet and talk juniper on a regular basis.

Joining The Gin Club has the following benefits:

1) A numbered London Gin Club Members card, which can be used to receive 5% off premium gin at Gerry’s Old Compton Street;
2)  An allegiance card, which you will need to bring whenever you come to the bar. It is stamped each time you buy a gin cocktail and your tenth cocktail is on
3)  You will receive a monthly bulletin with details about any upcoming gin-related events and any new gins on the market.

For details of how to sign up click here.

The official launch of the London Gin Club is on Friday 30th March 2012 and details can be found on their blog here.

The Star at Night
22 Great Chapel Street, LONDON W1F 8FR
+44 20 7437 8778

Cocktails with… Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez Sherry

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Grateful, having been introduced to sherry via my Harvey’s Bristol Cream review a couple of months ago, I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised when a bottle of Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez arrived recently. Still a newcomer to sherry, I’m enjoying exploring the range of flavours on offer and this was unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

Made from dried Pedro Ximénez grapes Pedro Ximénez is a dark sweet sherry that is often used to sweeten the flavour of other sherry blends. Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez is based on a solera founded in1919 and has an average age of 30 years.

On its own

There was a slightly tart edge to the nose, beyond which I found distinct hints of sweet, juicy raisins and brandy, reminding me strongly of Christmas pudding.

It had a wonderfully silky texture that was accompanied by an intense sweetness. Rich and fruity, there were hints of spice, chocolate and brandy, before a very definite flavour of raisins. The aftertaste was also distinctly of raisin – making me feel like I’d just eaten a handful! – that faded into a surprisingly dry finish that hung around for a little while.

Toddy

This toddy had a strong, sweet nose of mincement and Christmas spice and pudding. The taste was intense and rich, of raisins and syrup, like sticky toffee or treacle pudding. Towards the end, this richness became slightly bitter, with lemon and orange notes coming into play before a dry finish.

I thought this was a marvellous toddy that reminded me of Christmas and rich, heavy pudding, whilst also not being overly sweet; a very “grown up” toddy.

Scottish Breakfast

Like most of the drinks that I tried with this sherry, the nose of the ‘Scottish Breakfast’ was distinctive; unlike all of the others, this nose was of sweet orange fondant, with tiny hints of  raisins and treacle behind it.

The flavours in the mouth unfolded in a distinctive pattern: it started with a raisin-like sweetness that slowly, gradually flowed into a smoky raisin flavour, before finishing with a little warmth and hint of orange. This was unlike any cocktail that I’ve tasted before and I was impressed at how remarkably balanced it was, despite the huge flavours within it. I’ll definitely be drinking more of these in the future!

Margarita

The savoury tequila gave a salty start that quickly faded into a sweeter, raisin-like richness alongside Christmas spice notes: cinnamon and allspice.

Like the Scottish Breakfast, this drink combined two very unique, strong flavours that actually combine unexpectedly well without either losing any of their intensity. Alongside this, there was a lovely, glowing warmth in my stomach afterwards. Definitely a surprising sucess! 

On ice-cream

No doubt inspired by my repeated recognition of the flavours of various puddings, for my final tasting notes, DBS presented me with a champagne glass of Cornish cream ice-cream topped with Pedro Ximénez.

To start, the two components were very separate, with the creamy ice-cream flavour neatly offset by the rich, raisin and berry notes from the sherry. Gradually, though, the two literally melted into one another and the sherry lost its sharper edge; there was still a slightly tart, bitter tang at the back of the throat that stopped the whole thing from becoming sickly and reminded me of liquorice. There was a lasting finish from the sherry, which was dry and slightly cloying. Some people may be put off by the slight curdling that occurred where the two ingredients met in the glass, but for everyone else, this could be a worthwhile experiment!

In conclusion…

If you like raisins or Christmas pudding and aren’t adversed to strong flavours in your drinks, I’d highly recommend trying Harvey’s Pedro Ximénez. I was especially impressed at how well it went with scotch in my favourite cocktail of those we tried – the Scottish Breakfast – although the toddy came in a close second place.

- Mrs. B.

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker
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Last Friday, DBS donned his finest three-piece and grey fedora, and I, my favourite, flowery frock and we set off for our very first trip to the Goodwood Revival. Despite my having seen various advertisements and heard discussions on this event by friends in the vintage community, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of this event. There were literally people everywhere and a vast majority were dressed in honour of the Golden Age, including children; at one point we spotted a school party, all dressed in grey and crimson vintage uniforms and caps. All in all, it was quite a sight, even for someone used to seeing people dressed in vintage, and so I was immensely grateful to be grounded by the focus of our day: Johnnie Walker whisky.
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We found the Johnnie Walker Racing Bar by walking through a vintage style Tesco store, through the subway beneath the racing track, and past a vast array of beautiful and exceptionally well-cared for vintage cars. The bar was set up within a wooden shed that had been meticulously decorated to look like one that might have been used by Rob Walker, with racing car, tools, desk, books and a tea mug, complete with dregs.

