Cocktails with… East London Liquor Company Spirits – Celebrating their first birthday!

Today is the first birthday of one of the brilliant new additions to the distilling scene in both London and the UK as a whole. East London Liquor Company is located in Bow Wharf, East London, and is a great example of an urban destination distillery. It has a lovely bar with views into the still house and a separate bottle shop that not only sells a variety of products made by the distillery, but also a wonderful selection of other spirits from around the world; not least, products from the Lost Spirits Distillery in California.

Following a recent visit, we shall be looking at their three gins and rum.

1. London Dry Gin – 40.0% ABV

This gin’s botanicals include: lemon & grapefruit peel, coriander, angelica root, juniper berries, cubeb berries, and cardamom; and it’s currently available for around £21 for 70cl from Master of Malt. East London Liquor Company's London Dry GinOn its own

Nose: Creamy with hints of nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla, as well as a touch of crisp citrus.

Taste: A lovely combination of flavours: upfront there is bright, juicy citrus, before creamy, sweet spice, and ginger. The finish is more dry, with crisp juniper notes. Well-integrated and sippable.

Gin & Tonic

Classic, fresh, and crisp with a little sweet spice in the background before the fresh, crisp, dry notes of juniper and coriander come through. This is a very solid choice for a Gin & Tonic that works well with a wide selection of citrus garnishes, although my personal preference is lime.

Martini

This makes a clean Martini with good intensity of flavour. There’s a little soft spice in the middle, before a lovely, dry crispness on the finish. A citrus twist would be my recommended garnish.

Negroni

Soft spiciness, with some lightly  sweet woody spice, ginger and cardamom coming through before a little sweet herbal complexity from the vermouth and then a dry earth bitterness from the Campari. Solid and sound – satisfaction for any Negroni fan.

2. Premium Gin: Batch No1 – 45.0% ABV

The first of ELLC’s premium gins has botanicals including: juniper berries, coriander seeds, cassia bark, angelica root, pink grapefruit peel, and cubeb berries. An additionally interesting note is provided by the use of Darjeeling tea. It is currently available for around £31 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

East London Liquor Company's Premium Gin Batch No1On its own

Nose: Rich spice with a hint of nuttiness and pleasant dry, leafy notes.

Taste: Bold flavours, with a hint of dark chocolate at the start, followed by bright spice and citrus from cracked coriander and vibrant grapefruit, before some floral hints. The finish is full of piney juniper and dry angelica, with a very slight hint of menthol pepper and alpine flowers, too.

Gin & Tonic

A classic Gin & Tonic with brilliant fresh, zesty citrus and a touch of oiliness. This is a clean drink with a long, dry, crisp finish. Serve with plenty of ice and a generous wedge of ruby grapefruit. A quality tonic, like Fevertree, helps to let the citrus aromatics come through, but the gin definitely still holds its own against Schweppes.

Martini

Very floral, with plenty of citrus, too; the pink grapefruit shines through as well as plenty of coriander seed and leaf. This cocktail has a lovely fragrance that stops just short of being overpowering and closes with a light, dry menthol finish.

Negroni

Good long, dry notes: piney and resinous with a  gradually-building bitterness that crescendos into a long, bitter finish with notes of intense, pure, dark chocolate and a hint of strong-roasted coffee with a touch of gentian root.

3. Premium Gin: Batch No2 – 47.0% ABV

Moving onto their second premium gin, this is slightly stronger (47% ABV) and is made using: juniper berries, corriander seeds, cassia bark, angelica root, thyme, winter savory, fennel seeds, orris root, lavender, lemon peel, sage, and bay leaf. It’s currently available for around £32 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

East London Liquor Company's Premium Gin Batch No2On its own

Nose: Bright spice, hints of wood, floral citrus and piney lavender.

Taste: Again, this has a bold flavour with plenty of spice as well as some green anise and caraway notes; cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, too. Rich and spicy, the higher ABV of this gin brings more complex aromas and flavours. Resinous pine and lavender on the finish.

