Whispers of Whisk(e)y returns… Johnnie Walker The Adventurer

Today’s review, which comes after far too long a break, takes a look at another whisky: one from the Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection, a series inspired by the journeys of those who took Johnnie Walker across the world. Available via travel retail, you might have spotted these as you explored the whisky sections of Duty Free shops.

DTS and I first encountered The Adventurer before a trip to America a couple of years ago and we were a little confused at its store placement: very much apart from the other Explorers’ Club whiskies and with little information available on it. Intrigued, we bought a bottle. That was a few years (and bottles) ago.

johnnie-walker-adventurer-final

On its own

Nose: A saline, almost briney smokiness to start, with notes of tobacco, dry wood chips, and echoes of pineapple. Lovely spiced notes build up over time.

Taste: Very soft on the tongue, but with more force of flavour on the palate afterwards. There is a pleasant smokiness, before lasting notes of dry, not tart pineapple, light wood, and chilli, then sweeter spice with more smoke on the finish. A lovely dram that, personally, I think is perfectly halfway between the Red and Black Labels.

Rob Roy

Pleasantly dry, but the Rosso comes through well. Wisps of smoke are followed by lots of complex herbal notes. The finish remains lovely and dry, with notes of dark liquorice and a hint of berries. Finally, there is a clean, light, and woody smokiness.

Old Fashioned

The Adventurer makes an unusually sharp, almost bitter Old Fashioned that makes a wonderful aperitif. Subdued honey notes are followed by the smoke and spice. Like the Rob Roy, its finish is very dry, but full of smoky flavours, along with a little lime and vanilla.

Whisky Soda

Exceptionally dry, this is a refreshing, grown up drink. The soda water lengthens the whisky well, without masking any of its flavours. To start, there is dry vanilla, before a flash of sweeter smoke, then more charred notes that linger on a refreshing, woody finish.

Whisky Ginger

Again, this works well, but produces a much sweeter drink than the others. It is creamy, too, with lots of vanilla and just a dash of smokiness – more than you’d get with the Red Label, but not as much as with the Black Label. The finish is long, with solid notes from both the ginger and the whisky’s oak notes.

 

It is worth noting that the Explorers’ Club Collection covers a broad price range, but The Adventurer is the cheapest, at around £32 for a litre in Duty Free. It can be found for around £40-45 in the UK. Given the combination of price point and the international theme of the collection, we decided to try a few additional, unusual long drinks alongside our normal line-up.

with Coconut Water

This is an unexpectedly brilliant, refreshing drink. The coconut water adds the extra sweetness and creaminess that The Adventurer holds back on, resulting in smooth notes of pineapple and light coconut that fade into smoke, dry apple, and oak on the finish. Exceptionally easy to drink, especially in warmer weather.

with Ting

These flavours, again, go surprisingly well together – there is bright, vibrant, citrus (lemon and grapefruit) that flows seamlessly into the light smokiness of the whisky. The finish has notes of vanilla and pineapple, and a continued stream of smokiness.

with Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola

Intrigued at how well some of these combinations were turning out, we decided to try The Adventurer up against one of my favourite (and most flavourful) soft drinks: Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola. The result? A tasty drink with great structure and body. Not too sweet, there’s a dry woodiness to start, that is quickly swept up in the complex, herbal flavours from the cola. The Adventurer’s smokiness appears on the finish – soft to start, but gradually increasing – and works very well with the more medicinal notes of the mixer.

In Conclusion

The Adventurer is a great addition to the Johnnie Walker line-up. With its light texture, but combination of distinct smokiness, dry pineapple, and spiced notes, it makes for a whisky that is both easy to sip – sitting midway between the Red and Black Labels in taste – and works exceptionally well in mixed drinks. A firm favourite in our household.

— Mrs. B.

Cocktails with… Campfire Gin – from Puddingstone Distillery

This week, it was with great excitement that I got to try the final version of Campfire Gin. Made at the Puddingstone Distillery in the Chiltern Hills, it is a spirit and distillery whose progress I have followed closely, with the added bonus that they are based quite close to the in-laws.

The gin is described as bridging traditional and progressive styles – what some people refer to as a Transatlantic or Cary Grant Gin; a gin grounded in the British distilling tradition, but with a little modern flair. It is probably my favourite style.

campfire-gin-final

Campfire Gin has traditional botanicals such as juniper and orange, as well as the more contemporary choices of hazelnut and coffee berry.