The Rob Walker Workshop - Click to enlarge

The Rob Walker Workshop – (Click to enlarge)

On the opposite side of the garage was a bar, serving Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label whiskies, plus a selection of cocktails created especially for the occasions. Given my fondness for scotch, I was delighted to be able to try the Johnnie Walker selection with the wonderful Colin Dunn (who we met at the recent Talisker event at Cowes Week, which you can read about here), but today, I thought I would run through the cocktails to hopefully inspire some experimentation before our British summer disappears completely! I will write about the whiskies on their own shortly, in a separate post.
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Red Rose

Red RoseIngredients:

25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Fentimans Rose Lemonade
2 strawberries
1 lemon wedge
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with the lemonade, drop in a strawberry and stir. Garnish with a pinch of chopped strawberry and a lemon wedge.

 This was, frankly, delicious. Delicate, but flavourful, the scotch hits your tongue first, with its sweeter, fruity notes highlighted, followed by a gradual increase in flavour that transformed into a strong, rose flavour, just like Turkish Delight. The finish was fruity and fresh, with the strawberries coming through and the lemon just rounding off the sweetness of everything else. Having recently tried Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade alongside some of its Floral Soda counterparts and knowing that it has a delicate flavour, I was amazed at how much of the rose came through in this drink. Lovely!
 Johnnie Walker Buck

Johnnie Walker BuckIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Top with ginger ale
2 lime wedges
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime, using the lime wedges as a garnish.

In contrast to the Red Rose, the J.W. Buck was incredibly savoury. I found the nose to be ever so slightly salty – reminding me of the Tequila Fruit Cup that DBS made – which was supported by the freshness and acidity of the lime. When I tasted it, I got the sense that this drink worked very well with the whisky, allowing the spicy, woody notes to come through without any sweetness to mask them. The savouriness of this drink made it easy to drink, but this is unlikely to be the favourite of someone who prefers sweeter cocktails.

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Stirling Collins

Stirling CollinsIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
25mls lemon juice
10mls gomme
25mls rhubarb and apple juice
Soda
1 lemon wedge
1 sprig of mint
Method:
Shake the Black Label, lemon juice and gomme with the rhubarb and apple juice and pour into a tall glass. Top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and mint sprig.

This was an interesting one. I had two during the day they tasted slightly different, although both had a spicy nose, followed by the distinctive smell of the rhubarb and a slight, lemony bitterness. On the tongue, I thought that it was well-rounded, despite evolving a lot in the mouth. The first one that I had tasted a lot more of rhubarb, whereas the second was surprisingly savoury – as with the Buck, bordering on salty – and refreshing, especially given the amount of fruit juice in it. The rhubarb flavour became stronger in both drinks, with a tartness that reminded me of old-fashioned rhubarb boiled sweets, followed by a decidedly savoury finish.
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Cream of the Crop

Cream of the CropIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
Cream soda
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Black Label. Top with cream soda and garnish with an orange wedge. (Apple works too!)

Incredibly different to the last two! The cream soda is immediately evident as a very appropriate choice of mixer, given our vintage setting; the nose was strong, creamy and sweet, like milk bottle sweets. The taste was similarly sweet, with a smooth, creamy texture; the milky creaminess stayed at the top of my mouth. The Black Label came through afterwards, but it was faint and mainly served to add some weight with a slightly heavier, spicy, dark-toffee-like sweetness, highlighted by the orange. This would be good for those with a sweet tooth who don’t think that they could like a whisky cocktail.
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.Stirling Collins and Johnny Walker Buck

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In Conclusion…

Although I obviously liked some of these cocktails a lot more than the others, I thought that the selection overall was superb for that very reason: I have no doubt that most people would find a firm favourite amongst the list.

For those who like their whisky cocktails to taste predominantly of whisky, there was the Johnnie Walker Buck; for those who like heavier whisky notes, but something else going on as well, there’s the Red Rose; the Stirling Collins will satisfy those that like a more fruity expression of their whisky; and, finally, for those who would prefer less heavy whisky notes, want to try something new, or just have a sweet tooth, there’s the Cream of the Crop.

