Cocktails with… Four Pillars Gin – from Australia

Today’s review is the first in a series on Australian distilled gin, which have been made possible thanks to the generosity of my friend, James, a distiller from down-under who brought me a tasting selection on a recent trip to London.

The first gin in the series will be Four Pillars from Yarra Valley near Melbourne. The gin is made using a mix of local (Tasmanian Pepperberry and Lemon Myrtle) and classic botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and lavender). Whole organic oranges (both peel and flesh) that are sourced from Australia are also used.

FOURPILLARSGIN

The gin is bottled at 41.8% ABV and is proofed using water from the Yarra Valley.

On its own
Nose: Some malty vanilla and fennel, combined with a little eucalyptus and coriander.
Taste: Chocolate upfront, as well as some leafy floral notes that complement the coriander, anise, and fennel. Quite pungent, this is full of both warm spice and sunny, floral flavours, as well as a little heat towards the end.

Gin & Tonic
A lovely Gin & Tonic – there is a great mix of classic flavours and more contemporary, spiced notes such as cardamom.

Martini
Quite piney, with a little sappy sweetness, prominent juniper throughout, and some herbal notes. As clean and cutting as a fresh, green pine needle.

Negroni
A very smooth Negroni with plenty of herbs and spices; in particular, some hints of fresh mint. A lighter herbal bitterness follows. This is quite an accessible drink – good for Negroni newbies.

In Conclusion
Four Pillars Gin is a bold and fragrant gin and represents a playful variation on the classic style of gin. My favourite drink was the accessible and tasty Negroni.

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… 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.

Cocktails for dinner with Zubrowka Polish Vodka

I was recently approached by Match.com to come up with some Polish-inspired cocktails for their website. Now, one of my favourite Polish spirits is the bison-grass flavoured vodka, Zubrowka, which is quite widely available and accessible, even to the newest vodka drinker. I decided to use Zubrowka as the basis for a series of cocktails that can accompany different stages of a romantic meal, which can be found below.

~Aperitif~

Zubrowka AperitifBison Fizz

[20ml Zubrowka, 80ml of Dry Prosecco – Add vodka to a flute glass and top up with Prosecco]

This is a drink that makes a great first impression: there’s bright apple pie to start, with a mix of dry and sweet flavours, before it subtly develops to focus on the flavours of the wine. The dryness of the prosecco makes it raising to the appetite, so it is a good choice as an aperitif. This accessible drink is great for a special occasion.

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~Main meal~

Zubrowka Main CourseZubrowka Soda

[25ml Zubrowka, 50ml Apple Juice, 50ml Soda Water – Build in a tall glass with ice and garnish with a lemon wedge]

A very simple drink with an ABV of around 8% ABV, putting it on a par with many wines. This is a light and refreshing cocktail with hints of confectionery apple crumble and a touch of caramel. It’s a pleasant drink and makes a good accompaniment to a main course.

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~Dessert~

Zubrowka DessertAlexsy

[30ml Zubrowka, 50ml Single Cream, 1 tsp Chocolate Syrup – Shake]

A variation on the Alexander cocktail, this is a very indulgent, dessert-like drink. There are some light spice and dry fruit notes coming from the vodka, which mix well with the cream and chocolate flavours. All-in-all, this is somewhat reminiscent of an alcoholic chocolate milkshake.

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~After Dinner~

Apple-Honey Punch

[30ml Zubrowka Vodka, 1 tsp honey (I used the new apple-flavoured variety from Rowse), 100ml warm apple juice]

Method: Add vodka and honey to a heat-proof glass. Warm apple juice in the microwave (around 60 seconds on high). Add apple juice to other ingredients and stir until the honey has dissolved.

This is a warming honey and apple drink with lots of spice from the vodka and a tart, apple fruitiness from the juice that is countered by the sweetness of the honey. A well-balanced, warming, and tasty drink.

Zubrowka After Dinner

Zubrowka Liqueur

An alternative to this drink is the Zubrowka Polona liqueur. This is a blend of vodka and herbs which is then sweetened and aged in oak casks. Whilst this isn’t the easiest product to find in the UK, I have seen it available in various Polish food stores (which is where I got mine from). It is a rich and intense liqueur with notable flavours of almond, honey, and maple, as well as cherry and apricot stone fruit. Finally, there’s a hint of freshly-brewed tea and some woody oak.

Fentimans Wild English Elderflower

Below is a short review of a new soda released by Fentimans; unlike other elderflower varieties released in the last year, this is not a flavoured tonic water (with quinine), but rather an elderflower-flavoured soda. Its ingredients include: elderflower, pear, and fermented ginger. I found it noteworthy that it contains just over 6g of sugar per 100ml, which is about a third less than most other mixers such as ginger ale or tonic water (9g per 100ml).

Fentimans Wild English Elderflower Soda

On its own
Nose: Rich, fresh elderflower with a hint of fruity jamminess of elderberry.
Taste: Medium fizz. Very clean in flavour, with some sweetness, but thankfully it’s not too sweet. There are some subtle hints of spice, followed by a dry, floral finish. Overall, this is an excellent soft drink with good mixing potential.

with Warner Edwards Elderflower Gin
Quite a lot of spice comes through from the gin, as well as a deeper and richer elderflower note, which is nicely offset by the lightness of the soft drink. Add a wedge of lemon and the result is a very sippable, cooling drink with the flavour of early summer.

with Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin
A dryer drink than the one above, but by no means less tasty. It is almost as clean as a Gin & Soda, but with a slightly floral flourish from the elderflower. An excellent choice for a hot summer’s afternoon; but on a really sweltering day, I’d suggest dialing the gin back a tad to add to the drink’s refreshment.

In Conclusion
Fentiman’s Wild English Elderflower is a great addition to their range and works equally well as a soft drink and as a mixer, pairing well with gins and, for a slightly lighter drink, vodka.