Villa Lobos

Villa Lobos

A range of tequila expressions that have floated around the UK market over the last few years has found footing on some major stepping-stones coming in the next few months, placing itself within the highly respected Instil Spirits portfolio to certify that it’s not just a one-trick-pony.

So what is Villa Lobos?

Villa Lobos is the result of a friendship and close collaboration with two of the world’s most respected and trusted authorities on tequila: Carlos Camarena and Dale Sklar. Carlos Camarena is the brainchild behind the likes of Ocho, Tapatio and Casco Viejo tequila’s, whilst Dale Sklar is the Managing Director and founder of importers Wine and Spirit International. Question is though, what makes Villa Lobos stand out to the rest of Carlo’s brands?

The agave used for Villa Lobos comes straight from the agave plantation owned by the Camarena family in Los Altos, but by chance Carlos had created too much for his usual requirements and began storing it within open steel tanks. A year later, he tried the agave to make sure it was still suitable, but with the extra oxidation it became ‘more feminine and silky’, he couldn’t use the agave for his usual brands, so instead he went in a different direction and Villa Lobos was born.

The four expressions are your usual suspects, and below, I give to you my tasting notes on the core three –

Villa Lobos Blanco – 40%

Double distilled. A good kick of dry oak on the nose, with light agave notes and soft sweetness coming through.A tender kick of agave hits the palate, developing into a wet spice and soft smoke aroma that gives a fresh, light and lingering finish.

Villa Lobos Reposado – 40%

Spends at least 6 months resting in tanks before being aged in American oak for 11 months. Very light, subtle notes of agave, with licks of oak and earthy aromas on the nose. Raw oak flavours are hit with a good kick of dry agave and plenty of course soil to give a lingering, slightly harsh finish.

Villa Lobos Añejo – 40%

Spends at least 6 months resting in tanks before being aged in American oak for 24 months. Soft, slightly coarse aromas of earth and agave blending well on the nose. Licks of smoke give off plenty of oak flavours, with kicks of raw agave coming through. A long, heavy feeling smoked finish.

Some very interesting expressions here, with a fourth, the Extra Añejo also available and aged for 48 months. One’s for enjoying straight, even the Blanco, which at a push could make a good cocktail base if you had some good ingredients to match it with.
Although created by accident perhaps, the year in open air tanks makes a pleasant difference to many other tequila names, especially Carlos’ other brands. Perhaps one for your drinks cabinet at home, or to impress your friends with on a night out if you happen to come across it in your favourite bar.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Look At The Linie Awards 2015

Linie Awards

Last week saw myself attend the annual Nordic extravaganza, the Linie Awards 2015. The event is the culmination of the best that the Nordic countries have to offer from the world of food and drink, with respective competitions to find the number one dish and cocktail for the year. In its 10th year, 2015 saw it being held within Stockholm, Sweden for the first time, away from its usual seat in Norway as the main support comes from the Norwegian aquavit brand Linie, but this was to show the growth of the brand across Europe, and for the first time included Germany within its proceedings.

Held within Stockholm’s City Hall, the evening consisted of some of the best VIP’s, bartenders, chefs and journalists from across the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, as well as Germany attending, with a splash from the United Kingdom as my own country starts to take on the quite underrated category of aquavit.

The first finals of the evening saw each winner of their respective country heats go head-to-head behind the bar, aiming to create a signature serve that will highlight the Linie aquavit. Sondre T. Kasin from Morgenstierne in Oslo represented Norway with his creation Valkyrie, seeing a shaken mix of homemade quince puree, Linie that came infused with blackcurrant leaves and stems, green Chartreuse and Norwegian honey syrup, served over a large ice cube and graced with a blackcurrant branch. Jere Vihervaara of Son of a Punch in Helsinki represented Finland with his serve Hamask, seeing Linie mixed with egg, seasoned sour milk syrup, celery bitters and a sprig of rosemary, all served in a classic coupette glass and a burnt sugar cane and absinthe lit rosemary sprig.