My personal favourite was the Red Rose, followed by the Johnnie Walker Buck, but I could happily drink any of these lovely concoctions, especially on such a glorious summer day as we had last Friday. I will be writing on the whiskies themselves shortly, no doubt by which point the autumn chill will definitely be in the air.

- Mrs. B.

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Speed Tasting – An Introduction to 11 Boutique Gins

The Boutique Bar Show London is only 2 weeks away (21-22 Sept) and, as usual, will feature a plethora of Boutique drinks brand exhibitors as well as a host of other features. This includes talks, competitions and new product launches.*

The recent boom in new gins coming to market has been led by a range of diverse boutique gins. In preparation for this year’s show, a tasting of Boutique Gins was held at the Graphic Gin Bar, Soho.

In addition to the six gins at the tasting, I have included notes for other gins who will be exhibiting over the two days. Further details can be found here.

To review five gins in the three true tests of a gin (neat, in a G&T and in a Martini) would lead to a mammoth article, so I have, instead, gone with a simple, three word review for each.

Adnams First Rate

From the famous Norfolk Brewers, Adnam’s is available in two varieties: one with 6 botanicals (40% ABV) and another with 13 botanicals (48% ABV); it is this latter “First Rate Gin” that is featured below.

Own: Juniper Spicy Flavourful
Gin & Tonic: Cardamon Cooling Dry
Martini: Classic Dry Floral

Hoxton Gin

It is safe to say that Hoxton Gin takes the traditional gin lover out of their comfort zone. Grapefruit and taragon are not unknown in the world of gin botanicals, but coconut is the real wildcard. Hoxton was developed by Gerry Calabrese as his vision of a gin for the new millennium.

Own: Flamboyant Tropical Confectionery
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Twisted Coconut
Martini: Creamy Coconut Citrus

Gin Mare

Another gin with unusual botanicals can be found in the Mediterranean Gin Mare from Spain. Each of the 10 botanicals is distilled separately and then blended to ensure a better balance. Signature botanicals include: thyme, rosemary, basil and, unusually, olive.

Own: Savory Herbal Intense
Gin & Tonic: Rich Dry Refreshing
Martini: Complex Contemporary “Can-I-Have-Another?”

Iceberg

With Iceberg Gin, it’s all about the purity of the water, which comes from North Atlantic icebergs. The brand considers this to be the least polluted water on earth. Iceberg is a 100% corn-based spirit and has 6 botanicals, including coriander, bark and pepper.

Own: Silky Smooth Earthy
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Clean Zesty
Martini: Pure Subtle Sophisticated

Edgerton Pink

Edgerton Pink is one of the more distinctive gins on the market, not least because it’s pink. Created by the same folks behind London Blue Gin, it is flavoured and coloured with pomegranate. It is produced at Thames Distillery using 14 botanicals including nutmeg, damiana and Grain of Paradise.

Own: Jammy Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Fruity Florid
Martini: Unusual Lasting Berries

Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh Gin is a Scottish, Art-Deco-styled spirit is made by Spencerfield, the folks behind Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose Whisky. Edinburgh Gin takes pride from its Caledonian heritage and uses Scottish grain alcohol as well as Scottish botanicals such as milk thistle and heather.

Own: Soft Spicy Festive
Gin & Tonic: Juicy Fresh Cinnamon
Martini: Crisp Creamy Nutmeg

Ish Gin

Modern meets traditional with Ish Gin, a Classic London Dry style with contemporary packaging and an extra boost of juniper for old-school gin lovers. Ish is bottled at 41% ABV, made at Thames Distillers and contains 12 botanicals.

Own: Bold Warm Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Dry Refreshing Flavoursome
Martini: Crisp Fresh Juniper

Sipsmith Gin

Made in the heart of Hammersmith, Sipsmith Gin is produced in one of only four operational gin distilleries in London. The gin contains ten classic botanicals and is bottled at 41.6% ABV.

Own: Classic Balanced Juniper
Gin & Tonic: Refreshing Clean Exemplary
Martini: Powerful Juniper Citrus

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Hayman’s London Dry Gin

Created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of Beefeater founder James Borough, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is designed to be a very Classic London Dry and, as such, contains rather classic botanicals.

Own: London Dry Gin
Gin & Tonic: Fresh Lemon Classic
Martini: Clean Clean Crisp

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Bloom Gin

Created by Joanne Moore, the Master Distiller at Greenall’s Distillery, after she had spent several years as the custodian of the Original 1761 Greenall’s. Bloom was largely inspired by her love of gardening and, as such, contains floral botanicals such as Honeysuckle, Pomelo and Chamomile.

