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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Gin

How craft distilling is coping with Covid

In the second part of his look at how the spirits business is coping with the Covid pandemic, Ian Buxton looks at the craft distilling sector both here and in…

In the second part of his look at how the spirits business is coping with the Covid pandemic, Ian Buxton looks at the craft distilling sector both here and in the US. Surprisingly, there’s quite a lot of good news. Hurrah!

Frankly, the last thing I expected in writing this piece was to be the bearer of glad tidings. I was pretty sure that coronavirus would have had a devastating effect on our smaller distillers: under-financed and over-dependent on the non-existent on trade, I anticipated tales of woe and to be reporting closures and widespread gloom.

So, expecting the worst, I took a random cross-section of this previously-buoyant industry from my contact book and asked how coronavirus had affected their business and how they saw the future. I should begin by noting that a number never responded. That might be an ominous sign, but then again there may be perfectly good reasons why my emails went unheeded and phone calls unanswered. Because of that I won’t identify these businesses, which made up around a quarter of my sample. Let’s hope they’re OK.

The Nightcap

The Port of Leith Distillery

But what that means is that some 75% did get back to me and from them I received encouraging news of a determined and positive fightback. Yes, the arrival of this nasty disease has been disruptive, sometimes expensive and certainly not what anyone would wish for but it has brought out a refreshing blend of initiative, entrepreneurship and creativity in battling the bug. 

The various government schemes for financial support have helped, of course, but one factor that came across time and again was the production of hand sanitiser. Indeed, from the USA, Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute (‘the largest small-batch, independently owned craft distillery association in the world’) told me succinctly that “what saved the craft [distiller] is hand sanitiser”. Though tasting rooms are closed (these tend to be disproportionately important to smaller US distillers) Owens reports “a distillery near Chicago going 20,000 bottles a week” and another in Kentucky achieving some $40,000 in sales. He drew a sharp contrast though with smaller brewers and winemakers, estimating that around one-third will close their doors.

A similar story emerged here in the UK. From Orkney, Stephen Kemp said that while “we watched our various revenue streams dry up overnight …. we very quickly had to diversify, and so like many others we began creating hand sanitiser,” adding that ”we also had to ‘amp-up’ our online presence substantially, and invest very heavily in online marketing.” In addition, taking advantage of the fact that many in the bar trade have had some time on their hands, Orkney Distilling say they have been “working hard to keep in touch with those in the trade who will inevitably re-open – we want to be there with them and for them!”

Barney Wilczak in action

At the opposite end of the country, the small team at the Capreolus Distillery in the Cotswolds also saw an opportunity to build trade relationships. While the up-market restaurants and bars that make up such an important part of their business have been closed, Barney Wilczak relates that “after an initial couple of weeks of panic we focused heavily on investing in both existing sommelier friends and new restaurants. This translated as sending out samples, tasting online, providing training and using the time to communicate the values that our approach embodies.”  As he also noted, “this had the advantage of being able to reach people whose schedules are normally extremely hectic and allowed them to spend time getting to intimately understand the intricacies of our spirits.” Like Orkney, and despite being an extremely small business themselves, Capreolus took pains to offer the trade “professional development, education and an engagement that shows we will be there for them in both bad and good times.” Doubtless, this investment will be repaid many times over in future sales.

At the Port of Leith distillery, founder Ian Sterling offered this perspective: “We’ve had to work much, much harder and I would really like a holiday.” But he went on to state that “overall the impact has not been severe and indeed sales have grown over the last three months”. Like many others, Port of Leith reported a mini boom in on-line sales both domestically and for export and, encouragingly, “many of those new online customers are continuing to purchase that way”. Work continues on its new distillery which should open in 2021.

There will, of course, be casualties. As Nicholas Cook from The Gin Guild points out “the underfunded, those with weak business plans, mediocre or average products without individual stand out appeal or branding, and those who were simply jumping on the ‘gin bandwagon’ and those simply caught out at the wrong point in their business development, or who were exposed as over expanded at this critical time, will find it difficult to survive”.

But from my brief snapshots – and there were others – not all is doom and gloom. The industry has been tested, but not to destruction. Craft spirits shall not wither and die!

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks. A former marketing director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

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New Arrival of the Week: Killowen 10 year old Txakolina Acacia whiskey

This week we’re drinking a blended whiskey put together by one of Ireland’s newest and smallest distilleries, and aged in Basque wines casks. Very unconventional! Brendan Carty is an architect…

This week we’re drinking a blended whiskey put together by one of Ireland’s newest and smallest distilleries, and aged in Basque wines casks. Very unconventional!

Brendan Carty is an architect by profession but he got the idea to start his own distillery from visiting small producers in Australia, particularly in Tasmania. “I tried two year old whisky from Belgrove and it was as good as 21 year old Redbreast,” he said. When he returned to Northern Ireland in 2017, he set about making his dream a reality.

He acquired a derelict stables at Killowen near a megalithic tomb in County Down and fitted it with ultra-traditional equipment: two direct-fired stills, a 1,000 litre wash still called Christoir and an 800 litre spirit still called Broc (after the Irish for badger), and worm tub condensers. This set-up, unique to Ireland, “creates an amazing flavour, another layer of complexity,” according to Carty. He began filling casks a year and half ago, the aim is to create a traditional single pot still whiskey. Although Carty’s view of what is traditional doesn’t chime with those formulated by the Irish Whiskey Association, so he won’t be able to call it as such. His mash bill consists of about 30% oats, rye and wheat, the Geographical Indication (GI) only allows for 5%, 30% unmalted barley and 40% malted barley. According to Carty, the 5% came at the instigation of Midleton which at the time the rules were created was the only distillery making single malt still whiskeys like Redbreast and Green Spot. In the past, the non-barley component was much higher. Furthermore, Killowen uses peated malt (GI rules do not allow for the word peated to be on the label of single pot stills releases) and only distills twice. According to Carty in the past: “Irish whiskey was more double than triple-distilled and more often peated than not. To turn our back on that heritage is absurd.”

Brendan Carty with Christoir and Broc

His whiskey comes of age in a year and a half, we’re sure it’s going to be well worth trying. Meanwhile, there are various gins and a poitin to try. The latter, made with an unpeated single pot still mash bill, he’s particularly proud of, describing it as “full of flavour, you get the influence of the direct flame, the Maillard reaction, giving an oiliness and full body.” He has also released some blended whiskies as part of the Bonder Experimental Series and as you might imagine these are proudly unconventional right down to his transparency about sourcing liquids. 

As per IWA rules, he’s not allowed to say which distilleries go into the blend so instead he says where the distilleries are located. The whiskey we’re looking at this week consists of Irish single malt and grain whiskeys, matured separately in bourbon casks, before being blended and aged in a sherry barrel, then married with a bourbon-aged Irish single malt in a Spanish wine cask. The grain came from County Louth so we can assume it’s from Cooley and the malt from County Antrim so it doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to work out that it’s from Bushmills Distillery. Carty told us that he did try to buy some from Midleton but it “doesn’t sell whiskey to small producers.”

Some of the Killowen range

The Spanish wine cask used is not straightforward either. It formerly held Txakolina. Pronounced something like ‘chakolina’, this is a very dry, slightly sparkling wine, not dissimilar to a vinho verde, that comes from the Basque country. It’s just the thing to drink with mountains of seafood. But that’s not the end of the craziness, because the ends of the wine barrel were swapped for virgin wood Acacia. This is one of the areas where the IWA is relaxed giving producers the kind of freedom when it comes to cask that would cause the SWA to have kittens. Finally, it was bottled with a 10 year old age statement at cask strength, 55.4% ABV, with no chill-filtering. In fact, according to Carty, no filtering of any kind. Only 490 50cl bottles have been filled.  

There are other whiskeys in the series including one finished in an old Islay cask and a Tequila barrel bottling. So, lots of exciting things going on at Killowen. We are expecting great things from the first whiskey distilled in-house.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Sweet white fruit, with peach, nectarine and grape, with ripe pear, citrus peel and subtle oak spice.