On its own
Nose: Citrus, with a chocolatey berry note and a hint of dark chocolate/coffee, then a little juniper toward the end.

Taste: This is a smooth and elegant spirit that evolves in the mouth: to start, notes of juniper and the round, plump flavours of sweet orange – zesty with a little spice. Then comes a little berry jamminess, before a mix of nutty dark chocolate and earthy florality. There’s a little more spice on a long and lingering finish.

Gin Tonic
Soft, subtle, and spicy, with berry notes, followed by some milk chocolate and orange. All of this makes for a mellow and sippable drink.

campfire-gin-martini

Martini
Dead smooth, with the orange peel adding a lovely, aromatic air. It is crisp, but has some cosy middle notes of berry fruit, as well as deeper earthy notes.

Negroni
The jammy notes of the coffee berry work well with the herbal vermouth and the bitter-sweet Campari, giving the drink both a succulent quality and a pleasant mellowness. A very good Negroni that is really rather moreish.

In Conclusion
Campfire Gin delivers exactly what it promises and is a fine balance between traditional and modern gins. The gin is layered and the dark chocolate and berry notes work really well with the juniper, angelica, and other botanical flavours.

My favourite drink was the Negroni, although Campfire Gin is great to drink on its own.

Blended Drinks with the Amazon Basics Blender

Despite the fast-approaching wintery weather, you can still find yourself needing a cooling drink over the christmas time (am I the only person that goes to a relative’s house whose thermostat seems to be constantly stuck on “Inferno”?).

One great way to cool down is with a blended frozen drink, so I was delighted when Amazon sent me one of their Amazon Basic Ice-crushing Blenders to try out and immediately set out to test a variety of drinks, both with and without alcohol, but all perfect for a festive party.

amazon-blender-frozen-margarita

Frozen Margarita – Wasting Away in Margaritaville (Serves 2)
This is probably my favourite blended drink, especially if accompanied by the Jimmy Buffett hit.
100ml Blanco Tequila
300ml Margarita Mix
2 cups of ice
Blend ingredients together and serve.

This is a superb drink and the machine really blends the ice well, resulting in a smooth slush that is a treat to drink and stays cold for a long time.

amazon-blender-strawberry-daiquiri

Strawberry Daiquiri (Serves 2)
100ml White Rum
75ml Sugar Syrup
50ml Fresh Lime Juice
5-6 Strawberries
2 cups of ice
Blend ingredients together and serve.

The Strawberry Daiquiri is a fruity and pleasantly tart drink. It is also a brilliant, bright pink in colour. Again, the both the ice and fruit are thoroughly blended, with no large chunks.

~ CHOCOLATE SHAKES ~

For those who fancy an indulgent non-alcoholic drink, I’ve also undertaken some experiments with chocolates (many of which are synonymous with Christmas time in our household) in milkshakes.

amazon-blender-after-eight-shake

After Eight (Serves 2)
4-6 After Eights thins (wrappers removed)
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Vodka (optional)

A great combination of an after-dinner mint, drink, and dessert. The dark chocolate is neatly balanced out by the sweet mint fondant – superb.

 

Malteasers
14 Malteasers
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Bourbon (optional)

Malt is a long-established ingredient for a shake and the fun thing about this drink it that you get bits of the blended chocolate throughout the drink, rather than all sinking to the bottom.

amazon-blender-daim-bar-shake

Daim (Dime Bar) (Serves 2)
2 Daim Bars
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Golden Rum (optional)

This is another one of my favourites: the milk chocolate covers a mix of brittle caramel/toffee and nuts. As the centre of a Daim is brittle, it blends really well and the nutty, chocolatey, slightly salty flavour is well-distributed throughout the drink. We’ll definitely be making more of these!

Ferrero Rocher
6 Ferrero Rochers
300ml Semi-skimmed Milk
2 Scoops Vanilla Ice-cream
50ml Brandy (optional)

This makes for a tasty, but rather odd drink, as a lot of the Ferrero Rocher pieces float and create a foamy layer that you have to drink through. It is possible to filter this out, however, and the result is a super-smooth and delicious milkshake that tastes just like Ferrero Rocher.

Overall, I like the blender’s solid construction, ease of use, and ability to blend. As readers can see, it makes a great range of drinks, too. I also really like the lid’s seal, which helps to reduce mess and spills, whilst being easy to take on and off.

