Whisky cocktails

Its been a while since I've had a chance to participate in one of Steve @TheWhiskyWire's organised TweetTastings (and even longer since I've written one up!); so I jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose. Even better was that this time the tasting would include three cocktails by White Lyan (2014 best newcomer cocktail bar in world) which means Daisy would also be able to join in.

 We kicked off with with Cutty Sark 33y/o blend (a limited whisky available for the princely sum of £650 a bottle). On the nose its a lot of caramel and butterscotch which would be off-putting in a beer (a sign of diacetyl, usually indicating the beer wasn't given long enough in the fermenter) but in a whisky indicates time spent in bourbon barrels. I described it last night as "woody Werthers Originals". Alongside that is obviously lashings of vanilla (another bourbon wood - American Oak - characteristic), the furniture polish that often crops up in a venerable dram like this and an underlying stewed pears sweetness likely from esters in one (or more) of the component parts, of which there are almost 50 from 9 distilleries!
As it opens up on the nose I got a touch of cola and fruity rosso vermouth, which carries on into the taste quite sweet too, vanilla first and foremost, then caramel and then some whisky warmth. Its truly a lovely blend toasted marshmallow jelly belly bean and butterscotch all appear as it develops in the mouth finishing really smoothly. Even Daisy didn't struggle to drink it, though still to boozy as a neat spirit for her.

After clearing our palates we moved on to the first of three cocktails produced by White Lyan. White Lyan batch up all of their cocktails themselves, which ensures consistency and speed of service on busy evenings in the bar, they also sell some of their most popular tipples through Selfridge's. We were instructed to chill our glasses but refrain from using ice. They don't use ice in any of their drinks, instead using technical wizardry to get all of their drinks to the correct dilution ratio. Their brief was Art Deco inspired cocktails; so they've dug deep into the recipe books and came out with three drinks, all with White Lyan twist of course!

Our first drink is an Artist's Special made with Olorosso sherry, an interpretation of lemon juice and of course Cutty Sark whisky. It offers up sweet red apple e & caramel on the nose but to drink its all about the sherry, rich fruitcake and raisins a plenty.  I'd perhaps have liked the balance more towards the sour side and the sherry dominates over the whisky but its certainly easy drinking finishing with a rich sherried note.

Cocktail #2 is called Seelbach, named for the hotel where it was created in 1917. We had to add our own soda water to a blend of whisky, bitters, distilled champagne and triple sec. I was pretty chuffed to pick up that both Angostura and Peychaud's had been used, though scaled back from the original 7 dashes of each! On the nose there's the rich orangey triple sec plus whisky vanilla notes giving something reminiscent of Campari. Its bubbley, warming and a fruity orange, clove and nutmeg to taste reminiscent of some Caribbean rum punches  or even mulled Gluhwein. A refreshing cocktail that I'll certainly look to replicate in the future.

An Old Fashioned is a classic drink that everyone should have in their repertoire, but this being a White Lyan tasting its obviously been mixed around a bit. Instead of simple syrup the whisky is washed through beeswax, picking up some honey sweetness and also removing some of the larger aroma/ flavour compounds smoothing out the edges to give a rich and luxurious finish. They also added gold flakes - just because they can I guess! What we're left with is the obviously named Beeswax Old Fashioned which really does smell of beeswax candles but also hints at cheese rinds. Taste wise its a little on the sweet side but it really does allow the complexity of the whisky to shine through.

We enjoyed all three cocktails; though the Seelbach was our joint favourite. Would certainly urge you to try recreating these at home! And if you're feeling flush; the whisky is certainly very nice but a little steep for our budget. Its been great to get the opportunity to try these and we're now determined to visit White Lyan on our next trip to London. Massive thanks as  usual to Steve for organising the whole thing and Cutty Sark and White Lyan for providing the drinks and tasting company, Slainté!


On Unusual Ingredients in Beer

I've been sitting on this post for far too long, having previously intended to publish it as a #beerylongread but then Boak and Bailey published a very similar analysis as I was planning. I have promised the lovely Natalia a write-up; so its about time I moved this from draft to published...

