That’s the Spirit…..for Beer Drinkers

So I had the challenge of trying to educate the rest of the BBB team on the subtleties and complexities of premium spirits. Most of the team have come from a solely beer background so it was an interesting prospect for myself to introduce them to the higher end of the market and combat some of the misconceptions of certain categories that the mass market brands have created.

We started off on the white spirits with a 5 times distilled Vodka called AKA which has then been pot stilled. Being the first spirit we tried the first nose and sip of the liquid generated a few interesting facial reactions. But they soon started rolling it around their pallets (like you would a fine wine) a few times and adapting their “nosing” technique. By this I mean going to and from the glass to acclimatise your nostrils to the alcohol and sniffing gently. Not the large inhale you would do to try and detect the notes from a beer.

Anyway on to the spirit itself, the guys were pretty good when it came to the flavour combinations they detected. Notes of Vanilla, lemon and a rich body that rolled over the tongue rather than attacked the back of your throat like some entry level brands. The overall reaction was positive and a group consensus was that the pot stilling finish really helped round the liquid nicely, 4 stars

Moving swiftly on to a couple of Gin’s. The first being Ish a London dry gin actually from London (believe it or not this is more unusual than it sounds, as ‘London Dry Gin’ is a style not an appellation d’origine contrôlée) Ish is a heavily Juniper led Gin with notes of Grapefruit, pepper on the tongue. Again the smoothness of the Gin was appreciated by the team, with the Gin Martini being the cocktail of choice. Murmurs around the table of ‘that was quite tasty for straight Gin, quite smooth wasn’t it’.

“Right Tequila is up next”, as the groans rang out I poured a Herencia Mexican Blanco. “7 year old Agave is harvested” “What’s Agave?” One of the team asked. Well it’s a flowering green plant (Succulent) that is from the same classification as cactus and the type used for Tequila is Blue Agave. This for me was probably the category I had expected the biggest reaction in, mainly due to the terrible way a lot of Tequilas on the market are usually consumed (salt, throw the cheapest Tequila you can find down your throat and then suck on lemon). Funnily enough when you have good tequila, of which there are many out there it’s a totally difference proposition. Sweet aroma’s of strawberry and pineapple. A little bit of caramel (not from any additives, but due to the altitude and soil type) plus a peppery tingle on the tongue. Delightful and that opinion was shared around the table.  “Do you have any more we can have?”

Next, Rum. A White Rum from Atlantico Platino first. After a bit of background on the production process which for this rum involves both Molasses and sugar cane aged separately for two years and then married together for another 2. Charcoal filtering brings the colour back to clear and you’ve got an incredible White Rum great with Tonic Water (Nothing too citrus or overpowering, So 1724 would be my first choice but Fever Tree does a nice job too and is more accessible).  The team picked out the vanilla richness, notes of citrus but the overwhelming flavour was Cream Soda of all things. Their tiny little minds had been blown by a white rum that tasted incredible, rather than the usual garbage you get in generic rum and coke. It’s the same as the beer world I explained ‘there are thousands of Rums out there with different flavour combinations, by only tasting the lower end of the market you miss out on the whole category. It’s like saying I’ve tried Carling and therefore don’t like lager/beer’

The jewel in the Atlantico Crown is the Private cask. Up to 25 year old Rum aged in a solera process. If you are not familiar with the process (as the team weren’t) it involves the stacking of barrels of all different ages of rum to allow them to combine to create a well-balanced Rum) The rich smooth syrup like older rums with that balance of green apple like sharpness flavours and strong body from the younger rums creates a beautiful product. The aging process with rum happens a lot quicker than with spirits such as Whisky (circa 3 times faster, due to the climate differences between the UK and Rum producing areas such as the Caribbean, Central America etc.)

It’s nice to be able to teach the rest of the BBB team something for once rather than them teaching me the nuances of different styles of beer’s and brands. Particularly with a two Beer Sommeliers amongst the team I am usually playing the role of pupil.

We now have two extremely high quality spirits brands in our portfolio;

 

FREYA

The first pure wild spirit. Distilled from Nordic wild birch sap. A new clean, pure white spirit. Unique taste, full flavour. Wild origins. Unique taste. Craft production. Premium quality. 40% ABV

AVUA

Avuá Cachaça is a single-sourced and pot distilled spirit from a 3rd generation distillery farm 4 hours from Rio de Janeiro, and comes in both 42% silver Prata and the unique South American indigenous  40% Amburana wood aged expressions.