One top tip is that it’s a good idea to rinse the glass of the blender immediately after use to avoid any ingredients drying and sticking to the inside.

My favourite drink was the Frozen Margarita and the Daim milkshake.

AmazonBasics 1.5 Litre Ice-Crushing Blender in Black is available from Amazon.co.uk for around £25.

 

Cocktails with… Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin

Lemon Gin was a regular fixture of the early 19th Century, with Gordon’s and Plymouth both making varieties. These gins were often made via infusion, but fast-forward to the 21st Century and Sipsmith have resurrected the idea with their distilled Lemon Drizzle Gin.

Originally released as a part of their pilot Quarterly Sipping Service (recently more formally launched as the Sipping Society), such was the popularity of the gin, especially with employees of Marks & Spencer, that production was increased and M&S given the product as an exclusive. Here are my thoughts!

sipsmith-lemon-drizzle-gin

On its own

Nose: Zesty citrus oil and a creamy, citrus blossom, plus a little coriander and leafiness.

Taste: A thick texture and slight sweetness, followed by a fine array of citrus notes; a combination of the fruit, leaf, and flower of citrus that combines to give a lemony flavour in 6:1 surround. Like many signature botanical gins, the juniper is paired back, but that, along with angelica and coriander, is evident towards the finish.

Gin Tonic

Bright, clean, crisp citrus notes sing through, making a very refreshing, really delicious drink – a textbook Gin & Tonic.

Martini

Delightful citrus notes, creamy, and delicate; reminiscent of a lemon syllabub, or – indeed – a lemon drizzle cake, with a crisp, dry finish.

Negroni

A cocktail with a strong and balanced flavour with an extra liveliness from the lemon, which is well-integrated and wonderfully smooth.

In Conclusion

Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle is a fun, modern interpretation of the lemon gins of old. The fact that the flavour is 100% distilled is a great improvement in quality compared with those of the 1930s-1940s. If you are near a Marks & Spencer, it is well worth seeking this out. My favourite cocktail was the Gin Tonic.

Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin is available for around £24 for 500ml Exclusively from Marks and Spencer.

The Cognac Advent Calendar

I have seen more varieties of Advent calendars this year than ever before, containing all manner of treats beyond the normal chocolate of my childhood calendars: tea, cosmetics, sock yarn, and – of course – the wonderful Ginvent and other Master of Malt Advent Calendars.

This year, however, I’m eagerly looking forward to exploring a different spirit category in my calendar: Cognac! In addition to gin and whisky, Master of Malt also produce a wide range of calendars looking at different spirits, whether that be rum, vodka, a range of whiskies, or even – as DTS will be reviewing this year – something as innovative as distillates of different junipers. So there’s a calendar for everyone’s favourite tipple!

masterofmaltcognacadventcalendar

I have to admit, though, that I’m really very excited at the prospect of their Cognac Advent Calendar – what a wonderful way to try a range of Cognacs, identify some favourites, and expand my palate for the spirit, all whilst counting down to Christmas Day?

You can follow my daily posts on Instragram and Twitter, which you can follow at @saraandthebear or using #CognacAdvent. I’ll also do an interim report roughly halfway through.

Bring on 1st December!

– Mrs. B.

Cocktails with.. Loch Ness Gin

Loch Ness Gin launched in September 2016 so, as today is the last day in that month, it seems a fitting time to post my review. It’s always so nice to see a gin on its journey from conception, through development, to the finished product; and this has been one such product for me.

The gin is made in Athbhinn Dores, Inverness, which is on the shores of Loch Ness. The family of the husband and wife team behind the gin have lived and worked in that part of the Highlands for over 500 years.

lochnessgin

Unusually for a European Gin, Loch Ness use their own, local juniper, which they harvest especially for that purpose. Here are my tasting notes.

On its own
The nose is soft and creamy, with pleasant hints of citrus and spice. The softness follows through onto the palate, making the gin very accessible and easy to drink. There are light, fresh, leafy cucumber notes, as well as a touch of plump, juicy berries. The more traditional gin notes of juniper and angelica come through towards the finish, intermingled with creamy spice notes.
The gin starts off soft and gentle, but has a botanical character that gradually builds, the more you drink.

Gin and Tonic
Crisp and refreshing, with a luscious, leafy note and a hit of salinity, before some creamy citrus. Easy to drink and super-smooth.