Gin & Tonic

This has lots of delightful spicy notes that add an excellent complexity to the drink. Woody hints of cassia, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla are followed by the more traditional dry and crisp notes of a Gin & Tonic, such as lemon peel and piney juniper, with just a touch of forest lavender. Lemon peel would be a great choice for your garnish or, for those who like things a little less sweet, lime.

Martini

Bold and spicy with notes of fresh leaves, rich resinous pine needles, and lavender. Oily and intense, the spirit coats the mouth and hangs around for a long time, bringing with it notes of woody spice – cassia and nutmeg – before a little menthol pepper at the end.

Negroni

This cocktail has lots of buttery, earthy notes, plus a hint of spice and dark chocolate and a touch of gentian root. Thick and luscious, it has a great intensity that will appeal to the aficionados that like their Negronis to grab them and make them sit up and pay attention.

4. Demerara Rum – 40.0% ABV

Finally, we have ELLC’s rum, which is distilled in Guyana from 100% Demerara sugar in a two column, wooden coffey still, before being aged for at least 3 years in ex-bourbon casks.

East London Liquor Company's RumOn its own

Nose: A light creaminess with hints of coconut milk and vanilla, plus a touch of crushed biscuit and roasted banana.

Taste: This has a lovely, soft, satin-like texture with milky creaminess upfront and then some caramelized sugar that gradually becomes darker, although not quite reaching the deep treacle notes of some English naval rums. A soft fruitiness then comes through towards and on the finish, with more banana, pineapple, and a spot of whipped cream before a light woodiness.

Dark & Stormy

Good – the flavours of the rum come through nicely and work well with the spice and ginger of the mixer. The lime adds balance to the drink. Overall, the character of the rum stands up to the drink and creates a smooth and refreshing cooler.

Happy birthday, East London Liquor Company!

Campari & Tonic

Last week, I think it’s fair to say that I had more than my fair share of Gin & Tonics; over the course of two days, I tasted over 70 (I was judging at a competition). However, tonic does go with other liquor: the Vodka Tonic is another popular choice, and I developed a penchant for the Big Ben (Benedictine & Tonic) when I visited their distillery a few years back.

One base that I hadn’t previously considered, though, was Campari. Upon reflection, this is a bit surprising, given that one of my favourite mixed drinks is the Americano (Campari, red vermouth, and soda water). Thankfully, the folks at Campari are encouraging people to try this summer tipple and thus introduced me to the drink.

On the face of it, it seems like quite a likely combination; what I like in particular is that it’s simple, with ingredients that are easy to come by.

Camari Tonic

The recommended recipe calls for lime as the citrus garnish, but, having a host of citrus on hand, I wondered if the garnish would make much of a difference. For this experiment, we mixed 50ml Campari with 150ml tonic water* (the new Fevertree mini cans), and served each drink in identical glasses with the same quantity and shape of ice. The only variation was one wedge of the various citrus fruits, which were very lightly squeezed before being dunked into the glass.

Orange
Tangy with some sweet citrus which balances out much of the bitterness from the Campari. A good introduction to the drink for those that often find Campari too bitter.

Lime
The suggested recipe and the one with the most well-rounded character. Hints of vanilla and chocolate come through along with a little zesty tartness and a dry bitter finish.

Lemon
Extra tartness and zest with the lemon and some bitterness comes through too although overall as a drink it is more tart than bitter, lively and refreshing.

Ruby Grapefruit
Fragrant with some floral notes on the nose, a more complex and sophisticated drink with bright citrus oil as well as a focus on a long, extra bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Even though the citrus was a relatively minor change it had a remarkable impact on the flavour of the drink. whether you are looking for extra complexity a lighter sweeter offer or to beef up the bitterness it can all be done simply with the garnish. Day-to-day I’d personally choose the lime.

