Cocktails with… Baileys Biscotti

Baileys Biscotti Title

After the recent unveiling of Baileys Orange Truffle, I decided I should really write about Baileys Biscotti, which made its début in September of last year (2011). This is a blend of the Original Baileys cream liqueur with added flavour of biscotti biscuits: dry, double-baked biscuits made with almonds that originate from Italy. In the UK, I’ve only ever had them served with coffee, although Wikipedia tells me that they are also often served with either fortified or dessert wine, depending upon your location (and both of which I’d like to try).

Baileys Biscotti

On its own

Nose: Very sweet and a strong, distinctive note of layers of wafer filled with vanilla cream, which was so strong that I found it difficult to find anything else. A hint of coffee made its way in towards the end.

Taste: Velvety and viscous from the outset, but also rather sweet. The flavour, like the nose, reminded me more of vanilla wafers than biscotti, although there’s a dryness on the finish that reminds me of almonds. At the very start, there’s a hint of coffee and whiskey, but this is quickly washed away by an intense hit of sugar and then a long, lingering creaminess.

Over ice Baileys Biscotti - Over Ice

The nose was unchanged over ice, but the drink itself seemed even sweeter and less balanced, reminding me of a poorly-made cream cocktail.

With a dash of Poteen

To be more precise, I used an approximate 5:25 ratio of Poteen* to Baileys. I decided to try this, given how wonderful it was with Baileys Orange Truffle. In this drink, it added more of a kick and, although it reduced the cloying creaminess of the liqueur – very much a positive thing – and replaced some of those sweet vanilla notes with some spicier ones, the two sets of flavours just didn’t seem to pair as well. I’m saving my Poteen for superior combinations!

With Coffee

Without a doubt, this was where this liqueur was at its best. I used strong, bitter coffee, to help balance out the sweet and creamy aspects of the Baileys. The sugary, vanilla wafer note appeared briefly at the beginning of the drink, followed by the unmistakable flavour of coffee with cream. I’m sure this will still be too sweet for some, but then those people are unlikely to be looking for a cream liqueur to add to their coffee!

In Conclusion

I was initially intrigued at the prospect of this flavour, but I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed at how sweet and cloying it turned out to be. As such, the Orange Truffle remains my favourite version of Baileys, although the vanilla wafer notes of the Biscotti variety may occasionally find their way into a cup of my coffee.

– Mrs. B.

* Once again, we used the wonderful Knockeen Hills Poteen Extra-Gold Strength (90%ABV).

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Keep Walking! – A Look at the New Johnnie Walker Labels

The Johnnie Walker line-up is changing this year, with the bowing out of their Green Label and Gold Label, and the introduction of Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve and Johnnie Walker Platinum Label:

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Gold Label Reserve was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge from handpicked casks to celebrate the art of blending. The Johnnie Walker website describes it as “pure indulgence”.

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Platinum Label, also created by Jim Beveridge, is being marketed towards people who are after something a little bit special to share with friends. All of its constituent whiskies are at least 18 years old and are from limited casks that have been specially kept by.

Despite how exciting these sound, as a particular fan of the original Gold Label (ever since our wonderful Goodwood tasting), I have to admit to being a tad hesitant about such a big change. I had tried small samples at Distil and Imbibe, but couldn’t wait to try them both at home and was particularly relieved when DTS offered to set up a blind tasting for me, so that I could be as fair and unbiased as possible. To make things additionally interesting, he threw in the Green and Black Labels without telling me (it’s a shame that we didn’t have any Gold Label at the time)! Still, a sneaky, if clever, move.

Here are my blind-tasting thoughts.

Green Label
Nose: Syrup and oats, but with a dry finish. Lots of sweet wood, too, reminding me a tad of bourbon.
Taste: Raw, genuine wood and not too much else; quite a short initial flavour, but a very nice one, nonetheless. A good warmth builds up after from alcohol.