Martini
So subtle and elegant, this Martini has a mysterious mix of spice with flirtatious, herbal, leafy notes. The result is an eminently sippable Martini with a sweet lift at the end.

Negroni
A full and plump Negroni with a long, lingering finish; lovely, bitter intensity; and a background chord of herbaceous spice. Superb! Complex, will well-integrated flavours.

With Soda
Very crisp with a salty, leafy note reminiscent of samphire or seaweed, this is an exceptionally fresh drink with plenty of resinous, woody pine notes.

Pink Gin
A gentle, soft, and graceful drink with a light spice and gentle florality, plus a fresh leafiness on the finish.

French ‘75
Loch Ness makes a complex French ‘75 with a great, leafy florality and a hint of fruity berries. Elegant and luscious, with a touch of rose jam on the finish – superb.

In Conclusion
Loch Ness Gin is a great addition to a rapidly expanding selection of Scottish-distilled gin with a smooth and refined character.

Loch Ness Gin is available for around £45 for 70cl.

Bank Holiday Gin Tonics

With the Bank Holiday upon us (the last one in the UK until December) and the possibility that at least a few days in the long weekend will actually be dry and hot, I thought I’d share a few simple ideas for some gin tonic serves to impress your guests this weekend.

Glassware

In this sort of heat (currently it is 28.8c here) I want a very cooling drink with plenty of ice, so a glass like the large copita/fish-bowl glass popular in Spain for the Gin Tonica is the best bet. It does take at least 8 cubes to fill one of these, however, so unless you have an ice maker, I suggest getting a bag or two of ice.

If you don’t have a copita glass, than a large wine glass or stemmed beer glass (think the Stella Artois Chalice) will also work well. The stem helps to keep your drink cool, keeping your warm hand further away from the drink.

 

Recipes

Typically, I use between 25ml-50ml of gin and 150ml of tonic. These are slightly weaker than many might usually enjoy their gin tonic, but these drinks are meant to be long and cooling, and too much alcohol in great heat is not a great idea.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Plymouth and Millers

The Classic

Plymouth Gin with Lemon and Lime Wedges (aka the Evans Style)

Plymouth Gin has a light sweet spice to it, which is balanced out nicely by the slightly sharp lime, whilst and the lemon complements the citrus in the gin.

The 21st Century Gin

Martin Miller’s gin with Strawberries and Cracked Black Pepper.

An unusual garnish choice on paper, but ever since one of the Miller’s brand ambassadors showed me this, I’ve been hooked. Fresh, succulent fruit works well with the refreshing nature of the gin, and the black pepper adds balance and bite. For an extra chill factor, use frozen strawberries.

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Apostoles and Shortcross

The Leafy Gin

Principe de Los Apostoles Gin with Rosemary and Baby Spinach

The gin itself is quite “green” – herbaceous and leafy – and the rosemary gives the drink distinctive, aromatic herbal notes as well as adding to the visual spectacle. The spinach adds more to the look than the aroma or flavour, although the leaves can also be a pleasant snack to munch on as you drink.

The All-Rounder

Shortcross Gin with Orange and Coffee Beans

I’m a big fan of Shortcross Gin from Northern Ireland and it has great mixability, including in a gin tonic. I’ve been experimenting with non-typical, but readily available garnishes and my good friend Julia Nourney suggested coffee beans to me. The beans add a deep, dark element to the nose, whilst still allowing the juniper to slip through. When you sip the drink, it is almost all about the gin, with just a little lusciousness from the orange. Almost a two-phase gin tonic.

The Maverick

Bombay Sapphire & Cola with Orange and Chocolate Bitters

Gin Tonica Aug 2016 - Bombay Sapphire & Coke

Putting gin with cola is seen by many, in the UK, as heresy, despite the fact that this is how gin is enjoyed in many countries in Africa and further afield. The only point that matters is – does it taste good?

In my opinion, it does. Bombay Sapphire, with its complex botanical flavour and light pepper notes works really well with cola, creating a flavour that is reminiscent of an old-school botanical cola; there are even some dry, piney notes in the background. The orange adds a little zest, whilst the chocolate bitters contribute to the drink’s finish.

In Conclusion

Summer drinking is meant to be friendly and fun; it’s a time to relax with friends and family. As such, the drinks should be fun, too. Hopefully this article has provided a little inspiration for you to up your summer drinks game.