Contact if you would like to find out more – info@boutiquebarbrands.com

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RTD’s

Ready to drink… It makes you cringe a bit, doesn’t it? Memories of Bacardi Breezers in lurid tones and tropical flavours flash through your mind’s eye… But things have changed. RTDs are now Ready to Deliver, and are Really Thoroughly Different.

What’s being bottled now are drinks that are sophisticated and premium, targetting the consumer who is well-educated in the drinks arena. The ingredients being used are high-quality and their story is being told; provenance and sustainability are key factors in the making of these drinks. For example, the tea used in Harry Brompton’s Alcoholic Ice Tea is all from the one tea plantation in Kenya.

These drinks are also letting consumers know that they are healthier than previous RTDs. Some are incredibly low calorie, and low sugar, a far cry from RTDs of previous generations. Many have adopted an all-natural approach, with no artificial ingredients, and have limited processing. Cranes is one such example with their range of cranberry drinks, where the alcohol comes from using brewed crushed cranberries only.

What is the appeal of an RTD? Sometimes, depending on the venue,  a full-bar setup is not an option, but you want to give the consumer variety, and that’s where this new generation of RTDs step in. They offer the consumer something as convenient as a can of beer, but offer choice, innovation and interesting flavour combinations. Take Wild Elderflower Spritz, which is a gorgeous combination of elderflower, perry and gin. And sometimes, even if you have a fully stocked bar, a drink that is just perfect and consistent every time your pour it out, is a thing of beauty. It removes the variables such as the ability of the person behind the bar to mix a good drink, and it also means you can take your favourite drinks from your nights out, and enjoy them at home on a Sunday lunch as most RTDs are readily stocked in major supermarket chains.

So next time you’re ready to shun those three little letters, RTD, know that they are changing and are delivering on the most important front: the taste.

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read more

Classics Making a Comeback

Phil Harding’s thoughts on the beer scene’s next move…

‘I am a great believer that everything in life goes in cycles, and the world of beer is no exception. Over the past thirty years we have seen the rise and rise of a new wave of brewers. A new generation of breweries started in the US in the 1980s as a ripple, and this has now turned into a global tsunami, shaking up the whole industry, effecting traditional family owned breweries as well as the multi-national giants. This new generation of breweries took old English beer styles and gave them a make-over with an all out assault on the senses – stunning aroma hops to the fore.

picture of monk brewing beer

These hoppy versions of English pale ales and IPAs have taken the beer world by storm and have introduced a whole fresh generation of people to the wonders of beer. It’s not just pale ales that have received attention, but stouts and porters have also seen a resurgence, as millenials fall in love with exciting flavours. New British, Belgian, Danish, Italian, Australian – the list goes on – breweries have sprung up in their hundreds, serving these interpretations of old styles, usually with a lot more personality and flavour than their forbears. Beers packed with flavour, however, do not necessarily translate into balanced tipples, and overly hopped brews can cover up a multitude of defects as can beers which have over-pitched yeast. There are many examples of beers that are brewed by exuberant characters who have not grasped the art of balance.

Although these issues may give the brewing revolution a slightly negative tone, the overall message is one of positivity, and here at BBB we are convinced that after working through some of the new generation brews, people will continue their beer journey to the absolute classics of the beer world. The styles of beer honed and refined over the years by Belgian brewers, like Westmalle, are jewels of the beer world and should be seen as our versions of the wine world’s French classics. Balance, drinkability, ability to be drunk nearer ambient temperature and effortless pairing with food, are signs of a beer that has great pedigree.

As the price of hops sky rockets due to demand out stripping supply, I am sure that we will see a lot of brewers being forced to brew beers that are less about hop-punch and more about balance and flavour. Classic beers like Belgian trappists have not seen the growth that some of their newer cousins have experienced in the past ten years, but I’m sure we will see an upsurge in demand for them in the coming decade.’

 

LATEST NEWS…

Classics Making a Comeback

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Beer and Hot Cross Buns

March 22nd 2016

With Easter upon us, it’s time to start feasting on that seasonal delight: the hot cross bun. Usually served with tea, why not change things up and pair them with a delicious beer?

Each of the beers we have selected, although vastly different from each other, all work well with the buns and enhance certain bunny qualities. Each beer is stocked at our micro-pub Out of Office, Battersea.

For something refreshing that will work well with the spice of the bun, try a Founder’s All Day IPA. With notes of citrus and pine, this beer will certainly enhance the buns lovely spicy quality. Try slathering the bun in butter, as the hop and crispness of this beer will cut through the fat.