Palate: More fresh pear accompanied by greener notes now, with dried kitchen herbs, oaky vanilla and dried apricot.

Finish: Hints of lychee, grapefruit and more ripe stone fruit, with more wood spice returning on a lengthy finish.

Killowen 10 year old Txakolina Acacia whiskey is now available from Master of Malt

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Garnish 101: what are they and how to use them

We chat to some industry greats about all things garnishes, from what actually counts as a garnish to their weirdest and wackiest creations, and even some handy home tips. Consider…

We chat to some industry greats about all things garnishes, from what actually counts as a garnish to their weirdest and wackiest creations, and even some handy home tips.

Consider the garnish. It can be anything from a single olive in a Martini to lavish leaves in Tiki cocktails. It can also make or break a drink – I’m sure we’ve all been to a bar with an unwelcome limp mint leaf or mangy strawberry in your drink.  

But lemon peels and olives aside, what exactly is as a garnish, what is its purpose, and how important are they? The aesthetics of a cocktail were important long before the ‘gram, to tell the story of the drink you’re about to savour. We managed to get some words from some industry experts who know exactly how it’s done.

What even is a garnish? 

The first and most important question for anyone looking to jazz up their serves. First up is Ryan Chetiyawardana, of Lyaness (formerly known as Dandelyan), Super Lyan and White Lyan fame, who manages to invent futuristic and simultaneously minimalist cocktails. “To me, it has to be functional, adding a different dimension to something you want in the drink” he tells us, though he doesn’t believe you have to be able to consume it. “A spray, a paint, physical garnish, vessel, theatre, are all things we’ve employed over the years.”

For Belgium’s Matthias Soberon of social media cocktail wizardry @ServedBySoberon, “a garnish is anything that’s added to the drink that elevates it in any sensory way, whether it be visual, auditive, tactile, gustatory or olfactory.” If you can sense it, it’s a garnish.

cocktail garnish

Coupette’s minimalist Shimmer cocktail from last summer’s menu, complete with geode coaster.

As we ask our final expert, it looks like everyone is in agreement. “A garnish can have multiple forms,” adds Andrei Marcu, of Bethnal Green’s wonderful Coupette. “It’s the final touch added to the drink, there to complement the drink and boost certain flavours or aromas.” 

So in a nutshell, what our talented trio are saying is that a garnish can be almost anything that enhances a serve in some way. The bad news is that’s pretty vague, but the good news is that it allows for a whole load of creativity.

Does every drink need one?

“I want an olive in my Martini!” says Chetiyawardana. “But only if it’s a decent one – I’ll go sans if it’s a sad, old olive.” We’d have to agree. Having said that, he also acknowledges that sometimes “the confidence to leave it bare is sometimes the best thing to do.” It looks like Chetiyawardana and Soberon are on the same page, who adds “don’t overcomplicate it just for the sake of it. Sometimes the liquid in the glass absolutely needs 100% of the focus.” Be bold, believe in your serve and go bare.

garnish cocktail

Chetiyawardana keeping it simple at Lyaness with the Rook Pool Sazerac

But as we turn to Marcu, he reminds us of the importance of certain garnishes. “A standard Martini would have a lemon twist or an olive as a garnish. But if you add a pickled onion instead, it will be a Gibson Martini which means it becomes a completely different drink.” Now, whether to put an orange or lime with your G&T may not be quite as important as this example, but what you choose to accompany your spirits with does make a big difference.

Some garnishes are integral to the formation of the drink, becoming more of a core ingredient as opposed to a garnish, because as Marcu notes, “an Old Fashioned without orange peel would be just whiskey and sugar.” Easy to make, but not what you’re looking for. While you don’t mess with some garnishes, others are totally divisive, such as “the ‘issue’ with the salt-rim on the Margarita,” Soberon points out. “Some people love the salt, others despise it, that’s why most bartenders will serve the drink with half a rim salted, to make sure that you have the option to either go for it or not.”

Aesthetics 

So far, everything we’ve talked about has altered the taste or smell of the drink in some way, But is there any point in a purely aesthetic garnish? Our industry minds were divided on this one. Marcu takes the view that “drinks are very sensorial, and everything influences the taste. I would only use an aesthetic garnish when we have a conceptual drink.” A bed of sand for a drink inspired by the sea, for example, to enhance the storytelling aspect of the serve, or a colourful geode coaster to imitate the look of the sea (as shown in Shimmer above) have both been used at Coupette.  

garnish cocktail

Soberon’s flamboyant Tiki cocktail!

For Soberon, it’s a yes. “For Tiki drinks, a single orchid doesn’t make any difference to the drink’s flavour profile, but it makes all the difference in how the drink is perceived.” Plus, he’s not going to ignore the fact that social media has a huge part to play in the formation of many drinks these days. “In this day and age where everyone is walking around with their smartphones (and all bars requiring to have social media presence), everything just needs to be prettier.”

Each to their own, and aesthetic garnishes aren’t for Chetiyawardana. “I see what they add, but it’s just not my style.”

Weird and wacky

Now, we couldn’t possibly chat to all these awesome bartenders without getting the garnish gossip. Classic cocktails and olives are one thing, but we want to know about the weird and wacky, the ones that make it onto the ‘gram and into our memories.

For Chetiyawardana, his wildest garnish is the truly awesome whisky Mousetrap contraption at what was formerly known as Dandelyan. Two years in the making, everyone’s favourite childhood game had a few boozy changes; the ball was swapped for ice, and you get whisky at the end! This is definitely taking the notion of a garnish to a whole new level, and you can see it in action here.

Marcu recalls the time he channelled his green finger into his mixology, creating a mini greenhouse with micro herbs planted inside. “Sitting in the middle of that green house was the drink. Every time you had a sip you could pick one of the herbs that were growing and surrounding the drinks and eat it.” It’s a bit like a choose-your-own-ending version of a cocktail. “Every single different micro herb was putting the drink in a different light and bringing out different aromas and flavours.” No surprise this one made it to Instagram fame right here.

garnish cocktail

Soberon’s zaniest creation, octopus arms and all…

Soberon can’t pick just one finest serve, with his cocktail portfolio showcasing squirt guns filled with booze, octopus arms, and veins of blood in the form of dehydrated beetroot powder on top of drinks for Halloween. Sometimes he even adds “small ornaments that people could take home afterwards, as little gifts.” A cocktail with a party bag? We’re in.

Let’s get garnishing!

After all this talk, I’m sure we’re all fancying a drink! But without our own professional contraptions, most of us are going to have to make do with what we have in our homes already. Our industry pals are back to guide us towards what to use, simply reaching for the cupboard rather than the stars. 

So citrus peels are probably the go to garnish for most people, someone always has a lemon or lime laying about. “Citrus peels are obvious, and often you don’t need as much citrus peel as you think,” Chetiyawardana tells us. “Sometimes a big swathe is wonderful, but the oils can also overpower and can become bitter. A small ‘coin’ expressed over a drink can give just the right brightness and lift you need.” Soberon adds, “make sure there’s as little pith as possible,” leading us onto some handy slicing tips from Marcu: “Peel the fruit on a diagonal line and cut the edges into a nice square shape,” to help you to twist it over the drink. Don’t forget to save a slice of your morning orange for that Old Fashioned.

garnish cocktail

Express yourself!

But what about when we leave the fruit bowl? “Everyone should definitely have a little look in their spice racks,” Soberon suggests. “A single star anise or cardamom pod is hugely aromatic. Or maybe dust (sparingly!) some ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, Chinese five spice powder, pepper.” If you’re looking to try out a handful of different spirits, then Soberon recommends keeping the strongest aromatic spices for darker spirits, such as rum and whisky, and the lighter ones for gin, vodka and Tequila. Though heed his warning: “Just make sure you don’t dust every drink!”

And Marcu’s home suggestions? Pair your Calvados with apple, your tropical drinks with pineapple (or lime, if it’s rum-based), and grate some chocolate for those cream liqueurs.

