WOW33 – Bushmills Irish Honey – A Review

WOW33

The trend for whisk(e)y liqueurs and flavoured whisk(e)y shows no sign of abetting, but whereas it’s typically the whiskey producers of the US who are innovating in this field, today’s focus is on one from Ireland: Bushmills Irish Honey.

It is worth noting that this is described as a “Spirit Drink“ and not a whiskey liqueur; this is because it has less sugar in it than a liqueur. It’s a blend of Bushmills whiskey, Irish honey and other natural flavours, and is bottled at 35%ABV.

BushmillsIrishHoneyBottle

On its own
Nose: Rather bourbon-esque and not too heavy or overly honeyed. Light wood and grain notes are balanced by a comforting, but subtle level of sweetness. I get hints of malt, too.
Taste: Very smooth, but by no means sweet, this is inoffensive and easy to drink. The flavours are straightforward: sweet grain and malt, with odd hints of floral honey scattered throughout. The finish is lightly dry, with subtle notes of grain.

Irish Coffee
[One Shot of Hot Espresso, 25ml Bushmills Honey, Layer Cream on Top]
A malty nose with hints of honey backs up a decidedly non-sweet Irish Coffee. What’s great about this as an Irish Coffee is that you could easily tweak the sweetness level to your own personal preference, rather than be stuck with a sickly drink. The woody notes and warmth from the spirit come through initially, followed by the coffee and then a dry, creamy finish (I’d also like to try this with a spoonful of brown sugar).

In Conclusion
This is a smooth and accessible drink, especially when sipped neat, but neither the honey, nor the whiskey notes are particularly strong. If you’re after something less subtle, you might be better with one of the honey flavoured bourbons (e.g. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jim Beam Honey, or Evan Williams Honey Reserve Liqueur). However, if you find the whiskey liqueurs too sweet, or just want to experiment with cocktails using a honeyed whiskey where you can better control the sweetness, Bushmills Irish Honey could be worth a try.

– Mrs. B.

A Couple of Christmas Cocktails with Bailey’s Orange Truffle

Tomorrow, I’ve had an invitation to a Baileys Christmas Cocktail event to mix up some festive fun with the Irish Cream Liqueur, to celebrate the limited edition Baileys bottles designed by jewellery duo Felder Felder.

Baileys Felder and Felder

Given its popularity on the website and its festive flavours, we’ve decided to twist some of the cocktails that we’ll be making tomorrow to use Baileys Orange Truffle, which I also reviewed here: ‘Baileys Orange Truffle – the new flavour’.

The Baileys Slice of Christmas

OrnageBaileysCocktail2
50ml Baileys Orange Truffle
25ml Grand Marnier

Add the ingredients to a glass, add a single large piece of ice and a twist of orange.

Chocolate orange to start, with a hint of zestiness and then the flavour moves towards a rich, thick chocolate flavour, not unlike the middle of a Lindt chocolate. Rather indulgent and delicious, but thankfully not too sickly, nor heavy, due to the strong orange flavours from the Grand Marnier.

The Baileys Whip (variation)

OrnageBaileysCocktail1

25ml Baileys Orange Truffle
25ml Cold Espresso
10ml Vanilla Vodka
10ml Butterscotch Schnapps

Shake and then top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

Like a delicious coffee cream (I used to love those in Quality Street), with some hints of orange, too. The dark, bitter coffee balances out the sweeter, more indulgent flavours (such as vanilla and butterscotch) and gives a clean, dry finish. The cream adds a little indulgence, whilst the cinnamon adds a little spice and the gold and silver stars a touch of festive flare.

Liqueur Library #5 – Espresso Liqueur

Coffee is an exceptionally popular flavour and, as with many other popular flavours, it is often incorporated into alcoholic drinks. The strong and easily infusible flavour of the coffee bean lends itself well to being used in spirits and liqueurs.

Liqueur Coffees are popular after-dinner drinks, but these are typically coffees with added alcohol; perhaps the first was the Irish Coffee (coffee, irish whiskey and sugar), which dates back to the 1940s.

Before this, there were coffee liqueurs, which are typically a mix of coffee beans, spirit and sugar. One of the earliest – and still very well-known – brands of coffee liqueur is Kahlúa, which was first released in 1936 in Veracruz, Mexico and achieved worldwide fame by the 1950s.

Kahlúa is still the most popular and well-known coffee liqueur today, but for this article I shall be focusing on a lesser-known product from Italy. Gala Caffé Espresso liqueur is made by Stock, an Italian drinks company, and uses Arabica beans to create a strong coffee flavour. It is bottled at 30% ABV.

1) On its own
Nose: Rich and dark, like freshly ground coffee beans or shaved 90%-cocoa dark chocolate. There was also a hint of vanilla and a touch of grain alcohol at the end.
Taste: Soft, smooth and quite thick and syrupy. There was an initial burst of coffee, followed by a slight nuttiness. The liqueur is moderately sweet and well-balanced, which means that it’s not too sickly. The finish has dry chocolate and long, bitter coffee notes.

2) On its own, chilled
Soft, smooth and extra silky, and some of the warmth of the alcohol comes through. Served chilled in a liqueurs glass, or over ice in a tumbler, this is a good alternative to an Irish Coffee.

3) Martini
[30ml Dry Vodka, 5ml Espresso Liqueur – SHAKE]
Very clean and crisp, with a deep, dark and bitter coffee finish. Simple, but superb.

Espresso Negroni

4) Negroni
[20ml Gin, 20ml Espresso Liqueur, 20ml Campari]
I was sceptical about this drink, although I thought that the bitter coffee might work well with bitter Campari and, actually, it really does work, resulting in a slightly sweet and then strongly bitter coffee cocktail. The gin doesn’t come through too much, but adds a nice dryness.

5) White Russian
[30ml Vodka, 30ml Espresso Liqueur, 30ml semi-skimmed milk]
Very smooth and slightly sweet, with a touch of chocolate and good, dark, deep coffee notes. Very nice, with a well-balanced bitterness, making this a better-than-average White Russian.

Espresso Manhattan

Espresso Manhattan

6) Manhattan
[30ml Bourbon, 5ml Espresso Liqueur – SHAKE]
Bourbon on the nose, plus a very faint hint of coffee. This then had an odd flavour profile: not much went on at the front of the mouth, but there were coffee notes at the top, and bourbon at the back. A slight, intriguing flavour of hops came through on the finish, along with a note of strong coffee mixed with cream. Despite the strange separation of flavours, this was an enjoyable cocktail.

7) With Soda
[25ml Espresso Liqueur, 50ml Soda Water]
Unfortunately, the soda waters down the drink without adding much. I found this far too sweet and, overall, one to avoid.

8) Coffee Alexander
[20ml Dry Gin, 20ml Espresso Liqueur, 15ml Single Cream – SHAKE]
A very pleasant drink, similar to the Gin Alexander, but with an extra bite from the coffee, accompanied by dark chocolate notes. If you wanted a warmer, slightly sweeter drink, then I would suggest using brandy instead of gin.

Substituting the gin for brandy creates a drink somewhat akin to a short, thick iced coffee with a touch of brandy warmth, which is also delicious.

Espresso Mayback 12

Espresso Maybach 12

9) Maybach 12
[20ml Dry Gin, 20ml Kirsch, 10ml Espresso Liqueur – STIR]
A short drink that is quite dry, but with notable sweetness. The predominant flavours are the cherry and coffee, along with a hint of almond; the gin takes a backseat, but is nonetheless a good base for the cocktail.

10) Caribbean Coffee
[30ml White Rum, 10ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Espresso, 10ml Orgeat – SHAKE]
This drink doesn’t look how it tastes: it is quite a rich and fruity cocktail, with hint of almond and marzipan all signed off by dark, bitter coffee notes. Fresh, with some sweetness.

In Conclusion
If you’re looking at adding a coffee liqueur to your home or back bar, then I think that Gala Caffé is a good choice: it’s not too sweet and has a good, strong and genuine flavour.

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Liqueur Library #4 – Sikkim Cardamom Liqueur

I’m a big fan of the spicy flavour of cardamom, especially in gin, where it is one of the twenty most popular botanicals used. Given this enthusiasm, the concept of a cardamom liqueur really appealed to me, so when I saw one reasonably priced at the Whisky Exchange, I eagerly took the opportunity to try it.

This particular cardamom liqueur is made by Sikkim Distilleries Limited. Sikkim is based near the Himalayas in East Sikkim (India) and is the state’s oldest distillery, having been founded in 1954.

Sikkim make a varieties of other products, including spirits such as whisky, rum, brandy and gin (Golden Swan and Sikkim Juniper Gin), as well as a host of other liqueurs, from the classics, such as Cherry Brandy and Creme de Menthe, to the more unusual, such as Paan Liqueur.

In Sikkim and West Bengal, cardamom is an important spice crop for the economy. And Sikkim Liqueur (bottled at 25%ABV) use the distilled essence of cardamom to flavour the liqueur.

1) On its own
A light lime green colour.
Nose: Spicy, with notes of cardamom, as well as some hints of nuts, vanilla and chocolate.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth. Sweetness is then followed by the spicy cardamom, hints of cinnamon, anise and creamy vanilla. Very good, with a pleasant crescendo of spicy cardamom at the end. This is definitely a fine quality liqueur that is not too sweet.

2) Cardamom Sidecar
[40ml Cognac, 10ml Cardamom Liqueur, 5ml Lemon Juice – SHAKE]
Courvoisier (as well as other Cognacs) have spicy notes, which fit in well alongside this liqueur. Spicy and more complex than a normal Sidecar, it had a good, smooth balance. It was rich and had a slightly chocolatey finish. The cardamom does adds something to this drink, but it is more subtle than in some of the other drinks.

3) Green Gin & Tonic
[30ml Classic Gin, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur, 100ml Tonic Water]
A delicious, fresh and spicy Gin & Tonic with cardamom and hints of dark chocolate. The drink has a very slight green tint to it, which signals that this G&T is a bit different. I found that it worked particularly well with Plymouth or Sacred Gins.

4) Negroni Variation
[30ml Gin, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur, 15ml Red Vermouth, 30ml Campari]
Despite the extra sugar from the liqueur, the balance of sweetness is undisturbed and the usual Negroni flavours have an extra boost from the spicy cardamom. I’d recommend using a Classic Dry Gin for this drink.

Cardamom Collins

5) Cardamom Collins
[20ml Classic Gin, 20ml Cardamom Liqueur, 20ml Lemon Juice, 120ml Soda Water]
This was a rather zesty Collins, with the lemon and cardamom working well together. It was tart and not as sweet as a usual Gin Collins (although, if you like a little more sugar, you can – of course – always add some). This would be a great drink to use to cool down on a hot, sunny day.

6) Old Fashioned Cardamom
This had a sweet, woody nose with lots of vanilla and cherry. To taste, it was smooth to start, followed by a rush of quite aggressive alcohol. Overall, it was dry, but it went through periods of a lighter, spicy woodiness, a herbal dryness, and “flashes” of a sweeter, fruity flavour. This cocktail was rather odd for an Old Fashioned, being so dry, but wasn’t unpleasant.

7) Green Grouse
[30ml Famous Grouse Spiced, 15ml Red Vermouth, 15ml Cardamom Liqueur – SHAKE]
Gorgeous – the spiciness from the whisky gradually increased along with hints of a sweeter spiciness, more like that of biscuits or cookies. More savoury, herbal elements appeared on the finish, along with cardamom, ginger and herbal notes from the vermouth. This had a lot of flavours, but they all worked together exceptionally well.

Green Spicy Lady

Green Spicy Lady

8) Green Spicy Lady
[30ml Classic Dry Gin, 30ml Cardamom Liqueur, 30ml Lemon Juice – SHAKE]
A spicy and citrus drink; crisp and very fresh. This drink is a great way to use cardamom-botanical gins, such Boodles, Sacred or No:209. It also works well with lime juice (instead of lemon). Well-balanced, being not too sweet and with a pleasant tartness and a long, spicy cardamom finish. Excellent.

In Conclusion
Cardamom is a superb flavour for both food and cocktails, but cardamom liqueurs seem to have been overlooked. However, with quality liqueurs such as this one by Sikkim, there is no longer any real reason for them not to be used and I hope to see more people use the flavour.

Sikkim Cardamom Liqueur is available for around £11 for 50cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Limoncello – Volume Three of the Liqueur Library

If Italy had an equivalent to Swedish Punsch, Japanese Umeshu or British Sloe Gin, Limoncello would surely be the answer. Many Italian families have closely-guarded recipes and the creation and consumption of homemade varieties of this liqueur is an annual event.

Limoncello is a lemon flavoured liqueur, which is made by simply infusing lemon zest in un-aged alcohol, typically vodka (although some folks use Grappa), with added sugar. It’s exceptionally easy to make, which is probably why so many create it at home.

Limoncello goes by many names (and spellings), including: Lemoncino, Lemoncelloe and Limoncetto. These are all, essentially, the same product, although the term “Limoncino” is more common in Northern Italy and “Limoncello” is preferred in the South.

For those of you who don’t want to make it at home, there are plenty of commercial brands available, made in various countries, including Adnam’s in the UK.

Adnam’s Limoncello was originally released in 2011 and, due to its popularity, Adnam’s made another batch with an improved production method in 2012. It starts life as a batch of three-grain vodka (wheat, barley, oats), which is kept at 90% ABV whilst the lemon zest is infused; the higher strength spirit makes the extraction of the lemons’ aroma, flavour and colour fuller, quicker and easier. This maceration is left for three weeks, at which point the zest is removed and some sugar and water is added, bringing the ABV down to its bottling strength of 28% ABV.

The Taste

1) Own
Nose: Very fresh, with lots of strong, zesty lemon. Natural tasting, almost like a home-made variety.
Taste: Soft and very smooth; silky, with a touch of honey and lovely, fresh, zesty lemon citrus. Lemon-y tang at the end. All-in-all, a product that tastes authentic and far from artificial, just like some of the best home-made versions that I have had. Excellent.

2) Chilled
The liqueur becomes much thicker when chilled; this is how they often drink it in Italy. The flavours are more complex and an initial sweet floral aspect is followed by lush, zesty lemon and a touch of more bitter lemon at the end. Simply top-notch!

3) Over Ice
[50ml Limoncello, One Large Chunk of Ice]
I thought this was another lovely way to drink the liqueur. Interestingly, the sweetness seems to come through a little more. It is also very visually appealing, as the little torrents of melting ice create viscous ripples in the Limoncello. Most importantly, it tastes good.

Cream Cocktail

Cream Cocktail

4) Cream Cocktail
[20ml Gin, 20ml Limoncello, 15ml Cream – SHAKE]
A smooth and creamy lemon cocktail somewhat reminiscent of lemon cheesecake, tart au citron or lemon syllabub. Quite rich and very much a dessert cocktail to drink after dinner.

5) Collins
[25ml Gin, 25ml Limoncello, 100ml Soda Water]
This was a very crisp and refreshing cooler. For extra tartness, add a little (10ml or so) fresh lemon juice. Very light and easy to drink, this could easily be served by the jug or pitcher. There’s a sweet, creamy lift at the end, which pleasantly rounds off this delicious drink. One of the few ways to make Limoncello even more refreshing.

Limonata

6) Limonata
[40ml Citrus Vodka*, 10ml Limoncello, 20ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup – SHAKE]
A refreshing and zinging drink, luscious and lovely. A hint of jammy citrus, touch of creaminess, spiciness care of the vodka and a sweet, lemon curd,  lift at the end. Really very good indeed, highly recommended.

7) Adnam’s Flyer
[30ml Adnam’s First Rate Gin, 10ml Limoncello, 5ml Creme de Violette – SHAKE]
A tasty little liqueur-like cocktail. The dry gin flavour was followed by the neat sweetness of the Limoncello and the floral creaminess of the Violette. Lovely as an after-dinner cocktail.

Tryst in Trieste

8) Tryst in Trieste
[20ml Orange Liqueur**, 20ml Scotch, 15ml Limoncello – SHAKE, then add 10ml Soda Water]
Soft, citrus-heavy nose. To taste, this was a most interesting combination: it had a sherbet-like mouthfeel throughout, with the smoky woodiness from the Scotch fading in after a few moments. The orange notes bridge the strong lemon and whisky flavours nicely. It ended with a lovely, neat, citrusy finish, making for a refreshing and light whisky cocktail.

9) Suffolk Sour
[30ml Vodka, 15ml Limoncello, 15ml Cherry Brandy, 15ml Lemon Juice – BUILD]
A tart and crisp drink, with the initial tart citrus followed by the richer flavours of the cherry. A sweet vanilla from the Limoncello then comes into play. The balance works, but the sour outweighs the sweet. Very tasty.

Lemoncello & Whisky Cocktail

Lemoncello & Whisky Cocktail

10) Limoncello & Whisky
[Recommended by Adnams Head Distiller John McCarthy. 2 parts Scotch, 1 part Limoncello, Ice – STIR]
This was another lovely, light dessert cocktail. It had a refreshing, zesty freshness, with the sweet, cream citrus of lemon curd complementing the drier, woody notes of the whisky. This creamy sweetness – just like that of a lemon tart, reappears on the finish. Very pleasant, indeed.

In Conclusion
I’ve been drinking Limoncello for a quite a few years and must have made my own at least ten years ago, but I’ve never really drunk it much in cocktails. Today’s tasting makes me think that I’ve missing out.

My favourite drinks were the Limonata and the Collins, as well as sipping the liqueur chilled on its own.

Adnams Limoncello is available for around £20 for 50cl from Adnams.

* I used Stolichnaya Citros.
** I used Grand Gala.