Black Label
Nose: Rich, fruity and really syrupy, with hints of plum, raisin and other rich notes that remind me of fruit cake. After a few moments, the sweetness transformed into more of a Christmas-pudding nuttiness.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. There’s a short initial flavour of fruit cake that’s followed by another flavour that develops a lot more slowly, overlaid by a faint smokiness: another genuine woodiness – no gimmicky flavours to mask it here – that you can really chew over.

Gold Label Reserve
Nose: A much stronger nose than the previous two. A combination of light wood, vanilla and a richer, honey sweetness.
Taste: Quite strong alcohol to start, followed by a good woodiness and the faintest hint of smoke. This quickly disperses, leaving a pleasant, medium-long finish that is relatively dry and fruity. Smooth and accessible.

Platinum Label
Nose: Savoury, light wood with oats, like oatcakes, to start. This then turns sweeter, with hints of maple.
Taste: Harsher than the previous ones and distinctly savoury; almost bitter at points. This comes across as not particularly balanced to start, but quickly settles down upon a second sip. There’s definitely some wood notes here, but there’s not so much personality. The finish is dry, reminiscent of sherry and dried fruit.

In Conclusion
The latest additions to the Johnnie Walker range are definitely different to the ones that they’re replacing, so if you are a particular fan of either the Green Label or the Gold Label (“The Centenary Blend”), you’ll want to stock up now. Equally, if you get the chance to try the Gold Reserve or Platinum Labels, I would recommend it; they’re definitely something new, carefully designed for today’s market, and, whilst they weren’t my favourites in this blind tasting, they might be yours!

– Mrs. B

Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve is available for around £42 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Johnnie Walker Platinum is available for around £66 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Juniper Sling – A Perfume, not a drink!

Recently, I’ve engaged in a number of conversations on the links between perfume and spirits, whether it be relating to ingredients, the multiple aroma essences of juniper, or the apparent superior ability of women to nose spirits (or fragrances).

Personally, I’ve never been particularly interested in perfume, although more due to the difficulty of finding ones that I really like than anything else. I’ll be honest: I’ve only ever bought two fragrances in my life, and the thought of trying to find that elusive “ideal” scent, much like the thought of trying to find a single, lone whisky to drink for the rest of your life, fills me with dread. So you can imagine my delight when we were asked to try Penhaligon’s latest fragrance, Juniper Sling, which threatened to change the way I look at fragrance by first drawing me in with the undeniable power of gin.

A “playful, chilled and mysterious homage to the Bright Young Things of London’s roaring twenties”, Juniper Sling is inspired by London Dry Gin and has juniper berries – suitably – as a main ingredient. It initially seemed to be a bit of an oddity, but its elegant packaging and 1920s-inspired marketing neatly offset that and seemed to politely request that I take it more seriously.

Like some of the ladies who have already reviewed this, I have to admit that I initially hesitated, thinking that I would spend the rest of the day smelling of gin. This fear was supported by the fact that, in the phial, that’s exactly what it smells like: there’s lots of dry, earthy juniper and other notes like orris and angelica root that, as a member of the Juniper Society, I instantly recognised from our tastings. The one thing that I do know about perfume, however, is that it smells different on the skin to in the bottle and so I decided to try it out over a week, to see how it stood up to my day-to-day life (and to see if anyone mentioned that I was increasingly smelling of fine juniper spirit).

It took approximately five minutes for me to realise that, despite the name, there’s a lot more going on here than just juniper. On my skin, at least, the scent quickly warmed, gaining slightly sweeter, spicy notes, like cinnamon and cardamom, whilst keeping the depth and softness of the angelica. Altogether, I found it rather comforting.

When I later had a look a the Penhaligon’s website, I wasn’t surprised to see that they mention high notes of orange brandy and base notes of brown sugar and black cherry, which I’ve been picking up on ever since. The addition of these kind of notes is very clever, because they complement the juniper whilst also adding a warmth and sweetness that you don’t usually find in gin. The result is a fragrance that pays tribute to London Dry without making you smell like one.

I’ve worn Juniper Sling for a full week now and have grown rather fond of it in that time. I love the cinnamon, brandy and brown sugar notes, all of which are balanced out by the dry juniper and earthy orris and angelica. It’s complex, warm and sensual. A little also went a long way on me and although the scent softened throughout the day, I kept smelling wonderful wafts of spice every now and again.

Mrs. B in the Penhaligon Shop in Edinburgh

All-in-all, I can see myself wearing it regularly and would recommend it to anyone who likes warmer, spicier fragrances. If you don’t, I’d still recommend popping into one of the Penhaligon’s shops, if you can find one; we visited their one in Edinburgh and were impressed both by the range of fragrance and the skill and knowledge of the gentlemen working there. I’m thoroughly looking forward to visiting again soon to have a closer look at their full range.

– Mrs. B

Penhaligons Juniper Sling is available in 50ml and 100ml sizes from their shops and their website.

Harvey’s Half Hour – Cocktails with Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry

I’ve got a little gin research project going on that is due the end of February. The survey is simple and takes 90 seconds please help us out by completing the survey.

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Today, DBS introduced me to Harvey’s Bristol Cream. I am not going to lie and say that I knew all about this beforehand, because I didn’t: to be quite honest, I hadn’t even tried any sherry before, let alone “cream sherry”, and, in my ignorance, was expecting a cream liqueur to be hidden within this tall, blue glass bottle. How wrong I was!

For those of you who, like me, may not know much about it, Harvey’s Bristol Cream is a sherry, with no dairy products in sight. Sherry is a fortified wine and, although wines bearing the name Sherry have been produced around the world (even our home-town once made British Sherry!), true Sherry comes from the region around Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. It is made with white wine, primarily from the Palomino Grape, and is fortified with brandy after fermentation. There are a lot of varieties available, but today we are focusing on Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Bristol Cream Sherry is a product from John Harvey & Sons of Bristol. The origins of the business go back to 1796, but John Harvey joined the trade as an apprentice in 1822. In the 1860s, his two oldest sons were working on a new blend of sherry, which was to become Bristol Cream Sherry. It it said that it is so-named because an aristocratic lady visiting the cellars one day was invited to try another sherry, Bristol Milk (a popular variety of the day), against their prototype and declared that the latter to be so good in comparison, that it must be “Bristol Cream”.

Bristol Cream used to be imported and bottled in Bristol, but today it is bottled in Origin in Spain. It’s a blend of a whole host of different varieties of sherry, including finos, aged amontilados, and olorosos, before finally being sweetened with Pedro Ximenez; so you get to enjoy a bit of everything.

On its own (chilled in the fridge)

The nose is rich and fruity: grape, sweeter raisin, and brandy, that brings to mind Christmas puddings. On the tongue, it is very smooth and actually runs through the same flavours as I got from the nose: fresh grape to start, that deepens into a nutty, raisin-like sweetness, before finishing with a lovely, warm brandy flavour, neatly accompanied by a warmth in your stomach.
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Harvey’s on the rock with orange

[50ml Harvey’s Bristol cream Sherry, Served on the rocks with a slice of Orange]

The nose is dominated by the orange, but the sherry happily holds its own on the tongue. Smooth, but lasting, with a sweet start followed by a long, relatively dry finish of raisin and the kind of non-sweet candied peel that you get in fruit cake. The finish develops slowly with a lovely warmth gradually forming.

Harvey’s & Lemonade

[50ml Harvey’s Bristol cream Shery, 150ml Lemonade, Ice – Garnish with seasonal fruits.]
There’s a lovely nose of cucumber and citrus from the garnishes. On the tongue, it really starts out like a fruit cup, then the rich flavour from the sherry comes in afterwards: there’s a nuttiness at the beginning, followed by a dark wine, vermouth-like flavour that has a herbal sweetness to it. DBS noted that it’s similarities with red vermouth explains why it works well in this kind of drink; after all, vermouth is a key part of fruit cup.After half of the drink had been finished, the fruit flavours from the garnishes came through more – especially lemon and cucumber. The finish from the sherry was long, but not overly sweet, which was nice.What I really enjoyed about this drink was how it developed as I drank it, which I imagine has something to do with how much you stir it initially. Personally, I loved the unabashed, strong start from the sherry, that – as it was gradually watered down by the ice – turned into a refreshing long drink with intermingling fruit flavours, akin to the best fruit cups. Definitely one of my favourites.
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Cream Cobbler

[50ml cream sherry, 1 tsp Sugar Syrup, 60ml Soda water]
This drink had a very subtle start, and then – two seconds later – the sherry makes a flamboyant entrance with rich grape and slightly more savoury, nutty flavours coming through strongly. Unlike some of the other cocktails, the sherry really comes through on its own in this drink, rather than blending with any other flavours; it takes centre-stage. At the end, there was a warm, spicy, dark-fruity flavour that reminded me of Christmas pudding.

Quarterdeck Cocktail

[30ml light rum, 10ml cream sherry, juice of half a lime – SHAKE]
This drink had a nose of fresh grape and – again – herbal, red vermouth-like flavours. To taste, it was sharp and invigorating; DBS said “bracing” (which I thought went very well with my mental image surrounding the name!). There was an intriguing saltiness to start, that flowed into a rich, distinctive, vanillia-like creaminess that DBS tells me is from the lime. There was a real warmth afterwards at the back of the throat, too.

Although this wasn’t my favourite cocktail with the sherry, I thought it was nonetheless a very interesting one and one that I think would be good to drink before dinner.

The Adonis

[50ml Harvey Bristol Cream Sherry, 25ml Red vermouth, dash of Orange bitters – STIR]
This had a similar nose to the Quarterdeck – grape and other, herbal vermouth notes – only with hints of orange and an unexpected sweetness. On the tongue, I thought that this both delicious and balanced: the sherry and vermouth are perfectly matched. Rich and herbal, with a subtle, orangy sweetness that sweeps into a clean, balanced bitterness at the end. There was also a lovely warmth in my stomach afterwards.

Harveys Cream Old-Fashioned

I could not quite believe how deliciously smooth this was (I had to finish it, just to make sure). I found that fresh grape flavours came through more than in any of the other cocktails, followed by hints of the nuttier, richer flavours at the end, before a very clean finish. Nice and light, with a raisin-like sweetness in the middle of the grape notes.

Harvey’s Frosted Apple & Ginger (AKA The Sweet Apple Zing)

[Fill a highball glass with ice, 50ml Harveys Bristol Cream, 50ml Apple Juice.Top up with a dash of ginger ale. Swirl with a cinnamon stick and leave in the glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and apple slices]

DBS & I weren’t big fans of the name of this one; upon reflection, I thought that “Sweet Apple Zing” had a bit more of a ring to it.

Again, this was very easy to drink, but more so if you have a sweet tooth. The sherry adds a Christmas-y undertone to the apple juice, giving it a bit of weight and warmth, and neatly introducing the gingery warmth at the very end of the finish. There was a lingering gingery aftertaste that gradually became drier, although the taste of apples, grapes and raisins can occasionally be picked up amidst the warm spice. Smooth, but maybe a touch too sweet for some (this could maybe be adjusted depending on the type of ginger ale used?).

If there was some way of trying this, or a variation, warm (with a still ginger soft drink), I would be intrigued to try it once the chilly evenings begin to set in.

Harry Harvey's PunchHarry Harvey’s Punch

[50ml Harveys Bristol Cream sherry, 25ml maraschino liqueur, 15ml fresh lemon juice. 75ml fresh orange juice, 2 dashes Angostura® bitters SHAKE]

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Another very different way to try this sherry, this cocktail was wonderfully cold, fresh, crisp and tart. There’s a slight perfume-like note at the beginning, which quickly makes way for tart citrus notes, with hints of herbs and spice just taking the sweet edge off of the sherry, making for a delightful, refreshing punch. The by-now-familiar warmth at the very end of the finish rounded it all off nicely. Dangerously easy to finish, without being at all light or overly sweet.

In Conclusion

Having never tried sherry before, and with the misconception of it being something that you – or your grandmother – would sip from a tiny glass at Christmas lingering in my mind, I was highly impressed with the versatility of Harvey’s and felt that there must be at least one drink within the above list for everyone to enjoy. My favourites were, without a doubt, the Harry Harvey’s Punch, the Harvey’s Old Fashioned, and The Adonis.