*Approximate ABV = 6.25% ABV

Cocktails with… Blackwater Gin

Blackwater Gin is made by Blackwater Distillery in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, Ireland. I had the pleasure of visiting the distillery during my trip to Dungarvin for the West Waterford Food Festival, where we hosted an Irish Gin tasting. The release of Blackwater Gin comes at the beginning of what I think is a very exciting time for Irish distilling.

The gin is bottled at 41.5% ABV and its botanical mix includes juniper, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Local water is used for bottling.

On its own
Nose: Bold floral, citrus, and spice, with a pleasant zestiness that is followed by chocolate, cardamon, and a warm, woody cassia note with a touch of vanilla.
Taste: Juniper upfront, with a very silky, viscous texture. The start is classic in style, but followed by a pop! of intensity with coriander, bright floral notes, and citrus peel. The profile then develops into warm, sweet spice notes that lead onto the finish, which is long, lingering, and dry. This is a great example of how a distiller can achieve a procession of character and varying intensity in their gin.

BLACKWATER GIN

Frozen
Sipped straight from the freezer, coriander and floral citrus come to the fore, followed by some woody angelica and spice, moving from nutty to aromatic and bright. Again, there’s a long, lingering finish of ginger-like warmth and dry crispness.

Gin & Tonic
A brilliant and spicy Gin & Tonic with plenty of citrus and complex spice. Truly excellent; the gin integrates well with tonic to create an exceptionally refreshing drink. As you sip more, the various botanicals come through and different characters come to the fore, especially with a little ice melt. This is a full-flavoured drink that really evolves as you sip – near perfection.

Diamond Martini
Another cocktail with a good level of flavour: lots of spice and some piney notes, too. The floral and the citrus are a little more subtle with this serve, but a twist of lemon would bring these characters back. The alcohol comes also through in a robust fashion, although there is no burn. An excellent pre-dinner choice.

Stirred Martini
Very soft and smooth; you could certainly enjoy more than one of these in an evening. The variety of botanical characters shine, including: juniper, angelica, and coriander, followed by more subtle, sweet spice such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. On the finish, there is some bright, dry citrus.

Negroni
The gin comes through well, but doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. There is a rich, plump fruitiness, as well as a piney dryness in the middle. Notes of slightly sweet, woody spice gradually build before an earthy, bitter finish of medium intensity.

In Conclusion
This is a superb and delicious gin, and one that I highly recommend seeking out. They also have other products in the pipeline, which I have high hopes for, too. My favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Blackwater is one of the first craft gins in Ireland and, if distillers on the island continue to produce gins to the same high standard as the likes of Blackwater and Shortcross, then the world is really in for a treat.

Cocktails with… Smooth Ambler Old Scout Straight Bourbon

As many of you will, no doubt, be aware, last Saturday (16th May) was 2015’s World Whisky Day. Now, we don’t need an excuse to drink whisky, but will nonetheless happily accept one.

Today, I’m taking a look at Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Smooth Ambler Spirits in West Virginia. This is a merchant bottled whiskey, which means that Smooth Ambler don’t distil it themselves (although they do distil their own), but that they found it, loved it, and decided that they wanted to take it under their wing and independently bottle it.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon

This particular example is a “high rye” whiskey, being made with a mash that is 36% rye (60% corn and 4% malt). It is aged for a minimum of seven years and is bottled at 49.5% ABV. The carefully handwritten label also tells me that this spirit is from batch 100, bottled on 4th December 2014 by Sarah, which I take to be a good omen!

On its own
Nose: A spiced, malty richness is accompanied by dry raisin, wood polish, and lovely hints of dark chocolate and cherry.
Taste: Explosion of warm spice at the start, then the leafy freshness of eucalyptus that is followed by rich, but dry wood. The result is a delightfully refreshing flavour with a full bodiness helped by notes of creamy vanilla, a touch of apple, and the remnants of that mintiness.
Finish: Rich, warm wood and a subtle hint of dark chocolate and peppermint. At the very end of the finish, there’s a creamy dryness reminiscent of coconut.