Own: Sweet Soft Floral
Gin & Tonic: Bright, Blossoming, Beautiful
Martini: Delicate Silky Floral

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Sacred Gin

Vacuum distilled in Highgate, North London; Sacred Gin is helping to bring back gin distillation to the Capital. Botanical are distilled separately and then blended to create a balanced product. Be sure to try the Cardamon “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic, it’s something of a revelation.

Own: Silky Balanced Flavoursome
Gin & Tonic: Juniper Citrus Powerful
Martini: Unusual Cardamon Lovely

London No.1 Blue Gin
This is a commercially successful gin that is exceptionally popular in Spain. It contains 13 botanicals, including Gardenia, which gives it its blue colour. This is not a London Dry Gin, as the colour is added post-distillation, but this doesn’t effect the flavour.

Own: Warm, juniper, reasonable
Gin & Tonic: Sweet, neutral, easy-to-drink
Martini: Ice-blue, cinnamon, concise

GVINE Flouraison Gin
G’Vine Gin is produced in ___ France. Rather than using the usual grain-based alcohol for its base, G Vine uses grape spirit. It also uses grapevine flower as one of its __ botanicals. In addition to the Flouriason a Nouvaison gin is made, this is at a higher strength and contains a different balance of botanicals. It reminds me strongly of the now defunct Gordon’s Distillers Cut.

Own: Dry, spicy, cardamon
Gin & Tonic: Bold, cardamon, invigorating
Martini: Sprightly, floral, cardamon

Portobello
This is a gin that was made especially for Portobello Star, a bar in Portobello Road and home of the Ginstitute Gin Museum, a small still and tasting room where visitors can make their own gin. Portobello was designed to be classic in its style with a modern twist, which comes from the inclusion of nutmeg in the botanical mix.

Own: Juniper, nutmeg, pepper
Gin & Tonic: Flavourful, fruity, spicy
Martini: Crisp, classic, contemporary

Bulldog Gin
Launched in 2007, Bulldog was originally promoted as being the perfect spirit for a Gin & Tonic and, more unusually, a Dirty Martini. It is produced at Greenalls and contains a variety of  botanicals including the rather unusual and exotic lotus leaves & dragon eye.

Own:
Gin & Tonic: Unusual, mild, juniper-light
Martini: Juniper, Coriander, Twangy

Broker’s Gin
Founded in 1998 and produced at Langley, Brokers contains 10 botanicals and, with its distinctive packaging and bowler hat bottle cap, is quintessentially English. The 47% is very popular in Export Markets and this variety won a plethora of awards.

Own: traditional, london, dry
Gin & Tonic: strong, flavourful, punchy
Martini: Textbook, clean, crisp

Knockeen Hills Heather Gin
Made at Thames Distillers and owned by the same folks behind the excellent Knockeen Hills Irish Poteen, this gin has heather as a prominent botanical, in addition to juniper t is bottled at 47.3%. Its sister gin, made using elderflower, is produced at a lower strength of 43%.

Own: smooth, creamy, floral
Gin & Tonic: Strong, flavourful, fresh
Martini: Creamy, smooth, mellow

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*At least one of the above brand are having their UK launch at Boutique London.

Alcoholic Ginger Beer Update #4 – Weston / Morrison’s Ginger Cider

Just when I thought that I’d covered all of the alcoholic ginger beer available in the UK, I find another! This, like Brother’s offering, is a ginger cider and is made for the supermarket Morrisons.

The Ginger Cider is made by H Westons & Sons of Much Marcel, Herefordshire, who are well-known for their range of cider and perry, including their organic selection, Stowford Press and my favourite, Old Rosey, a really great, scrumpy-style cider.

This ginger cider is bottled at 4%ABV and is made with the first cider apples from the 2010 season; it’s traditionally matured in oak vats and ginger flavour is then added. I noticed, from their website, that Westons also make a Sparkling Raspberry-twist Apple Cider, as well as a Ginger Twisted one. This latter variety is also bottled at 4%ABV and so my guess would be these are one and the same product.

On to the taste:

Nose: Jammy, citrus and ginger. A bit like ginger marmalade.

Taste: Rather pleasant; dry, juicy and, whilst the ginger is there, there’s no definitive burn or fire. Finally, there’s a little vanilla at the end. There’s some muskiness and hints of almond, too. It’s very refreshing, not too sweet and, although initially the ginger is faint, as you drink more, its effects builds up.

Morrison’s New Season Cider with Ginger Flavour is available form Morrison’s for £1.50 for 500ml.