I thoroughly look forward to experimenting further with it as a cocktail ingredient, as well as winding down with a Harry Harvey’s Punch or Old Fashioned at the end of a long day. Coincidentally, Harvey’s are currently marketing their idea for a “Harvey’s Half Hour”: thirty minutes of your day to dedicate to yourself, winding down with a delicious Harvey’s tipple as you do so. Not a bad idea in the slightest! You can find ideas and inspiration for drinks to try on their website: www.harveyshalfhour.co.uk.

– Mrs B.

.Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry from supermarkets and Off Licences RRP £8.80 for 75cl

For more sherry Cocktails, why no have a look at:

Cocktails with Harveys (DRY) Fino Sherry or Harvey’s (SWEET) Pedro Ximénez

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WOW1 – Lochan Ora Liqueur

A bottle of Lochan Ora

Whilst exploring the Refectory Bar and its menu at the Plymouth Gin Distillery this month, David & I were told about an apparently scrumptious whisky liqueur. It was made all the more tempting by the fact that we were quickly told that it wasn’t available to buy, despite there being a bottle in a cupboard just a few feet away.

Later on the same day, whilst chatting with the lovely ladies in the Plymouth Distillery shop, we mentioned this mystery liqueur and, following a little problem solving, we established that it was less elusive than initially thought; as a matter of fact, there was a bottle behind us in a display cabinet. We returned the next day to pick up a bottle and reveal a little of this unearthed non-mystery to you all in the first of what will hopefully be many small notes on whiskies and their liqueurs by myself (Mrs B).

Post-post note: A little research once I arrived home soon revealed the most likely source for the above noted mystery: Lochan Ora is no longer being produced for the UK market – if at all – and therefore most stock is, to varying degrees, limited. As a result, if you see any and would like to try it, I would heartily recommend that you do whilst you have the chance.

Sold in a squat and square dark glass bottle with a beautiful pale golden label, Lochan Ora (produced by Chivas Brothers’) looks majestic and romantic; it even has a golden crown on the lid, which reminded me of the Boodles Gin bottle. Due to its size, it was initially hard to believe that it contained 70cl, but I am very pleased that it does.

It smelt strongly of sweet orange peel; David mentioned candied peel, which I thought captured the scent perfectly. When I tasted it, I was hit by a strong, but not unexpected or overpowering, bout of sweetness, followed by a hint of alcohol, which swiftly transformed into an orange flavour. It all finished neatly with the long, slow-developing warmth of a Scotch whisky. There were some lovely light herbal notes, too, which, together with the warmth of the whisky, made this one of the most comforting liqueurs I’ve ever tasted.

It was delicious and reminded me of Yuletide evenings spent sitting by a warm fire – my mind recalls Mr. Smith’s first batch of mincemeat liqueur, which quickly disappeared! Lochan Ora’s  level of sweetness is spot-on, (unusual, as I find many liqueurs too sweet) which meant that I would probably save it for a post-meal sipper when a dessert might be too much.

It’s a terrible shame that they might not be producing this any more, so I warmly recommend it to anyone who can find it.

– Mrs. B

For more Whisk(e)y Liqueur Reviews see the other Whispers of Whisk(e)y

Mrs B.’s Drinks

Mrs. B’s Drinks

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Cocktails for Ladies

I have often found myself caught off-guard when asked, “What would you like to drink?”. With a lack of insight, I usually then found myself sipping a glass of orange juice, but longing for something more adventurous.

The world of cocktails, even just vintage ones, is vast and often expensive and so, after a couple of conversations with ladies in a similar situation to myself, I decided to raid the cellar and the bookshelf and find cocktails that could I recommend to female friends. I wanted to arm all of us with a list of choices – relatively straight-forward, easy-to-find choices – for those moments of ignorance and indecision that I had found myself dreading. I hope that this brief introduction provides some insight into a much bigger and vibrant world of cocktails.