Rolf Bender from the Oak Room in Norrebro in Denmark came to the final with a recipe he names The Scandinavian Flip, seeing fresh red currants, homemade red currant syrup, Pedro Xeminez Fernando de Castella sherry, Linie and egg come together with a garnish of freeze dried red currants. Moritz Billina of Falk’s Bar in Munich put together his Punainenmeri which saw cloudberry jelly, Belsazar dry vermouth, Manzanilla sherry and Linie shaken and served within a cocktail glass. This came garnished with a flick of Belsazar red vermouth for decoration.

The winning cocktail by Charlotta Berggren - Linie in Sight
The winning cocktail by Charlotta Berggren – Linie in Sight

It was to be Sweden though that took home the crown of the best cocktail of the evening, as Charlotta Berggren of Svartengrens in Stockholm impressed with her creation Linie in Sight. It saw Linie, punsch (a traditional liqueur in Sweden produced from arrack), lemon juice, carrot juice and sugar syrup combined and shaken, then served into a coupette glass.

A three course meal was entwined with the finals, which also saw Finland take the crown for the chefs via Taneli Myllyvirta of Restaurant OLO in Helsinki. On hand through the night were three expressions of Linie itself; the pre-journey, regular and double cask port expressions, going alongside last years winning recipe from Oskar K.J. Johansson with Kumminjanne. 

Winning her first ever cocktail competition, Charlotta has said this has given her the confidence to branch out and contribute to other competitions in Sweden and become a force within the industry. I say good luck to her, and It will be interesting to see how the UK takes its palate to aquavit in the next year or two, especially when you have the likes of Monica Berg, bar manager of Pollen Street Social in London and Oslo native flying the flag here with her new Linie Honorary Award.

So aquavit. Have you tried it yet?

De Kuyper And UKBG Get Things Shaking In The North West

De Kuyper

The North West is set to discover the brightest in bartending talent later this month, as the northern heat of UKBG National Cocktail competition heads to the Cheshire town of Warrington. The event will be sponsored by De Kuyper, the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs.

The cocktail competition, which will take place in Tom’s at 101, Stockton Heath on 23rd June, will give the region’s bartenders a chance to show off their skills and have their recipe tasted by an esteemed panel of Drinks Industry professionals.

Mixologists will battle it out to be crowned the best in their region, as well as the chance to represent the UK in the IBA World Cocktail Championship in 2016. Watching over each entrant will be the crème de la crème of cocktail experts, judging their bespoke creations whilst keeping their eyes peeled in the hope of discovering the next big thing in bartending.

Contenders will be challenged to make a twist on a Crusta, featuring a minimum of 20ml from The De Kuyper liqueur range. Each drink must be presented and served to four people within seven minutes, and will be judged on appearance, aroma and taste.

De Kuyper is the world’s largest producer of cocktail liqueurs, and is widely regarded as the go-to liqueur brand for professional bartenders, currently with some 20 flavours available in the UK; a selection stocked by Booker Wholesale, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s & Asda. The family-run business is based in Schiedam, Netherlands, and has succeeded in making a global name for itself as a leading distiller of liqueurs and advocaat for more than three centuries.

The UKBG Cocktail Competition Northern Heat will take place from 11am at the Tom’s at 101, Stockton Heath, Warrington. Entrants must be members of the UKBG to compete, with annual membership available from £35. For more info on how to register, please visit

Russian Standard

Russian Standard

Vodka as a category is huge, and has been for many a decade now. There are many brands you rattle off when one talks about vodka; Smirnoff, Grey Goose, Belvedere and Russian Standard are present in many a list, and it’s the Russian liquid that this feature will concentrate on, looking at why it is seen as one of the well-known in its category, and some of the expressions that are sometimes easily looked over.