Happy mixing! Though seeing as bars are back open this weekend, perhaps you could get somebody else to do all the hard work for you…

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Dram Club – July 2020

Say hello to July, and to another month of Dram Club! Here’s what this month has got in store for members, where another load of lip-smacking Tasting Sets await… Though…

Say hello to July, and to another month of Dram Club! Here’s what this month has got in store for members, where another load of lip-smacking Tasting Sets await…

Though the weather may not have got the memo, today is the first day of July! That also means it’s time for another nail-biting Dram Club reveal. A handsome box packing five smart wax-sealed drams will be arriving on each member’s doorstep, giving them something delicious to sip on while trying not to talk about the weather.dram club july 2020

Dram Club Whisky for July:

dram club july 2020

Dram Club Premium Whisky for July:

dram club july 2020

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for July:

dram club july 2020

Dram Club Gin for July:

dram club july 2020

Dram Club Rum for July:

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Five expert rules for BBQ drinking

The mercury is rising across the northern hemisphere, which means one thing: donning a novelty apron and firing up the barbie. While beer is a valid and worthy barbecue hero,…

The mercury is rising across the northern hemisphere, which means one thing: donning a novelty apron and firing up the barbie. While beer is a valid and worthy barbecue hero, we reckon you can go one better this year – just follow our drinks pairing rules, as told by the experts…

Whether it’s the Australia ‘barbie’, or the South Africa ‘braai’, barbecue cooking is ubiquitous. However, the ways in which different cultures approach the grill – in terms of meat types, sauces, marinades, rubs, and other flavourings – varies wildly from one country to another. Variables like smoke, equipment, fuel, cooking temperature and cooking time (as anyone who has eaten an over-charred, bitter burger patty will know all too well) also have a massive influence on the final flavour of the food. 

“Humans have been cooking over live fire all around the world for hundreds of years, so you can imagine there are thousands of techniques alone, without even getting into sauces, marinades and so on,” explains Helen Graves, editor of Pit Magazine. “In recent years, we have become more aware of the ‘low and slow’ style of cooking associated with American barbecue, but barbecue cooking is so much more than that. It may take the form of skewers such as kushiyaki in Japan, it may be buried in a pit in the ground as with Mexican barbacoa or it might be cooked in a tandoor in India.”

Pit magazine, well worth a read

With so much flavour potential, deviating from the classic ‘beer and a burger’ combination might seem daunting. Fret not. Whether you’re an amateur ‘cue-er or a barbecue legend, we’ve cobbled together five drinks-pairing rules, as recommended by those in the know… 

  1. Choose light – but not delicate – cocktails

“Typically speaking, you want flavours that have a like-for-like quality with the barbeque food,” says Joe McCanta, global head of education & mixology at Bacardi. “I try to avoid anything too acidic and look to pair barbeque food with cocktails such as the Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz,” he says – 35ml Grey Goose vodka, 15ml fresh lime juice, 25ml St Germain, 60ml cold soda water built over ice in a wine glass and garnished with two lime wedges. 

Drinks with bitter, herbaceous notes also work well, says Graves. “This isn’t the time to bring out a drink on the more delicate end of the spectrum,” she explains. “You want something big, gutsy and honestly, quite alcoholic. The spirit needs to come forward to stand up to the ‘cue.” 

Try a  vermouth-spiked take on the G&T – the Rose Spritz combines 50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml elderflower tonic, 25ml Martini Rosato vermouth and two orange wedges in a balloon glass over ice. “If you can’t find elderflower tonic, you can opt for a regular tonic with a splash of honey,” says McCanta. “For a less zesty, sweeter serve, try raspberries in place of the orange wedges to garnish.”

It goes without saying that long, refreshing whisky-based serves are a barbecue dream. “Elderflower cordial is such as a simple ingredient that works well with whisky cocktails, such as a whisky highball with soda – so refreshing for summer,” says Stewart Buchanan, global brand ambassador for Glenglassaugh, BenRiach and The GlenDronach distilleries. 

Drop your preconceptions about what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing with a spirit. “We always encourage people to step outside of ‘the classics’” says Quinzil de Plessis, master of wood and liquid innovation at Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey. “BBQ should be an experience, not just a process, so look for a mix of versatile, new and different flavours to add to your experience.”

Le Grand Fizz from Grey Goose

  1. Alternatively, opt for bold – or spiced – serves

Bright and bold flavours stand up and complement the smoky char of a BBQ, says James Chase, director at Chase Distillery. This could be a flavoured gin, for example – Chase recommends his Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo Gin “mixed with Mediterranean tonic and a fleshy slice of grapefruit to garnish”.

Alternatively, you could try a spiced rum. As part of a partnership with London restaurant Berber and Q, Bacardi has explored different ways of using Bacardi Spiced as a key ingredient for cocktails and meat marinades. Something like a Bacardi Spiced & Ginger Ale – using a ratio of 50ml rum with 100ml ginger ale – is a match made in heaven.

Mezcal, too, shines in a barbecue setting. “We have a preference for long, refreshing drinks with a bit of a punch,” says David Shepherd, founder of Corte Vetusto, “so we’d be sipping on a great Mezcal Margarita, a Mezcal Paloma or a Mezcal Collins, using citrus and bubbly effervescence to complement the smoky agave notes of mezcal.”

Whatever you do, just don’t confuse ‘bold’ with ‘rich’ when it comes to drink pairings.Something like a Bloody Mary may be a little too heavy,” says Chase. “A BBQ is all about the food, and the drink needs to complement and not be another meal in itself.” 

  1. Stock up on ice

Temperature is everything in the grill – and the same goes for your glass. “Avoiding anything that is served straight up, as it will become warm in the hot sun,” says Metinee Kongsrivilai, brand ambassador for Bacardi UK. You can never have enough ice, so make sure you’ve got plenty in the freezer. Which leads me nicely to our next tip…

Try making your Margaritas in advance so you can concentrate on the grill

  1. Get your prep work in

A little bit of preparation can go a long way, says Shepherd. “Pre-batching your mezcal Margarita and keeping it chilled in the fridge means you can effortlessly get your guests into the vibe on arrival,” he says. “Marinade your meat overnight to let all of those flavours really sink in.”

Always use the best quality ingredients available to you, suggests Liz Baker, marketing manager at Wilkin & Sons Ltd (creator of the Tiptree spirits range) – and don’t forget the smaller details. “Why not invest in some lovely glasses and take time to think about garnishes,” she says, “this could be a slice of lemon or lime, a sprig of mint or a fresh strawberry or plump raspberry.”

Make sure your guests have a drink in hand on arrival because you might be busy on the grill, and have no time for small talk, adds Chase. “Prop up a table and lay a selection of spirits out, with some random bottles that have been in your drinks cupboard for too long, with pre-cut garnished and cups – preferably red cups!”

Helen Graves’s awe-inspiring goat shawarma

  1. Keep the ‘cue simple

This is meant to be fun. You’re not going to enjoy yourself if you’re trying to cook eight different things at once to perfection, says Paul Human, founder and head chef at We Serve Humans and The Collab in Walthamstow. “You’ll also fail, especially once you’ve had a few beers in the sun,” he says. “Do one thing and do it really well. Try and keep to a theme – do a shoulder of lamb and some flatbreads, tzatziki, a little Greek salad. Summery, simple, all stuff you can prep a day ahead. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on it, pass around a glass of retsina or iced rosé and bathe in the glory.” 

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Tarquin’s: Cornwall’s gin pioneer

Tucked away in converted cow sheds by the rugged coast of Cornwall lies Southwestern Distillery, an independent spirits company established by classically-trained chef and self-taught distiller Tarquin Leadbetter back in…

Tucked away in converted cow sheds by the rugged coast of Cornwall lies Southwestern Distillery, an independent spirits company established by classically-trained chef and self-taught distiller Tarquin Leadbetter back in 2013. We shine a light on the distillery as his latest creation, a Caribbean spiced rum called Twin Fin, hits the shelves…

By the age of 25, Le Cordon Bleu alumni Tarquin Leadbetter had founded Cornwall’s first distillery in more than a century, developed his flagship Tarquin’s Cornish Gin, and created the UK’s first commercially-distilled pastis (named Cornish Pastis, of course). All in all, a pretty impressive spirits CV. What started out as a relatively modest aspiration – “go surfing in the morning and make gin in the afternoon,” Leadbetter says – has evolved incrementally into a vibrant small-batch distilling operation with four stills, three flagship spirits, and a 40-strong team. 

The growth has been both organic and sustainable. On a liquid level, the bottles are individually filled, corked, sealed, labelled, numbered and waxed by hand – thankfully not just by Leadbetter these days, who reckons he personally labelled around 50,000 bottles in those formative years – and the distillery has never had any investment other than the money he used to start the business, which was inherited from his grandparents. With no outlandish budgets to hire a consultant or “buy shiny German copper stills”, Leadbetter set up the distillery on a shoestring. He bought a 0.7 litre still off the internet, heating it on a cooker at home.

Tarquin Leadbetter with one of his little stills

“I went to the cash and carry to buy magnums of cheap vodka – which was my neutral grain spirit – and macerated lots of jars of single botanicals overnight,” he reflects. “Then I’d do these turbo batches, distilling 100 single botanicals on my cooker, which would take about half an hour to an hour each, labelling them up and blending them together. I’d add two botanicals, then three, then four, five, six, and went on this extraordinary journey of exploration.” 

The more distillates he experimented with, the clearer his vision became for his eponymous gin. “I realised that one person isn’t necessarily better at smelling or tasting than another,” Leadbetter continues. ”It’s just their vocabulary; being able to articulate the flavours that they come across. By distilling everything on its own, I was able to remember those flavours, which made it a lot easier to decide where to head in terms of final flavour. It also made me a lot better at tasting other gins and working out what I liked and disliked.”

While blending skills are certainly crucial, mastering the technical aspect of distilling is of equal importance, if not greater. After all, it’s little use describing how you’d like your gin to taste if you can’t actually create those flavours. Back then, “free knowledge was generally thin on the ground”, Leadbetter explains. “Primarily, it’s been three multinationals creating this stuff for the past 20, 30, 40 years – the market’s consolidated and all of their research is proprietary”. 

“The best resources for recipe ideas, cut points, temperatures; they were very much found on home-brewing sites or forums for craft distillers,” he continues. “There was this crazy journey of reading everything I could on the internet to cobble together enough knowledge, and then applying it through practice and then through trial and error to come up with the recipe.”

Arrrrrrr! Seadog Navy Gin

“On my journey distilling from botanicals, when it got to things like aniseed, liquorice or star anise, and they louched [went cloudy] when I diluted them down, it instantly clicked, I was like ‘oh my god, this is so familiar to pastis in France or the ouzos from Greece from holidays’ that it opened my eyes into making something else alongside gin, another botanical-flavoured spirit.” This was the genesis of Cornish Pastis.

With his gin recipe perfected and a pastis in the pastis in the works, Leadbetter acquired a 500sqft unit in north Cornwall and bought a 250-litre still to start distilling on a commercial scale. He approached gastro pubs, wine specialists, hotels and farm shops across the county, and sold the first batch on 30 July 2013 from the boot of his car. 

At the end of the first month, Southwestern secured its first export order, and by the end of the first year, Tarquin’s had won a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). Even so, his mum was still signing each bottle. “We have these hand-written batch character tasting notes, so my mum was writing those on the bottle, my sister was helping me stick the labels on, and for the first two years I was still hand-labelling and doing lots of the bottling myself,” Leadbetter says. “It took us about 18 months to make our very first employee.”

Today, Southwestern has four stills which are spread across five units at the same converted cow sheds. “Three are exactly the same type as I first started on, where we can do small batches and be really creative, and the other is a bigger custom-built Italian still made by a company called Green Engineering, which made the stills for Bombay Sapphire’s Laverstoke Mill,” Leadbetter says. 

“We’ve very much got that blend of old and new,” he continues. “We’ve still got these incredibly rustic stills sealed with bread dough*, and then on the other side of the distillery we’ve got this modern, high-tech still with its fancy flow metres that can spit out all these digital readings. All it’s really designed to do is give us information to help us mirror and copy what’s going on with the smaller stills, but on a larger scale. It’s been an interesting evolution.”

Twin Fin, a spiced blend of Jamaican and Dominican rum

A variety of limited edition gins have been added to the range over the years – including blackberry and Cornish honey, rhubarb and raspberry, strawberry and lime – and now, after two years of development, a spiced rum that goes by the name of Twin Fin is the latest spirit to expand the line-up. To make Twin Fin, a secret spice recipe is distilled in Southwestern’s copper pot stills and combined with two Caribbean rums. Then, the liquid is married with charred oak chips before bottling.

“It’s a blend of Jamaican pot still rum, which is lovely and banana-y, and Dominican Republic column still rum, which almost tastes a bit like coconut,” Leadbetter explains. “We wanted to spread our wings a little bit and use our knowledge and experience of distilling botanicals and create a rum, and the best way for us to start is by putting our own twist on a spiced creation. It’s got lots of citrus, lots of vanilla. We soak our oak chips in Pedro Ximénez sherry to add this almost Christmas cake fruit sweetness to the spirit.”

There’s no question that rum seems to finally be having its moment in the spotlight, and it appears to be led by the botanical success seen in gin. Could we see another spiced rum from Southwestern going forward? “In terms of further experimenting we might go down more of a fresh fruit approach as our gins have done, natural fruit flavours potentially, there’s space for some really fun tropical ingredients – or we might do some completely off-the-wall, wacky limited edition one-offs,” says Leadbetter.

“Traditionally rum has been quite an on-trade heavy spirit,” he continues. “Lots of people drink it in bars, but it’s never quite been the hero of the home cocktail bar, and there’s definitely more scope for that. Gin is the most popular spirit that people are buying to drink at home during lockdown, and I think rum could follow in its footsteps over the next few years – with the right products and some British experimentation also helping to drive the category.”

*A tried and tested technique whereby bread dough is used to seal the top of the still in place of a gasket. “It’s been around for probably 1,000 years, since they were using a very similar style of alembic still in north Africa,” Leadbetter says. “It’s super effective.”

Tarquin’s Gin is available from Master of Malt. Find the full range here

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Easy guide to blender cocktails

Your kitchen blender is a lean, mean cocktail machine, and it’s time you started treating it as such. Quit churning out bland hummus and flavourless smoothies – below, you’ll find…

Your kitchen blender is a lean, mean cocktail machine, and it’s time you started treating it as such. Quit churning out bland hummus and flavourless smoothies – below, you’ll find eight blender cocktail recipes to make at home, plus bartender-approved tips and tricks to help you master those slushie-style serves…

The blender cocktail isn’t the technicolor toothache it once was. With artificial flavours swapped for fresh produce, lurid liqueurs replaced with natural syrups, and all from-concentrate juices ditched for freshly-squeezed, these (often) slushie-style drinks have been reimagined and premiumised by modern bartenders, with their sense of fun very much intact. 

“Nothing says ‘summer in a glass’ better than a frozen tipple,” says Sebastian Stefan, head bartender at London’s Jim and Tonic. “Rising alongside the craft cocktail movement, frozen drinks have merged into gastronomy. These fun concoctions have made their way not only onto cocktail bar menus but in fine-dining establishments as well as a multitude of boozy desserts and sorbets.” 

There’s some debate about the origin of the first blender cocktails – as there is about most aspects of booze history – depending on how you define them. However, it was the introduction of the Waring blender in 1937 that really brought mechanically blended drinks to the masses for the first time, with the Daiquiri and Piña Colada among the first to receive the frozen treatment.

By the time the seventies rolled around, Frozen Margaritas were iconic; even spawning the creation of the Margarita Machine, a purpose-designed blender, says Stefan. “It was around this time that merchants started adding bright colourings as a marketing strategy,” he says. This sparked a surge in “sugary, almost glow-in-the-dark drinks”, that eventually saw frozen cocktails fall out of favour.

This is not what you’re aiming for

Today, bartenders across the globe are looking beyond those founding frozen trio to create new blender drinks. As well as experimenting with blender versions of other classic serves (G&Ts, Negronis, Sazeracs), they’re also “playing about with less common spirits such as herb liqueurs, amaro and eaux de vie to create a new palate of flavour,” says Stefan. 

“There are no clear rules on what to mix and not, so this is where a bartender’s skill and knowledge can shine through,” he says. “Tiki drinks can easily be turned into a frozen, as the packed fruity flavour allows a lot of water dilution – but with the right adjustments you can twist any classic cocktail.”

Before you wipe down the blades and give the jug a rinse, read through the following five tips for making top-notch blender cocktails at home:

1. Start from scratch

Avoid pre-mixed products and choose fresh ingredients where possible. “Make your recipe from scratch instead of buying a ready-made option from the supermarket,” Stefan says. “This way you avoid using stabilisers, colouring, preservatives and it also allows you to calculate and control the amount of sugar that goes into your drink.” And try to only use fresh fruits, ideally in season, as they tend to have more flavour and aroma, he adds.

2. Be picky

Even though you’re blending it with other flavours, be sure to choose a high-quality base spirit. “This will give body and influence the character of your drink,” Stefan says. “Don’t think you can get away with cheaper options by masking the flavour.”

3. Lay the foundations

“Pre-chill your ingredients beforehand, as this will slow down water dilution in your glass,” Stefan says. You could also rinse your glasses and pop them in the freezer (or fill them with ice and leave them to stand) for a few minutes before you make your drink.

4. Don’t fear DIY

“Make your own sugar syrup,” Stefan says. “Most cocktails require a sweet element to balance out the acidity. If you want to avoid sugar altogether, you can use honey or agave nectar.” 

5. A word on ice

Most – but not all – blender cocktails are made with ice. Avoid using large cubes, and opt for crushed if you can, suggests David Indrak of The Cocktail Service. If you are using crushed ice, don’t blend for too long. “The final drink should be blended into a fine vortex of liquid folding over itself and not sloshing,” he says.

When it comes to ice quantity, as a rule of thumb, double the amount of the serve, he says. “For example, the Margarita contains 75ml of liquid in total, therefore you need 150g of ice.” But you should always add ice slowly.

Here, we’ve picked out eight blender cocktail recipes to take for a spin, from frozen classics to brand new serves:

Frozen Daiquiri

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

Ingredients:
50ml Mount Gay Eclipse gold rum
25ml lime juice
20ml simple syrup

Method: Blend all ingredients with 190g cubed ice. Serve in a coupe glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

The Pineapple Express

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

Ingredients:
50ml Jamaica Cove pineapple rum
25ml lime juice
40ml pineapple juice
10ml simple syrup

Method: Blend all ingredients with 250g crushed ice. Serve in coupe glass, garnish with pineapple leaf and pineapple wedge.

Frozen Braemble 

By Glasshouse Whisky

Ingredients:
40ml Glasshouse Whisky
10ml Braemble Liqueur (sic)
5ml honey
10ml lemon juice
100ml ginger beer

Method: Blend with 4 ice cubes. Garnish with star anise.

Cherry-Boozy Milkshake 

By Remy Savage, of Bar Nouveau and Le Syndicat, in association with Love Fresh Cherries

Ingredients:
30ml Ephemeral vodka
5 fresh cherries (pitted)
30ml milk
1 large scoop of vanilla ice cream 

Method: Blend all ingredients in a home blender for 30 seconds or until thick. Pour milkshake into a tall glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Strawberry & Watermelon Slushie

By Black Cow Vodka

Ingredients:
180ml Black Cow Vodka & English Strawberries
1 small watermelon
1 punnet of strawberries
Juice from 2 limes
Half a chilli (optional)

Method: Cut watermelon into cube sized pieces, taking care to remove the seeds. Remove the stems off the strawberries and cut in half. If adding chili, deseed it first. Add all ingredients to the blender with 1 cup of ice and blend. Garnish with 1 sprig of mint.

Tin Can Cocktail

By The Highland Liquor Company

Ingredients:
50ml Seven Crofts gin
1 tin of peaches
Tonic water

Method: Chill all the ingredients. Blitz half the can of peaches (with syrup) to form a puree. In a large wine glass, combine 25ml peach puree with gin. Top with tonic water and garnish with a mint sprig and orange slice.

Frosé 18

By Timeless Drinks Ventures

Ingredients:
1 bottle of Nine Elms No. 18
1 punnet of strawberries
2 teaspoons of sugar or sugar syrup (optional)

Method: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Fill a shallow, wide pan with the liquid and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Break up the freezing liquid with a fork, and refreeze for another 20 minutes (up to 1 hour if necessary). Break up the contents again with a fork to achieve a slushy granita consistency, and spoon into a glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry.

Frozen Cosmopolitan

By David Indrak of The Cocktail Service

Ingredients:
35ml Ephemeral vodka
15ml Cointreau triple sec
40ml cranberry juice
5ml simple syrup
5ml lime juice

Method: Blend all ingredients with 200g crushed ice. Serve in a coupe glass and garnish with expressed orange peel.

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Citadelle: Cognac’s renegade gin

We cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Citadelle Gin, an expression created at a Cognac house, that predates the craft gin boom. Its founder Alexandre Gabriel explains why he created a…

We cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Citadelle Gin, an expression created at a Cognac house, that predates the craft gin boom. Its founder Alexandre Gabriel explains why he created a gin in the first place, the 18th-century recipe he based it on and his patented brand of gin distillation.

Given that he runs his own Cognac, rum and gin brands, you might think it’s hard to pin down Alexandre Gabriel. But, in my experience, the restless innovator is always happy to make time to chat about booze. Before I ask a question, he informs me he’s just spent the morning planting juniper trees at the Bonbonnet Estate and that he hopes the juniper and lemon supply for Citadelle Gin will be totally self-sustainable within five years. He’s been planting juniper berries since September 2017, inspired by the fact that the south west of France was known for its juniper berries during medieval times. He then explains that as someone one grew up on a farm he’s attached to the idea of growing what he needs, organically, of course. He already grows his own grapes for his Cognac.

In the midst of this discussion, Gabriel moves onto the topic of expansion, explaining that his other hobby is architecture. “We are expanding the distillery at the old estate at Bonbonnet. We do everything ourselves. The stonemasons are the guys who fill the barrels at Maison Ferrand. We’re putting nine pot stills in, old Cognac stills that I found that date back to the 1950s and ’60s and we are refurbishing them as we speak. Right now we are using our Cognac stills off-season to distil Citadelle,” he explains. I still haven’t actually asked a question at this point. “We are going to be able to use an economical system for our cooling water. Instead of using an inverter to cool it down and waste energy, we’re going to use warmer water and install long pipes so that we reuse that water in our greenhouse to grow the lemons that we need for Citadelle. More juniper berries, more stills, more experiments”. 

We’re ten minutes in and I already know this is going to be a productive interview. But you don’t expect any less from Gabriel, as you’ll know if you’ve read our previous features on Pierre Ferrand and Plantation Rum. Today, however, the focus is on Citadelle Gin. In my opinion, it’s his most intriguing brand. Why? Because it’s a premium French gin brand that was released back in the ’90s. It’s hard to put into context now given gin’s boom in the last decade how crazy you would have sounded pitching this idea. Gabriel remembers the feeling well. “It was like a moon landing! There was nobody on the gin planet. In 1996 I thought the world was waiting for an artisanal delicious gin. It was not!”

Citadelle Gin

Drinks maverick Alexandre Gabriel and his locally-grown juniper berries

In the early days of Citadelle, Gabriel recalls a group of students proposing to do a business case on the brand. Naturally, Gabriel accepted, hoping their acumen would provide some insight. Their analysis? “There is no way this can work,” Gabriel says, laughing at his own expense. “This kept happening. I remember our importer in America looking at me like I must have gone mad. A French gin?! This decision was made purely out of passion and it was almost disastrous to our business. I have made many mistakes and I hope I am going to make less,” he says. “It looked like Citadelle wouldn’t work because it was out of time and it was financially painful. But, in the end, the two wrongs became a right. Now there is a new gin every week, right!?”

Citadelle Gin didn’t thrive so much as survive in the early days, slowly building a reputation and fan base for its fresh, clean and delightfully mixable profile. Gabriel is particularly grateful to the influence of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. “In about 1997/98 Adrià was on TV. He said that Gin and Tonic is a gastronomic act and a beautiful aperitif and that you should use a great gin. He whipped out a bottle of Citadelle. We were like ‘wow’. That made a difference,” Gabriel recalls. “This guy is the one that put the Spanish Gin and Tonic, which conquered the world, on the map. He really did, I was there and I saw it, and he never took credit for it but he really did. Then in the US, the New York Times wrote a beautiful piece in 1999 called something like ‘Citadelle storms the gate’. It was half a page and that was a big push for New York. Every bit counted for us”. 

But before the days of trying to convince customers to give French gin a try, Gabriel had a much bigger stumbling block. He had to convince the authorities to give French gin a try. The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) regulations stated that the brandy can only be distilled between November and March. After that stills must be locked up and put into hibernation for seven months. From the outside, that might seem perfect.  The region’s copper alembic stills and distillers have six months of the year free to distil something else and you don’t have to waste money creating a new distillery. But nothing’s ever that simple, as Gabriel found out quickly. Distilling gin in Cognac stills wasn’t simply frowned upon, it was outright banned. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) had never received a request for this to change and probably never thought anybody would ask. But Gabriel is not one to follow conventional wisdom or pay much heed to what he believed were antiquated laws.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Gin was ahead of its time and its creation was plagued with roadblocks

What followed was a struggle in which Gabriel lobbied to make his gin, arguing that there was historical precedent for this act. Extensive research uncovered that historically gin was produced in pot stills over a naked flame, which is exactly how Cognac pot stills were designed. “I don’t know about you but when I am pissed at something I work even harder! France is a very bureaucratic country. I was told there’s no rule that allows me to do this, but I was much younger and rebellious in nature and I said there’s no rule that says I cannot”, he said. Eventually, “after five long years, I finally received the AOC approval to distil gin in Cognac in 1995!” 

Gabriel’s keen interest in history also led him to an 18th-century French distillery that inspired the Citadelle name and influenced the profile of the gin he would eventually make. “I tried to absorb everything I could about gin. I’ve always been attached to the idea of revitalising artisanal spirits that are a part of French heritage. We know the ancestor of gin was inspired by the Dutch, but at the time the Netherlands was a huge area that included parts of France and Belgium. I hired interns, I still do this a lot, to go through all the archives in the main cities. One day they discovered in a church an archive with a whole documented history of every parchment about the first official genever distillery in France,” Gabriel says. “I still have all the copies. It was established in the citadel of Dunkirk in 1775 on Louis XVI’s authorisation to smuggle gin to the UK. The distillers, Carpeau and Stival, used 12 copper pot stills to distil their gin and multiple botanicals like exotic spices alongside juniper berries. It was actually transported in barrels too. We uncovered some of their recipes. It was an inspiration and I thought the name was cool. Luckily it was not patented anymore!”

While some inspiration for Citadelle Gin came from this historical booze, Gabriel already had a style in mind: a classic profile that was fresh, thirst-quenching and most importantly juniper-forward. Good thing he’s growing so many of his own. “I wanted Citadelle to be fully integrated with many other elements that give it a rich mouth-feel and a great complexity. The apex of the triangle would be the juniper berries, the second element being citrus, lemon with a little bit of orange in our case and then the third element is the warm wind of exoticism, in our case nutmeg, that true gins should have,” says Gabriel. “We’re lucky because the Cognac stills have a very low swan neck which extracts a lot of the essential oils of the botanicals and it gives you a viscosity effect that balances the freshness of the product and the citrus-feel. I knew I would get that luscious effect from the distillation methods, it’s very slow, that’s the only downside to it”.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Gin is created thanks to progressive infusion, a patented technique

Citadelle Gin is crafted using a unique technique called progressive infusion, which Gabriel describes as being a similar process to making tea, except you brew different elements at different times in the teapot. In the case of Citadelle Gin, the elements refer to the botanicals: French juniper berries, orris root, French violet root, Moroccan coriander, almonds, Spanish lemon peel, Mexican orange peel, angelica from North Germany, Indian cardamom, Indian nutmeg, cassia bark, Sri Lankan cinnamon, Mediterranean fennel, African grains of paradise, cubeb from Java, Chinese liquorice, cumin, French anise, and savory. “Each botanical is infused in neutral alcohol of French wheat for different lengths of proof and time, according to its aromatic function,” Gabriel explains. “While some require a strong degree of alcohol and a long infusion such as juniper berries, others infuse better in a weaker degree of alcohol, in a shorter time like star anise”. 

The infusion process lasts three to four days, during which the botanicals are added in successive steps while the degree of alcohol diminishes. “We lower the ABV with pure water, the same water that we use to bring down the ABV for Cognac, in which all the mineral elements have been eliminated through the reverse osmosis process. At the end, once the 19 botanicals have been infused, the ABV is about 30-35%. We set 20% of the infused spirit aside before sending it to the distillery and we infuse three extra botanicals, yuzu, cornflower and genepi from the Alps,” Gabriel says. “We then take the infused spirit to the distillery and we distil. Since the spirit has already been distilled at least three times, we only have to do one distillation. We do not keep the heads, we keep the heart and a large part of the seconds as well”. 

This atypical process of progressive infusion is actually a patented technique, something which Gabriel had never thought of doing until a figure within the government recommended it. “There’s a lot of pride in the French gastronomy and we were told our process should be recorded as a French method. Also, if we did it we could be involved in the French research and development programme,” he explains. “This afforded me the chance to hire a young guy from my village, Nicolas, who did a PhD thesis on the terroir of the Cognac. We’ve given this guy training and it’s been great to have him on my side since then. By the way, the patent is fully open, I’m not gathering any money from it. If you want to use it, it’s Patent No. 17 58092”.

Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Réserve was one of the first aged gins of the modern era

The process of creating gin clearly still excites Gabriel more than two decades later. The potential to explore an array of aromatics that were different from the ones I grew up with is very attractive. But also, look at the regulations on how Cognac is made. It’s 23 pages long. With gin, it’s more like a page or half a page, so the only real limit is your imagination which is very exciting when you come from the Cognac world. I am trained classically in Cognac so I am playing Bach, if you will, so when I make gin it’s like getting to play rock’n’roll or jazz instead. That freedom is wonderful,” Gabriel explains. “When we made Citadelle Réserve we aged it in acacia barrels, a style my grandfather taught me. But if I do that in Cognac… I’d be looking at five months! Yet, we know that classic Cognacs from the 1900s were aged in chestnut barrels thanks to English archives. It’s illegal now. Crazy right?”

He first released Citadelle Réserve back in 2008. Once again, this puts him ahead of the curve in the craft gin game, as there weren’t many aged gins around back then. But Gabriel is quick to clarify that it wasn’t his idea. Instead, it was inspired by another round of research into the history of gin. “I’m ashamed to say, it didn’t come to my mind until I was reading this old document from the archives about gin being shipped gin in barrels. It was really late at night and I immediately ran to our barrels and started pouring gin in a Cognac barrel,” he explains. “It was the first revival of the yellow gins that I know of. Some people followed suit, but it’s still very niche as a category”. 

Acacia wood was just a starting point for Gabriel’s cask experimentations. At Maison Ferrand, you’ll find barrels of wild cherry woods, chataignier (chestnut) and murier (mulberry), as well as French oak having contained Pineau de Charentes or Cognac. All have been used to make editions of Citadelle Réserve, and spirit from all these wood types have been blended in the egg. What egg? The huge wooden egg on site. No, seriously. It’s a patented wood receptacle in which aged Citadelle Gins are blended, making it the first and only gin in the world to use this method. “We call it ‘the ovum’. When I saw this egg I fell in love. It’s a slow and constant blending process designed to integrate the different wood essences,” Gabriel explains. “At 2.45 meters high and with the help of natural convection, the gin inside is in a state of perpetual motion, reducing oxygenation, and preserving the palette of aromas and evaporating volatile aromatic components”.

Citadelle Gin

All hail ‘the ovum’

Gabriel’s desire to explore and test the limits of gin led to the creation of the limited edition Extreme Collection. The first was Citadelle No Mistake Old Tom Gin, made with caramelised Caribbean brown sugar that was aged in the barrel with its cask-aged Citadelle Réserve. Wild Blossom followed, a gin inspired by his mother’s love of herbal infusions that was distilled wild cherry blossom petals and aged in cherrywood casks for five months. “They keep me sane. Take ‘Saisons of the Witch’, which I made by roasting my juniper berries and distilled it with the other botanicals to create a slightly smoky, roasted pepper gin. We sell it only on the estate and we made a few hundred bottles, but I love it,” Gabriel says. “Right now I can tease that we’ve got a new aged gin expression on the way and, also some breaking news, we have a gin maturing in 100-litre vats made from juniper berry tree. All this crazy stuff that I’m having fun with is all part of that new frontier of gin! Then 2021 will be the 25th anniversary of the launching of Citadelle, so the 25th anniversary will come with some surprises as well”. 

The freedom of distilling gin does have its drawbacks for Gabriel, who’s very passionate about gin being a juniper-forward spirit in profile. “I disagree with people just adding the flavour of fruit into a gin. I am older now, I have learned to be respectful. I know the flavoured and coloured gins are growing extremely well, but that’s a direction that I’m not interested in. To me, it is to gin what the marshmallow-flavoured vodka was to that category. We have to be careful as producers because it can dirty the name of gin,” Gabriel reasons. “I’m a purist that way. I have been cautious of exploring and pushing boundaries, even though I am usually considered the guy who is always pushing things. But an approach that is motivated by purely commercial goals is a problem. We are confusing people. We have to be careful that gin isn’t looked at as a different category. The real definition is that gin is a spirit with the dominant flavour of juniper berries”.

Despite his reservations about the flavoured category, Gabriel remains optimistic that gin has got a very exciting future. “Gin has been around for a long time and has gone through a renaissance, a revival that I would never have expected in 1996. But there is still a great interest in gin that’s not going away too quickly. I know England and Spain were the precursor and have been crazy about it for a while but the French are just getting started,” Gabriel says. “People are really excited about gin because of the possibilities that the producer, and therefore the drinker, can explore. That’s the beauty of gin”.

Citadelle Gin

So how to use Citadelle Gin? Gabriel has a few thoughts: “I love a G&T and with Citadelle it’s incredible, but my little sin is actually a Gin Reserve with just a glassful of dry Curaçao,” he says. “Not the blue stuff, we make an original curacao made with real orange. I also love a gin martini with a great vermouth like Dolin and of course I love a French 75”. My advice would be to explore and experiment. It’s what Alexandre Gabriel would do. 

Citadelle Gin Tasting Note:

Nose: Bright, piney juniper is at the forefront, with warm citrus from orange and coriander in support alongside some green cardamom and fresh flowers. In the backdrop, there are deeper, spicy notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and grains of paradise, which are joined by a slight nutty quality and the sticky sweetness of liquorice. 

Palate: The juniper is front and centre once more, but it’s joined by spice from cracked black pepper, the floral sweetness of Parma Violets and a savoury, woody quality. It’s a rich and full-bodied palate that features orange peel, cumin, star anise and cardamom throughout. 

Finish: Dry and a little peppery at first, the finish then develops with plenty of aromatic baking spices, fennel, more liquorice and a sweet hint of angelica.

Overall: A complex, intriguing and well-integrated gin that does a particularly good job of balancing floral and spicy notes.

Citadelle gin is available from Master of Malt.

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The Nightcap: 19 June

It’s Friday and that means it’s time to pour yourself a dram, ignore any incoming emails and relax. Might we recommend some delightfully boozy news to accompany your drink? It’s…

It’s Friday and that means it’s time to pour yourself a dram, ignore any incoming emails and relax. Might we recommend some delightfully boozy news to accompany your drink? It’s the Nightcap!

Did you know that the “Here’s looking at you, kid” quote from Casablanca (1942) was improvised by Humphrey Bogart? So was “Heeeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining (1980), “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” from Jaws (1975) and “Like tears in rain…” from Blade Runner (1982). All made up on the spot. When you realise that it puts a lot of pressure on you to come up with a good intro to the Nightcap. How profound or witty can you be introducing a round-up of boozy news? Maybe you lovely folk don’t need anything that grandiose. Maybe I could just say, “Here’s The Nightcap” and you’d all be fine with that. Well, here’s hoping. Because it’s all I’ve got. Here is. . . The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we launched another terrific #BagThisBundle competition, this time with a whole heap of delicious Rebel Yell whisky up for grabs. Ian Buxton then returned to talk about how Scotch whisky coped with the global pandemic and what the future holds, while Adam talked delicious vermouth with Vermò and pointed you in the direction of another fresh batch of bargains. Annie spent this week enjoying some Nine Elms, a range of alcohol-free drinks specifically designed to complement food before Henry introduced a previously distillery-only expression from Bunnahabhain that’s now available only from Master of Malt and tasty whiskies from a lesser-known Japanese producer, all with a White Port and Tonic in hand.

A huge thank you again to all who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz and kudos to Jonathan Stoller, who we can confirm is our glorious victor! You can check out the answers to last Friday’s quiz below and this week’s edition of MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always.

The Nightcap

Five lucky dads will be sent the fully-stocked bar

Win a barful of Buffalo Trace for Father’s Day

What do you think your old man would like this Father’s Day? Some socks? A card? Or how about a whole bar stacked full of bourbon? Yes, please! Well, for five lucky fathers, their wildest whiskey dreams will come true this Sunday courtesy of Buffalo Trace. The prize is a wooden bar filled with delicious whiskeys from one of the world’s greatest distilleries. This includes Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Benchmark Bourbon, Eagle Rare Bourbon and Sazerac Rye Whiskey. For your dad to be in with a shout, all you have to do is nominate him on Instagram or Facebook, tag who you wish to nominate and make sure you both follow @buffalotraceuk. Pretty simple. But hurry as the competition ends tonight, Friday 19 June at 23:59. Kris Comstock, senior marketing director, commented: “We’ve found that in these uncertain times the need to maintain a connection to family and friends has become more important than ever. Here at Buffalo Trace, fellowship and sharing a drink with loved ones is at the heart of our core beliefs. Providing a bar for people to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes is our way of ensuring that despite social distancing, the tradition and meaning of Father’s Day is not lost.” The five lucky dads (sounds like an 80s comedy with Ted Danson) will be sent the fully-stocked bar along with someone to put it together so there will be no DIY sense of humour failures this Father’s Day.

The Nightcap

Du Nord Craft Spirits owner, Chris Montana

Du Nord Craft Spirits organises riot recovery fund

Earlier this month, Minneapolis’ Du Nord Craft Spirits suffered some pretty terrible damage as a result of riots in the city. The warehouse was engulfed in flames and 26,000 gallons of water was needed to put out the fires over four-and-a-half hours, along with much more damage to the surrounding area and businesses. But all is not lost, and luckily, there is something we can do to help! The Du Nord Riot Recovery Fund was set up by founders Chris and Shanelle Montana. However, this isn’t to raise money for the distillery itself. As it states on the Go Fund Me page, the distillery is “establishing this fund to support black and brown companies affected by the riots” and dedicated “to rebuilding Minneapolis in a way that ensures our cultural beacons are restored.” Initially, the target was set at $50,000 but the support has been immense, and at the time of writing just over half of the new $1,000,000 target has been achieved. It’s always wonderful to see the community come together in times of adversity, so please help if you can!

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Half price super fancy whiskies at Boisdale. Buy now, drink later.

Boisdale ‘war bonds’ the ‘best whisky deals of all time!’

It’s an incredibly rough time for the restaurant and bar industry but we’ve been impressed with some of the schemes that embattled businesses have come up with in order to survive. Boisdale, a small chain of restaurants in London specialising in steak, whisky and cigars, has come up with something particularly clever, ‘war bonds.’ They are the brainchild of owner Ranald MacDonald. The way they work is that you buy certain drinks or experiences now at a discount and cash them in when things reopen (we hear rumours that might be as soon as the 4 July). For example, a flight of whiskies from mothballed distilleries, Rosebank 1981, St. Magdalene 1964, Brora 30 year old, Port Ellen 1978, and Glenury Royal 36 year old, would normally set you back £230 but as a war bond, it’s only £115. MacDonald described them as “the best whisky deals of all time.” It’s not just whiskies, however, there are deals on Champagne, First Growth claret and music events that Boisdale is famous for. Find a full list here. But you’ll have to hurry because as soon as the restaurants reopen, then the bonds will come off the market. MacDonald commented: “To garner spirits during these testing times we thought that having a special treat to look forward to when our wonderful customers return to Boisdale would be a very good thing. The Boisdale War Bonds have been amazingly successful and we look forward to a non-stop victory celebration at Boisdale when we reopen!”

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Your cocktail must include no more than four ingredients, one being either Eight Lands Gin or Vodka.

Eight Lands launches mixology competition 

Eight Lands is celebrating its first anniversary with an experimental cocktail competition through social media. The prize? An Eight Lands cocktail masterclass for two with Harry Nikolaou, director of mixology at Four Season Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, and a meal for two at the hotel’s restaurant, La Dame de Pic (it’s got two Michelin stars, folks). All entrants to the competition will receive a 10% discount code to purchase their own bottles of Eight Lands from the brand’s website and two runners-up will each receive a bottle of Eight Lands Organic Speyside gin and vodka. For all you amateur mixologists out, here’s what you need to do: create a unique cocktail, which must include no more than four ingredients, one being either gin or vodka. Bear in mind that you’ll have to impress Nikolaou and award-winning drinks writers and broadcasters Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, who will front the competition as well as judging the entries. The winning cocktail will be announced during the first week of July online.  “It’s been an incredible year for us and we would have loved to celebrate with a big party for our friends and partners. However, in the circumstances we thought it would be fun to find a way to engage with our nation of locked-down amateur mixologists,” said Alex Christou, founder of the award-winning organic spirits brand from Speyside. “I am also really pleased to be working with Harry and our friends at Ten Trinity Square, as well as Neil and Joel in creating this competition. They all have a great passion for great drinks and will be fantastic judges.” The competition closes this Sunday 21st June, so get those entries in! For more info, head to www.eight-lands.com/competition

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When life gives you pineapples, make Piña Coladas!

And finally… Duppy Share Rum drops 1,000 pineapples to Londoners

On Saturday 27 June premium rum brand The Duppy Share will be embracing all things tropical and tasty by dropping off 1,000 pineapples to homes across London? Why? Because the 27th is National Pineapple Day, of course! Each household to receive a regular pineapple will also receive a code to redeem one free 5cl bottle of The Duppy Share Spiced Rum, which will be delivered directly to a chosen London address and you can share a snap of your pineapple on Instagram (be sure to hashtag #PineappleExpress and tag @theduppyshare) to potentially win an entire case of The Duppy Share Spiced. Be on the lookout for the special 50 golden pineapples, as anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one will receive a Home Piña Colada kit containing a 70cl bottle of The Duppy Share Spiced, two gold metal ‘Duppy’ Cups, a can of Coco Lopez and one Frobisher’s Pineapple Juice (250ml). So basically everything you need to make delicious Spiced Pineapple Coladas (you can purchase via The Duppy Share website if you miss out on the limited edition fruit). 

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) Which alcoholic drink is essential in making zabaglione? 

Answer: Marsala

2) Which of these is not a Speyside distillery?

Answer: Glenmorangie

3) What is Snoop Dogg’s favourite gin brand?

Answer: Tanqueray

4) What did Vladimir Putin give to David Cameron when they met 2012?

Answer: Armenian brandy

5) Which beer has Britain’s oldest trademark?

Answer: Bass

6) Which American whiskey brand was created in collaboration with Canadian rapper and actor Drake?

Answer: Virginia Black

7) Which aperitif do you need to make a Vesper according to Ian Fleming’s original recipe?

Answer: Kina Lillet

8) In ‘The Lord of the Rings’, which of these do hobbits not drink?

Answer: Whisky

9) Which Japanese whisky does Beyoncé reference on Lemonade track 6 Inch?

Answer: Yamazaki

10) Last month, Sarah Jessica Parker (off of Sex and the City) added a new wine to her Invivo X range. But what style of wine is it?

Answer: Southern French rosé

 

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Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

We’re doing more great deals on all kinds of delicious drinks, which is just what you want to hear if you’re shopping for a (very) late Father’s Day gift. Do…

We’re doing more great deals on all kinds of delicious drinks, which is just what you want to hear if you’re shopping for a (very) late Father’s Day gift.

Do you know what you can find if you click here? That’s right. Deals. Savings and bargains and discounts and delights abound. In the market to try something new and interesting? In need of an old favourite? Simply a lover of a big price with a slash through it and a lower price positioned cheerily next to it? Then you’re in the right place.

If you’re really stuck and don’t know what to get someone, gift vouchers are an easy alternative. “But wait, don’t gift vouchers suck?” I hear you ask. Well, no, not if you buy excellent gift vouchers like MoM gift vouchers. What makes our ones better? Well, a) they never expire, and b) they pay our own particular brand of interest at 5% (compounded) per year. Yep. You read that right. Told you they were better.

Anyway, here are some of the best deals you’ll find this weekend.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Highland Park 16 Year Old Twisted Tattoo

This is one of those whiskies that was just made to be a gift. Look how cool that bottle is! The inspiration for this one came from the Viking legend of the Midgard Serpent, which got itself twisted around the world to bite its own tail. That serpent is on the bottle’s label, designed by tattoo artist Colin Dale. Huh, that must be where they got the name from. Clever. So was combining whisky aged in Spanish Rioja wine-seasoned casks with whisky aged in first-fill bourbon casks, which is what Highland Park did here. Very clever.

What’s the deal?

It was £67.60, now it’s £49.60.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Hepple Gin

The award-winning Hepple Gin is very delicious. So delicious in fact, that while you’re enjoying its particular brand of deliciousness you’ll find yourself staring at the bottle and wondering how on earth Hepple achieved such deliciousness. Well, it’s thanks to a rather intricate production method. First, the base spirit is distilled in a pot still using a selection of botanicals including Italian juniper. Then botanicals including locally-picked juniper, Amalfi lemon and lovage are vacuum-distilled. A supercritical CO2 extraction process is then employed to make a spirit flavoured with Macedonian juniper. Finally, all these spirits are expertly blended together. Wonderful stuff.

What’s the deal?

It was £35.95, now it’s £28.95. 

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Deanston 18 Year Old

In my opinion, Deanston simply does not get enough credit or attention as a distillery, despite the fact it makes some absolutely tremendous whiskies. Help correct this wrong by indulging in arguably the standout of the Deanston range, the delightful 18-year-old. This beauty was finished in first-fill Kentucky bourbon casks before it was bottled without chill-filtration at 46.3% ABV. Expect oodles of rich honey, luxurious vanilla, sugary shortbread and a touch of fresh ginger. 

What’s the deal?

It was £74.41, now it’s £59.91.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum 

We were never going to do a round-up of brilliant booze and not include some rum. This week Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum is on sale and that’s very good news because it’s really tasty. You can drink it neat. You can drink it with a mixer. You can make cool cocktails with it. This is one versatile treat. It was made using a tasty blend of Guyanese and Trinidadian rum, along with a selection of spices like cassia, anise, and clove and the result is something that’s enjoyably hot, like jalapeños or Hugh Jackman, that’s filled with notes of baking spice, caramelised fruit and brown sugar.

What’s the deal?

It was £25.96, now it’s £20.96.

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