From left to right: White Lady, Brandy Alexander, Rusty Nail, Harvey Wallbanger, Simple Rum Cocktail, Sidecar, Sweet Martini

The White Lady (8/10)

This gin-based cocktail was wonderfully smooth and, with its bitter, lemon flavour and creamy froth on top, was highly reminiscent of a lemon meringue pie, only without the excessive sweetness. I could easily see myself sipping and savouring one of these at any point in an evening, although I imagine those with a more refined palate than myself may enjoy specifying their choice of gin to make it even better.

Harvey Wallbanger (7/10)

Vodka, orange juice and Galliano come together to make this a sweet and fruity long drink that probably won’t hang around for too long if you have a sweet tooth and like the strong vanilla flavour. If find sugary cocktails hard to swallow, using Galliano L’Autentico, based on an older formulation, may be just the ticket: the sweet vanilla is then replaced with a subtle aniseed kick. Both variations are delicious with a slice of orange and, for a real treat, freshly squeezed juice.

I found the Harvey Wallbanger much easier to drink than The White Lady and wonderfully thirst-quenching, but thought it likely to disappear all too quickly to really savour.

Mrs B. samples a Harvey Wallbanger

Brandy Alexander (9.5/10)

I have to admit to being less than enthusiastic about cocktails containing cream, and so I was quietly dreading the Brandy Alexander (which I know to be a favourite of Mr. B), but this one was a real surprise. A dusting of nutmeg and chocolate flake draws you into a combination of brandy, crème de cacao, and (in this case, double) cream that is silky and rich, with the warmth in the brandy slowly seeping through after the ice-cream-like beginning. This is a drink that could very easily replace a dessert, in my eyes (and I like my desserts!).

Simple Rum Cocktail (6/10)

With a glass full of crushed ice, refreshing lime and a dash of cola, this cocktail brings back memories of many a summer evening. It is a very enjoyable way of drinking rum, both if you are a fan of the spirit or if you have just been introduced. The other ingredients complement the rum, making it more palatable for a fresh face, but the individual character of the rum still comes through; if you don’t use a rum that you like the taste of on its own, this probably won’t be your favourite.

Sweet Martini (ladies only, according to the Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts) (8/10)

Mixed using Old Tom Gin, which is sweeter than its modern counterparts, this martini was remarkably full of flavour, which was highly unexpected, given its cool, clear exterior. It certainly packs a punch, but the flavour goes far beyond just alcohol; I found myself reminiscing on olives and pizza, making me think that it might serve quite well as an aperitif for an Italian meal. Given its bold flavours, this probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s an unusual one to try, regardless of your feelings towards the dry martini.

Rusty Nail (8/10)

As a fan of whisky, I was looking forward to this one and wasn’t disappointed: with its combination of Drambuie, a honey and herb liqueur, and blended Scotch, it is a sweeter way to drink whisky without drowning it within a long drink. This would be a delightful drink to slowly sip by the fire at the end of a long day, feeling both the flames and the alcohol gradually warm you up.

Sidecar (9/10)

Finally, we have the Sidecar: a deliciously smooth and fruity cocktail and another one that surprised me, as I’m not generally a fan of brandy. The Sidecar, however, is a short, revitalising drink (that is, nonetheless, relatively easy to manage) with a sharp finish that reminded me distinctly of sherbet. The flavours come together nicely and I believe I could quite happily order one of these at any point during an evening. This is my top pick for a ladies’ cocktail.

In conclusion, by scores alone, the Brandy Alexander was my clear favourite, but, unlike a good cup of tea, I feel that I would need to be in a specific mood to enjoy one as much as I did in this tasting. Therefore, the top spot in my list of cocktails for ladies has to be the Sidecar, followed by the Rusty Nail and The White Lady, with the Brandy Alexander reserved for those times when I’m after a sweet treat, but can’t manage dessert!

There are, of course, many, many other cocktails to try and so I would greatly encourage everyone to try something new; why not ask a barman for a recommendation, stating your favourite spirit as a base? Create your own, tailored list so that you never again find yourself, as I did, unarmed with the perfect drink for an evening.