It begins with a gentleman named Roustam Tariko, a Russian born in Menzelinsk in Tatarstan back in 1962. In the 1980’s, he saw the potential for new businesses in Russia after the economic reforms and started the likes of a cleaning company and then the importing of Kinder Surprise and Ferrero Rocher chocolates (goods that were previously only available within hard currency stores closed to the average Russian). Tariko parlayed his success in selling Italian chocolates into an exclusive contract to import the Martini brand. Record sales of Martini enabled him to grow his company Roust Inc. into the leading importer of premium spirits in Russia. It’s here when he realised that Russia did not possess a domestically produced premium vodka brand, so in 1998, Tariko, through his Russian Standard Company, brought to market Russian Standard Vodka Original, the first genuinely Russian premium vodka.

Roustam Tariko also used the influence of Professor Dmitri Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table and alumni of the St. Petersburg State University. What was considered the standard for vodka making, Tariko invited some of the modern-day graduates to work at the Russian Standard Vodka distillery and impart their wisdom on the likes of the analysis of the natural water, to gas chromatography which measures the cleanliness of the vodka itself. Because of this, they are at the fore-front and developing new techniques in vodka chemistry, a unique business model that only Russian Standard apply.

So how is it all created?

Within their St Petersburg distillery, a proprietary distillation has been developed which means it retains the natural character of the spirit, yet filters out the impurities. The winter wheat spirit from the Russian Steppes passes through over 200 distillation stages, all controlled at every stage. It is then filtered through Russian birch charcoal filters and a Urals Mountains quartz crystal filtration process, as well as silver to further refine the vodka if creating the Platinum expression. The vodka then passes through a final and unique process called relaxation, where the liquid matures and the ingredients ‘marry’ each other to result in a perfect balance, smoothness and ‘final development of organoleptic properties’. The relaxation process is said to be critical to the final product as it is where the super molecular structure is built. The water used within the processes is pure glacial water from Lake Ladoga. Once bottled, every bottle is sealed with a Certificate of Origin – a guarantee issued by the Russian government that the vodka is 100% Russian.

So how do the four expressions fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Russian Standard Original – 40%

Bold notes of the winter wheat come through on the nose, with a thick aroma of coarse earth placed nicely for the base. A sharp kick of wheat upon the palate, with a good dose of dry spice, vegetal and earthy notes coming through. A lively dryness forms near the spicy, long finish. Slight creamy notes comes through too.

Russian Standard Gold – 40%

Russian Standard Gold is inspired from an ancient Siberian vodka recipe made popular by Peter the Great and has extracts of Siberian Golden Root.
Soft ginseng on the nose with a subtle aroma of the wheat coming through. Very soft upon the palate, with a slight developing richness of the root bringing a bold finish. Natural sweetness is present, with a sugar beet style texture. A good lingering finish.

Russian Standard Platinum – 40%

Silver filtered for extra clarity. Clean on the nose with a slight soft sweetness and citrus element present. Very soft on the palate with the powdered citrus blending well with the smooth texture of the winter wheat. A slight kick of pepper near the lingering finish.

Imperia – 40%

Produced by the world’s most advanced distillation process (eight times) and layer-filtered through quartz crystal from the Ural Mountains, Imperia is allowed to rest in relaxation tanks for 72 hours before bottling.
Slight herbal notes on the nose surround the clean, thin scent of the spirit. A crisp start to the palate, with a creamy, thick texture developing with hints of citrus and herbal sweets. An aromatic hit near the finish that lingers perfectly.

Four very different styles of vodka here, with the Original perfect for one of these –

Russian Mule
Russian Mule

Russian Mule

Glass – 

Copper Mug

Ingredients – 

50 ml Russian Standard Original
150 ml Premium Ginger Beer (or Ale)

Method – 

Fill a copper mug with ice cubes. Squeeze in half of one lime. Add 50 ml of Russian Standard Original and the Ginger beer to fill. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Russian Standard hits the mark across the board, with a good entry-level and cocktail base with the Original, to the vodka sippers in Gold and Platinum, to the prestige Imperia. At least two should be in your drinks cabinet at home to really impress your friends and family, or visit your local bar and see what the bartenders are mixing up for you. This is a classic Russian vodka, which some would say is a classic vodka in its own right. Grab a taste and join in.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Future Proofing The Pub Roundtable

Below is a video from a discussion group I was invited to be a part of a few weeks back, supported by Finest Call and the American Beverage Marketers. It looks at how pubs see cocktails through a variety of ways, and how Finest Call are attempting to contribute towards demystifying the attitudes towards them.