The use of "non-beer" ingredients is often frowned upon in some beer circles, particularly those who cite beers conforming to the Reinheitsgebot as the pinnacle of barley beverage perfection. Others deride brewers for bunging in any old ingredient for the sake of it, often ending up with something far removed from beer. Whilst I agree that it does go on (and I've tasted my fair share of poorly-conceived or barely masked poor brews) I think that when done well additional ingredients can enhance a beer and bring something different - and lets face it we all like to experience different flavours. At its best novel ingredients can give lift a beer to new heights or even spawn a whole new style. It can also work well to differentiate a beer from similar competing products and give beer a sense of place by tying it to its region regardless of whether or not the bulk of the ingredients are locally sourced.
One brewery making good use of indigenous ingredients are Amazon Beer, based in Campia Belem in Brazil (that's in the North of Brazil, just inland from the coast and on the edge of the Amazon rainforest.)They use ingredients from Brazil to enhance the beers they brew and introduce people to Brazilian flavours. A lot of the ingredients are popular within Brazil but largely unknown outside the country; so now they're beginning to export they're raising the profile of Brazilian ingredients around the world. The process for designing the beers varies; sometimes the brewer decides on a certain style then selects an ingredient to complement the style. On other occasions the inverse is true Caio (brewery sommelier) brings a potential ingredient to his father (Armindo)and a beer is designed to bring out the best in it - both methods are valid as far as I'm concerned. They're also happy to work with others to exchange ideas and even produce collaboration brews.

I (and a few others it seems) was sent some bottles to try (all the way from Brazil). Whilst I'd heard of a few of the ingredients, the majority were new to me; so to keep things interesting I refrained Wkipedia-ing until after I'd tried them!

First up was Forest Bacuri a 3.8% pale golden ale. It had a Koelsch like nose, fruity strawberry with a touch of diacetyl, steady stream of bubbles, pillowy white head collapsing to lacing.In the mouth its more like a helles, fairly clean with Zippy carbonation, fairly sweet with peach and glucose, ends slightly thin with a touch of damp cardboard but pleasant enough, akin to a cheaper helles. Not really sure I could detect anything out of the ordinary here but quite enjoyed the beer. Bacuri allegedly is both sweet and sour and I certainly picked up on the sweetness but can't say it really enhanced my drinking experience.

 I did however find Cumaru IPA (5.7%) quite intriguing, with preserved lemon and ginger sponge becoming reminiscent of fresh apple strudel on warming. Full bodied with a gentle carbonation, cinnamon, herbal hops & sultana bagel. It reminded me somewhat of Windsor and Eton's Kohinoor IPA with cardamom and jaggery. Turns out Cumaru is another name for the tonka bean, a trendy (and cheaper) alternative to vanilla. Its certainly produced an interesting beer on this occasion and I'd certainly enjoy it again.

The red ale, Priprioca  is a heady 6% and slightly hazy chestnut with caramel and red apple on nose and tasting like toffee apple stuck in a sponge cake with a lasting fruitiness. Again, I couldn't really draw distinction between the flavours expected from malt in the style and the added ingredient (apparently a kind of root) but it probably does contribute to the complexity. Its not really the kind of beer I'd buy anyway but quite liked it.

Both the witbier and a bottle of pilsner (I bought the latter myself, pleased to find it in my local offy) were disappointing. Whilst the pilsner was a generic lager with no stand out features or ingredients to recommended it, the former seemed infected

My favourite of the bunch was the Acai stout, 7.2% - this really showcases what an added ingredient can bring to a beer. Pouring dark brown with pale tan head and slightly lactic fruity sultanas and prunes on the nose like an over-aged Christmas cake. To taste its fairly complex with mixed fruits, dry berries and a mint note which helps to tie everything together. Being an ingredient I was familiar with (through its addition in various foodstuffs as a "super ingredient") I'm pretty sure I was able to pick out the Acai berry but it was well integrated and complemented the style well. I'd certainly recommend buying a few bottles of this one if you see it.


So what did we learn here about added ingredients? Nothing profound really, sometimes it can enhance a beer's flavour and others its not really detectable. It can be a fun way to get a beer noticed however and done well produce tasty results. Speaking to Natalia Amazon are currently working on a porter made with cupulate - a chocolate made from Cupuaçu seed which is certainly one I'd be looking out for, being a big fan of porters. A big thank-you for the opportunity to try the beers and being so patient with waiting for my thoughts!  I'll certainly continue to try beers with added ingredients as they often do throw up some gems -I'd urge you not to write them off either.

Amazon Beer


Beyond The Boundary

With the first batch of bottles rushing off the shelves faster than they could be stocked and the entire first batches sold out within days I knew I needed to get hold of Boundary's new beers before it was too late. Luckily i managed to snaffle a few bottles of each via my usual purveyor of libations, The Vineyard. But before I let myself sample my illicit gains I thought I'd better call in on Matt at the Brewery...

Matt and his new brewery!
Calling the PortView trade centre home since February Boundary have been busy making Unit A5 ship shape and ready for action for most of that period. Simultaneously they begun brewing their first batches of beer, bottles from which I will be reviewing below. Arriving in to the brewery on a miserable Wednesday lunchtime I'm greeted by bright lights, gleaming steel and the sound of high pressure water circulating post caustic-rinse. Matt stands beaming and hirsute amongst his newly acquired equipment, "I've just taken samples of the beers, would you like to try them?" Not one to offend I of course jump at the opportunity to sample the three beers in the core range and not one but two collaboration specials with Galway Bay (both of the latter are to be barrel aged; but you'll need to wait for ABV fest to find out what they are!)

Galway Bay collabs sleeping soundly in warm conditioning
Matt shows me around the brewery, pointing out the freezer (essential for hop life), pest proofed grain store and conditioning room replete with barrels "I bought 20 but only 6 are for us, the rest are already accounted for". Of course there has been teething problems, for example some of the fermenters don't seal correctly and there was no way to recirculate the wort, but these have now been Heath-Robinsoned out. With all vessels currently filled there will soon be a need to buy more. There's plenty of space within the brewery but Matt has his sights set on the unit next door "Its still unoccupied and I could use a space for a barrel store..."

Pallets of stock and the three label designs
The first event was held in the brewery last Saturday, managing to squeeze 80 people in for a cheese and beer tasting. There's also an artist studio where the resident label designer has already been hard at work but will also be available for the local community to rent. Being a part of the community is very important for the team and is why the brewery was set up as a co-operative. This has of course ppaid dividends in the form of a market thirsty for their beers!

The three "core" beers
"So what of the beers?", I hear you ask, alright I'm getting to it! There are 3 in the core range an APA at 3.8 %, an IPA at 7% and rounded out by an export stout also at 7% ABV. They're all bottle conditioned too, which should please the real ale fans though Matt says he's had to bring forward plans to keg the beer as bottled product just doesn't get the exposure in pubs in Belfast.

I sampled the APA first, a sensible plan given the jump in ABV of the next two! Priced very fairly at £2.09 it certainly drinks as a session beer. peach tea and mango on nose. Decent level of body for its diminutive ABV, light carbonation, gentle bitterness, red berries and some biscuit. Very sessionable indeed and would sing on cask. If anything I'd prefer a 500ml bottle to really get to know it, ah well I'll have to make do with a second 330ml...

The IPA certainly seems related to the APA but with a different hop bill Matt assures me. Its pretty boisterous on the nose with a mess of yeast esters interfering with what is obviously an exiting aroma - a base note of orange bitters jus makes its through. Super pithy grapefruit peel with herbal sage and pine notes, heavy body, super bitter, a little sticky with a dry finish, its not boozy per say but doesn't have the cleanliness of Kernel or Beavertown. Not how I enjoy my IPAs but will probably have plenty of fans and certainly the highest perceived bitterness of any beer on the IRish market to my knowledge! (In fact it reminds me of some of the Evil Twin/ Mikkeller efforts brewed at De Proef.)

I finished things off with the Export Stout, which is much more up my street. Daisy tasted it too; she thought [that it] "smells metallic, coffee, marmite chocolate and peanut...mocha chocolatey coffee. Mouthfeel is good, quite bitter 'Steve will like it' really smooth but tongue filling bitterness, touch of sweetness, lots of dark coffee flavour, should be called espresso stout. Actually its not really marmitey and its less bitter when you return to it" 
I picked up rich roast barley with chocolate coffee and a touch of mint on the nose. Its full bodied but smooth with light carbonation preventing it from becoming too heavy. Its roasty burnt toast with a touch of liquorice and quite brief in finishing with a touch of sweetness but not overly complex. It picked up a touch of burnt rasin/blackcurrant after allowing it to sit a while but overall  Iid have liked a few more hops to balance the malt and provide some lift.

So whilst I thought all three beers were well brewed (and amazingly so given how new the setup is!) it was the APA that I really enjoyed and will certainly be drinking again. The Export Stout would make a good base to a black and tan (The mixed drink, not the uniform!) but the IPA in its current guise just isn't my thing. There are still bottles in local off-licences and pubs; so go and try them for yourselves!