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

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.