Celebrate World Martini Day With Noilly Prat

Noilly Prat

The classic dry martini cocktail is one of the world’s most internationally recognised cocktails and on Friday 19 June, we celebrate its longstanding reputation with World Martini Day. NOILLY PRAT®, one of the world’s finest French vermouths since 1813, is a key ingredient in the classic dry martini cocktail. Here are four ways to celebrate World Martini Day with Noilly Prat.

Enjoy the original, world class Noilly Prat classic dry martini cocktail recipe or discover three unique expressions, inspired and created by some of the world’s best bartenders for Noilly Prat’s inaugural cocktail challenge. Since the competition began in September 2014, leading drinks experts from around the world judged each bartender’s twist on the iconic classic dry martini cocktail.


1 part Noilly Prat Original Dry
2 parts GREY GOOSE® vodka or BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin
Dash of orange bitters
Lucques olive to garnish

1. Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice + stir well
2. Single strain into a classic cocktail glass
3. Garnish with a cocktail onion


Created by: Romain de Saussure, Prescription Cocktail Club, Paris, France

20ml Noilly Prat Original Dry
40ml homemade tincture (Bombay Sapphire infused with Noilly Prat, green olives and rosemary)
Grapefruit peel

1. Prepare and clean martini glasses and chill in the freezer
2. Fill a mixing glass with ice
3. Add Noilly Prat Original Dry and Bombay Sapphire
4. Add the grapefruit peel and stir until perfectly diluted and cold
5. Strain into chilled glasses and garnish with rosemary and cheese (optional)


Created by: Steve Lawson, MASH, London, UK

60 ml Noilly Prat Original Dry
35 ml Bombay Sapphire
Half bar spoon of truffle honey
Garnish with hand stuffed olives

1. Pour 60ml of Noilly Prat Original Dry into a mixing glass with ice
2. Add 35ml of Bombay Sapphire and stir
3. Add half a barspoon of truffle honey
4. Strain and serve in a classic dry martini cocktail glass
5. Garnish with hand stuffed olives

Created by: Piotr Sajdak, Little Red Door, Paris, France

40ml Noilly Prat Original Dry
20ml Bombay Sapphire
10ml Ocean tincture (10ml of oil of anchovies | 50ml of polish spirit | 20ml violet)

1. Fill a mixing glass with ice
2. Add Noilly Prat Original Dry and Bombay Sapphire
3. Add homemade Ocean tincture
4. Stir slowly
5. Strain into a chilled coupe glass
6. Garnish with a linen bag as a nod to the fishermen

Martini Launches New Crafted Style Of Vermouth Di Torino

new martini logoMARTINI®, the internationally awarded vermouth, has launched its new Vermouth di Torino line, MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE. This crafted style of vermouth includes two variants, RUBINO and AMBRATO, which have been created using carefully selected Italian wines. Setting the standard for a Vermouth di Torino, the MARTINI Masters pay tribute to the traditional methods used by the first MARTINI Master Herbalist to craft a product of true distinction.


Since 1863 MARTINI has been producing vermouth in the Piemonte region, on the same site where it was established over 150 years ago. MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE expresses the quality and authenticity of the original style of Vermouth di Torino, reclaiming its traditions whilst marking a first for MARTINI in launching two new complementary expressions together. Carefully woven into the intricate design of the MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE label is the royal arms of the House of Savoy, the Kings of which first protected the term ‘Vermouth di Torino’ to prevent producers outside of the Piemonte region using the name. The new range seeks to boldly recognise and restore this once protected name of origin with other local producers, whereby Vermouth di Torino can only be assigned to expertly crafted vermouth using Italian wines and Artemisia herbs sourced from Piemonte that use the traditional methods and skills of the region.


MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE is a celebration of Piemonte, which begins with sourcing local Italian wines, including small parcels of Langhe DOC Nebbiolo and Moscato d’Asti DOCG. The delicately harvested grapes have been selected by Beppe Musso, MARTINI Master Blender, for their unique and internationally revered depths and flavours, which is essential to the final blending with the aromatic botanical extracts. Demonstrating the creative spirit, dedication and expert craftsmanship of MARTINI, for the first time MARTINI Master Herbalist, Ivano Tonutti, has selected a blend of three different types of local Artemisia that grow in the nearby fields of Pancalieri, Piemonte. Together with our local and trusted partner, Cooperativa Erbe Aromatiche di Pancalieri, we are working to restore the region’s natural environment through regeneration of botanicals that were once cultivated in the past. Roman Chamomile, used in the creation of MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE AMBRATO, is one example of the aromatic herbs that we have successfully cultivated to ensure the environment is protected for future generations in our on-going quest for sustainability.
These local herbs are then intricately married with exotic botanicals to create a blend that is prepared in the traditional style of the original vermouth. Reinstating the time honoured and traditional methods of the region, the botanical extracts are rested in Piemontese Tino, small oak vats, for a period of over two months. This creates a harmony in the character and taste of our vermouth.


The small parcels of full-bodied Langhe DOC Nebbiolo wines used to create MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE RUBINO are blended with extracts of Italian Holy Thistle and Red Sandalwood from Central Africa to deliver a bright ruby red vermouth, which inspired the name of the expression. The delicate balance of botanicals creates a full-bodied herbal and complex style of Vermouth di Torino with a long aftertaste. The floral and aromatic blend of small parcels of Moscato d’Asti DOCG wines, used
to create MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE AMBRATO, produces a beautifully honeyed Vermouth di Torino. The yellow Cinchona bark from Ecuador and Chinese Rhubarb create a light-bitter taste profile that aromatises and elevates the flavours of the wines.
Giuseppe Gallo, MARTINI Global Brand Ambassador comments, “With over 150 years of history, MARTINI is proud to launch this new Vermouth di Torino to join its family of vermouths. Looking to the future, MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE RUBINO and MARTINI RISERVA SPECIALE AMBRATO encapsulate the forward thinking and passion of MARTINI, whilst restoring and respecting the deep understanding and traditional craftsmanship essential to creating a true Vermouth di Torino.”


French Inspirations At Elixir Tonic And Treats

Elixir Tonics & Treats

Check out my feature on the latest incarnation of Elixir Tonics & Treats cocktail menu, featured within VIVA Magazines. Plenty of French inspirations from Will Meredith and his team here!

Click here to be directed to my feature.

Bartenders Go Loco At Coco Lopez And El Dorado Cocktail Challenge

Mark Main's winning Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Mark Main of MOJO in Manchester has been named the overall winner in this year’s Coco Lopez & El Dorado Cocktail Challenge. The Glaswegian mixologist took home £1,000 and after his El Coco Bru and Peanut Butter Jelly Time cocktails impressed the judges.

The hard-fought contest, compered by Lyndon Higginson at The Liar’s Club in Manchester and organised by Coco Lopez’s UK distributor Bennett Opie and El Dorado Rum in association with Hamilton Beach, also saw runner-up Ami St. Claire of Sohe in Newcastle win a bottle of 21 year-old El Dorado rum. Colette Abel of Be At One in Cardiff won a Hamilton Beach Fury blender for her Threena Colager, judged to be the best twisted piña colada in the competition.

Host and judge James Coston, from Bennett Opie, said: “Mark brought his A-game on the day; the Coco Lopez & El Dorado Cocktail Challenge is judged on the humour and imagination of the presentation as well as the drinks themselves, and he had us all in stitches.