Whiskey Soda
Fresh, with delightful sweet, woody notes, as well as a little added complexity from some dry notes of stone fruit. This works well both in a strong drink (3:1 ratio) and in a longer, lighter version, say 6:1. It is a very pleasant way to enjoy the whiskey in a long, refreshing drink.

Whiskey Ginger
The whiskey adds creamy, full-bodied notes of vanilla (like an amazing vanilla ice-cream), plus an array of fruit notes that range from rich notes of dark cherry to much lighter, refreshing pineapple. This flows neatly into the flavours of the ginger ale. Perfect.

Old Fashioned
The whiskey integrates marvellously into this cocktail, with notes of spiced rye and a little black pepper, before the dry vanilla and wood notes of the whiskey take over. The finish is fresh and leafy, like eucalyptus.

Manhattan
To start, there’s a pleasant, fruity tang from the vermouth, along with a quick burst of spice and savoury cherry, before a long finish of dry wood notes with lots of vanilla and a little leafy sappiness.

In Conclusion
This is a marvellous whiskey. On its own, it’s got a lovely, rich, and delightfully refreshing flavour, and in all of the drinks that we tried it in, it integrated well, adding body and flavour. I struggle to choose a favourite, but it’s either the Whiskey Ginger or the Old Fashioned. I get the sense that most of this, though, will be enjoyed neat and shared with good friends.

– Mrs. B.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Yr Old Bourbon is available for around £55 for 70cl from Master of Malt.

For more on Smooth Ambler check out their Website or Twitter.

Hven Seven Stars No.3 Phecda Organic Single Malt Whisky

Hven is a family run distillery on a small island of the same name in the Strait between Denmark and Sweden. DTS reviewed their Organic Gin here, but today I’m taking a look at one of their single malt whiskies: Seven Stars No.3: Phecda. It is the third in a limited edition series; one whisky is being released each year until 2019, each of which is named after one of the seven stars in the constellation Ursa Major (the Plough). Phecda follows Dubhe and Merak.

Hven Seven Stars No3 FINAL

The whisky is bottled at the distillery at 45% ABV and is certified organic. Let’s see what it tastes like.

On its own
Nose: Meaty smokiness on top, with a rich note of ginger underneath – fresh gingerbread and salty seat air. With a bit of warmth and time in the glass, notes of honey and fruity vermouth come through.
Taste: Wonderfully smooth. The start is light and silky, followed by a flash of warmth and honey sweetness. Dry flavours then unfold in the form of complex notes of chilli spice, slightly bitter tobacco, and a light nuttiness.
Finish: A soft woodiness on top, with dry, complex notes of bonfire smoke underneath.

Rob Roy
Smooth and well-integrated, with flavours of smoke and berry fruitiness (cranberry and raspberry), followed by cola, a hint of dark chocolate, dry biscuit, and sherry-soaked wood. The finish is dry, smokey, and woody with touches of berry sweetness and a more green, herbal note.

Old Fashioned
Absolutely delicious. Rich Pedro Ximinez spice, berries, and grape and a strong, bonfire smokiness. A complex, but beautiful array of spice, sweet dark sugar, a little fruit cake, and a dash of cherry, but with a the savoury freshness of a red bell pepper. This fades into woody liquorice notes with hints of cream sherry and creamy, dark coffee.

Whisky & Soda
A refreshing and complex drink. The soda water lengthens and cools the spirit without masking its complexity. Smooth, sweet notes are followed by deeper, more resinous and lightly smokey wood notes, which are kept bright by the mixer’s effervescence.

In Conclusion
I think the concept behind the Seven Star whiskies is a brilliant one and No.3 Phecda is wonderful whisky: not too heavy, but with a full flavour profile that develops over time. It also works exceptionally well in all of the cocktails that we tried, although the Old Fashioned stood out in particular.

– Mrs. B.

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