All day IPA small

If you’re partial to a hot cross bun that is loaded with fruit, and let’s face it, not all buns are created equal, a Wisby Pils from Gotlands is a super match. The clean malts and hints of citrus will complement the sweet fruit in the bun and refresh your palate.

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For something indulgent and decadent, that will work with the bready qualities of the bun, try and Northern Star Mocha Porter. With notes of rich dark chocolate, hazelnut and coffee, this beer is a pleasure to drink and has a lovely full-body. A bun with this beer definitely counts as a meal.

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Happy Easter.

 

 

LATEST NEWS…

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‘I am a great believer that everything in life goes in cycles, and the world of beer is no exception. Over the past thirty years we have seen the rise and rise of a new wave of brewers. A new generation of breweries started in the US in the 1980s as a ripple, and this has now turned into a global tsunami…

read more

Perfect Christmas Gifts for the Difficult to Buy For

We all have those people in our lives who are impossible to buy gifts for. They either have everything or give us the old “oh, I don’t need a present” lie, or perhaps they are one of those family members you only see once a year – like Uncle Stanley and the only thing you know about Uncle Stanley is that he’s a single malt kind of uncle…

We have decided to take the edge off gift-buying for you and have come up with a list of killer gifts to get for those difficult people.

We’ll start with Uncle Stanley, the single malt kind of guy… When giving someone a bottle of scotch, you don’t want to get it wrong. If somebody gave me an average bottle of scotch, I would judge them, and I would have no idea what to do with the scotch. I couldn’t even re-gift it as I wouldn’t want anyone to cast the same judgement on me… So stay away from anything that can be bought at the supermarket, and try for something a little more interesting such as the Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old.

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For only £34 a bottle, this Highland single malt delivers a quality the same as bottles many times its price. A complex dram with punches of green apple, vanilla and a whisper of smoke. It tends to become woodier in flavour with the addition of water. And when Uncle Stanley, or Uncle Bob (apparently he’s your uncle) unwraps it, you can throw in this fun fact – Queen Victoria visited this distillery in 1848 when she was staying at Balmoral.

With Uncle Stanley, inevitably comes choosing a gift for Aunt Meredith. All you know about Aunt Meredith is that she belongs to the WI and often wins prizes for her champion marmalade. Enter Chase Marmalade Vodka (£37). After its initial 1000 bottle run, it was such a coveted product that the family-run Chase distillery decided to make it a permanent feature in their beautifully crafted spirit selection.

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Made using Chase’s triple distilled award-winning vodka, the tang and bite of Seville orange marmalade is added and then distilled a fourth time, creating a gorgeous and natural tasting vodka. Breakfast martini, anyone?

Moving on to Mum. Although you know Mum better than you know anyone, she is still hard to buy for, and is always guilty of the “oh darling, I don’t need anything”… What she means is she needs gin. A bottle of the old mother’s ruin to amp up the festive times this Christmas. With the craft gin scene thriving in the UK currently, you are spoiled for choice. So we will help you choose.

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Dodd’s Gin is small batch and crafted in Battersea, London. Using organic botanicals including, juniper, angelica, fresh lime peel, bay laurel, cardamom, red raspberry leaf and London honey, this gin is fresh and exciting. London’s gin scene is exploding, and the distillers are being bolder with their choices. Gone are the days of overly heavy juniper-focussed gins. The gins are layered and complex and can be used in a variety of ways: neat, with tonic or in a cocktail.

You can pick up Dodd’s (£37.50) from Fortnum & Mason and you can ogle the Christmas decorations while you’re there, or oder online from leading spirits retailers.

As well as the ginaissance, bourbon has certainly been making a come back on the scene. And you know what? Rightly so, as the new wave of small batch bourbons are pretty special. And who doesn’t love an Old Fashioned? Your dad certainly does, which is why a lovely bottle of some craft bourbon is an ideal gift. Often bourbon gets a bad wrap as the big boy bourbons come premixed in horrible cans with cola and evoke nights that end up in gutters… But bourbon is a classic spirit. It can be sophisticated and timeless and can possess much complexity.

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Four Roses has been named American Whisky Distiller of the Year four times, and currently hold the title bestowed by Whisky Magazine, and they are incredibly deserving.

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a mix of four different original bourbon recipes and creates a multifaceted and quite frankly, amazing drink. There’re notes of spice and fruit and sweet oaky caramel and it has a lingering finish. This baby just picked up double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, so you know it’ll deliver. And for only £27 it’s a bloody bargain.

Grandpa deserves a top notch bottle of something too, so why not indulge his naval heritage and get him some rum?

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The East London Liquor Company Demerara Rum (£25) is produced in Bow Wharf and uses Guyanan sugar. Aged for three years in ex-bourbon casks, it has sweet vanilla notes as well as a good amount of spice. It is also distilled in the world’s last surviving wooden still. The upside down horse on the label is a tribute to the distillery site once being a glue factory. Bottoms up!

Grandma will love you (even more than she already does) if you give her a bottle of Glayva Liqueu (£20). This Scottish gem is Christmas in a bottle, and is made of a blend of whisky, honey, spices, almonds and tangerines. In fact, Glayva is now trademarked as “the best liqueur in the world”, after winning the IWSC trophy a record-breaking 5 times! Who can argue with that?

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Pour over Christmas pudding, mix in with warm custard, pour down your throat, mix with chilled ginger ale… Endless possibilities for this luxurious tipple.

And now we arrive at what to get your other half. Always difficult. If your other half is the beer kind, then why not break out of that Carling mould and make your own craft beer hamper? The world of beer is staggeringly diverse and is certainly worth exploring. Some tips for a super little hamper include, Er Boqueron, which is a Spanish beer brewed with sea-water. The result is a lovely minerality and lightness, not a mouthful of salt.

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Founders All Day IPA is a gorgeous example of a hoppy and floral American style beer with plenty of punch.

And for something with some weight to it, throw in a can of Beavertown Smog Rocket. Not only is the branding out of this world, but this beer is like a velvety mouth hug. Packed with a rich, smokiness this beer is perfect for winter drinking. These and other excellent craft beers are all available at Ales by Mail.

And now if your other half is the non-beer drinker, a case of a rather marvellous thing called Harry Brompton’s will be a hit. Harry Brompton’s is a London invention combining black tea with vodka and citrus. Alcoholic ice tea. Yep. Delicious. It’s crisp and refreshing and is the perfect thing to drink on any occasion… I see it going down very well in a hot and tumultuous Christmas kitchen on the 25th. Available also from Ales by Mail, a dozen will set you back £21. Why not get a dozen of their other flavour, Berries and Cucumber? Yes. Do it.

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Christmas shopping sorted… And you didn’t even have to brave the crowds. Go have a drink… Get into the Christmas spirit, whichever your favourite is.

 

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Classics Making a Comeback

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read more

Price Point of Difference

Winston Churchill once said, “the price of greatness is responsibility”… well according to  this article, it’s £7.50. For an ‘eye watering’, £7.50, you can purchase your own little pool of greatness in the form of a pint of  Gotlands blueberry IPA from the Singer Tavern, a lovely and very happening establishment in the City. Quite frankly, my eyes would certainly be watering if I followed another lead in that article and paid £3.50 for a Foster’s.

Comparing a craft beer with a mass-produced beer is simply silly. Why? Because quite frankly, you pay for what you get, or sometimes you even have the privilege of paying for things you don’t get, such as flavour or craftsmanship. There’s a huge hint in the name craft beer as to what you’re paying for… You are paying for supremely superior ingredients, small-batch production and love. Yes, I said it. You are paying for the love. So many craft beer producers start up because they have a love for creating something truly unique and special. And you can taste it.

So many people who’d balk at the price of a craft beer have perhaps not actually tried one, because beer is beer. Well beers, unlike the American men in the Declaration of Independence, are not created equal. Nopey nope nope… And I hold this truth to be self-evident.

When you bring a pint of craft beer to your nose, instantly you are hit with a giddy aroma of hops or malt or some other tantalising beast. When you pick up a mainstream beer, you are hit with notes of cardboard and soggy bathroom rug. But hey, it only cost £3.00, so that’s ok… Who wants to pay extra for someone to sing lullabys to the hops as they rest their weary buds as the sun sets? Or pay extra for someone to carefully label and bottle things by hand, hands that have been protected in kid gloves mind you… Surely that claw machine imparts just as much care? And you certainly don’t want to pay for something that is bursting with flavour and complexity! Remember the acronym KISS! Keep it simple stupid. Yep, forgive me for getting notions of grandeur in my pretty little head.

In fact, the Blueberry IPA from Gotlands can’t even honourably accept the accolade of most expensive in London. Why at The Ritz, one can indulge on a bottle of Heineken (you know that beer in the green bottle) for a very reasonable £9.50. And then there’ll be the service charge. Still, very reasonable.

LATEST NEWS…

Classics Making a Comeback

‘I am a great believer that everything in life goes in cycles, and the world of beer is no exception. Over the past thirty years we have seen the rise and rise of a new wave of brewers. A new generation of breweries started in the US in the 1980s as a ripple, and this has now turned into a global tsunami…

read more