“His El Coco Bru twisted piña colada was topped with Irn Bru – and served in the can – in tribute to his Scottish heritage, and his Peanut Butter Jelly Time cocktail was actually two drinks in one, presented as a throwback to his school packed lunches complete with crisps, a chocolate bar and a tangerine!”

Sam Fish from El Dorado Rums said: “The finalists this year were all brilliant; the sheer creativity of their drinks and presentation makes this competition the most exciting and fun one to judge. The piña colada is one of the most difficult cocktails to master and we tasted some excellent ones on the day; it was great to see so many modern twists on a classic drink.”

As well as Sam Fish from El Dorado and James Coston from Bennett Opie, the judging panel also included the 2014 Coco Lopez & El Dorado Cocktail Challenge Champion, Marco Piroli.

The ten finalists had each submitted two drinks to the competition. One had to be a twisted piña colada containing Coco Lopez and either three-year-old or five-year-old El Dorado Rum, and had to be blended with a Hamilton Beach blender. The other was a cocktail of their choice, though it had to contain at least 20ml Coco Lopez and three or five-year-old El Dorado Rum.

The winning recipes:

Mark Main’s El Coco Bru

Ingredients: 50ml El Dorado 3 year old rum, 50ml Coco Lopez, 12.5ml Monin Blue Curacao liqueur, 12.5ml lime juice, 2 pineapple chunks 

Method: Blend ingredients and top with Irn Bru, then serve in an Irn Bru can.


Mark Main’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time


Peanut Butter:

37.5 El Dorado 5 year old rum, 37.5ml Coco Lopez,12.5ml lime juice, 25ml half and half, 3 bar spoons of peanut butter 


37.5ml El Dorado 3 year old rum, 12.5ml lime juice, 3 bar spoons of strawberry jam, Pinch of salt, Splash of Opies cherry juice

Method: Blend both drinks separately and serve in a lunch box with everything your mum used to put in; i.e. 3 chocolate bars, a bag of crisps and a tangerine.

Coco Lopez is available from good stockists including  For more information, contact the Bennett Opie sales team on 01795 476154 or visit


El Dorado Rums are available from good stockists including  For more information about the product, contact the Love Drinks sales team on

Tullamore D.E.W. Unveils A World-First Cider Cask Finish Irish Whiskey


Tullamore D.E.W. – the original triple distilled, triple blend Irish Whiskey – has unveiled the world’s first cider cask finished Irish whiskey – Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish.

This unique whiskey combines two of Ireland’s oldest crafts, cider-making and whiskey-making. The result  is a rare blend that brings the senses on a journey – straight to the heart of Ireland. Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish is a triple distilled, triple blend Irish whiskey infused with notes of toasted oak and tinged with cider sweetness to engage and delight the palate of Irish whiskey lovers everywhere.

John Quinn, Tullamore D.E.W. Global Brand Ambassador, commented; “To create Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish, we selected the finest apples, which were then freshly pressed and held in oak casks for several months. As the cider fermented, the tart-yet-sweet notes infused the bourbon casks. We then siphoned all the fermenting cider, replacing it with Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey for a further three months of maturation.”

He continued, “Once a year, this finely-balanced, sophisticated spirit is created here in the heart of Ireland,punctuated by an Irish seasonal craft with exquisite subtlety. By combining the age-old tradition of cider making – which dates back to the 1600s – with Tullamore D.E.W.’s 185 years of expertise in whiskey making, we believe that what we’ve produced is something incredibly exciting – a product that’s truly worth seeking out.”

Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish has smooth distinctive taste – soft and mellow, with a lovely balance ofoak, creamy malt and sweet, fresh apple notes. It’s the sweet, lingering taste and subtle fruity notes that define this singular Irish whiskey, making it the perfect gift for true whiskey explorers.

Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish is a 40% ABV triple distilled, triple blend Irish whiskey, available exclusively at Global Travel Retail outlets around the world.

Freelance Events Curator/Collaborator, Brand Development, Drink Journalist, Taster & Guide to the World of Drinks

%d bloggers like this: