Bell’s, a blended Scotch whisky that has been around from as early as 1825, is a well-known brand that is found in most pubs, bars and restaurants. After finding a bottle on my recent move, it would be unprofessional of me to let it sit there and not be sampled! So here goes – on the nose there’s a light nutty aroma with fresh fruit coming through as well. On the palate, a rather smooth oak taste lingers with a slight nut and spice coming through. A warm tingle after-taste follows which leaves a long flavour (which will be making you want to finish your dram rather quickly!) and at 40 % it’s not too strong and overpowering as some blended whiskies can be.
Something I never knew was that Bell’s is the only major blended whisky to be aged for 8 years, so you’ll be drinking something a little bit special! Its steeped in history that includes Arthur J Bell and his two sons Arthur Kimmond Bell and Robert Duff Bell. His sons are responsible for expanding the product overseas and to trademark the now familiar ‘Arthur Bell & Sons’ and their motto ‘Afore ye go’.
Its rrp is around £15-17 so a bottle can be easily picked up in most places, and as mentioned, can be found in nearly all pubs, bars and restaurants. Other brands in that price range include Teachers, Famous Grouse and Grants.
I would recommend Bell’s Original to the whisky novices as it’s a good introduction to blended whisky. Give it a try!
Frangelico is one of those liqueurs you see all the time on the back bars of trendy cocktails places or sophisticated restaurants, yet you never seem to know what it is. Well I’ll tell you, it’s a hazelnut liqueur that can go well with a wide range of drinks including coffee, orange juice, on its own with fresh lime and can be drizzled on top of desserts too. A wide range of uses for a bottle that is usually seen languishing on the side of back bars. I use to have my own bottle of Frangelico at Casa Tapas Bar & Grill and used it as part of my range of liqueur coffee’s, and with its oddly shaped bottle and friar like rope wrapped around it, it was a great talking point for promotion.
Frangelico is produced in Italy and has a ABV of 24% and as you can see by the bottle, has a history of produce by the Italian monks nearly 300 years ago.
The nose of Frangelico gives an instant hit of hazelnut, a reminder of digestive biscuits also crossed my mind, although on taste, the hazelnut becomes very subtle. It’s a light, almost creamy liqueur that leaves only a hint of nut in your mouth. It’s a short, sharp drink that I think will surprise you. Great for a sweet tooth like myself!
Its rrp is around the £20 bracket, but it’s a worthy price for a liqueur that has many surprising uses.
Amarula is a cream liqueur from South Africa and uses the unique fruit of the Marula tree. Marula is an exotic fruit found only on the sub-Saharan plains of Africa, where it grows in the wild for just a few weeks of the year.
Harvesting of the fruit, ripened under the African sun, happens at the height of the African summer, from mid-January to mid-March. Many of these wild-growing trees, indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, are found in the sub-tropical region of Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province.
When the fruit falls to the ground it is collected by the women of the local rural communities before being delivered to the Amarula production plant in Phalaborwa.
At the plant, each fruit is individually checked to ensure it is fully ripened and free of blemishes before the flesh is crushed with the skins. In a de-stoning tank, rotating blades separate the flesh from the hard seeds or nuts. The fruit pulp is pumped into cooling tanks, where it is kept at a consistent temperature below 6 degrees centigrade to prevent uncontrolled fermentation. The marula pulp is then transported to the cellars in Stellenbosch where it is fermented under conditions similar to wine making. After fermentation, the marula wine is distilled twice, first in column stills and then in copper pot stills, to create a young marula distillate. It is essential that the fresh marula wine is distilled as quickly as possible to retain the fresh fruity flavours. During the second distillation the marula flavours are further concentrated. One distilled, the spirit is aged slowly in wood, spending two years in small oak barrels. Fresh dairy cream is then blended with the Amarula.
So how does Amarula fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Amarula – 17%
On the nose, a very light aroma of the exotic Marula fruit makes its way through, with the taste almost bursting as it hits your palate. A sweet tang to it, it covers your palate nicely and gives off a slow release of Marula that lasts.
A great fruit cream liqueur to enjoy over ice after a meal, or ask your bartender for one of these –
160 ml Amarula Cream
2 Tbs crushed brownie or (Chocolate biscuits)
2 Tsp Hazelnut liqueur
2 Tsp Orange liqueur
30 ml Peppermint Liqueur
Pinch of cinnamon
Chocolate shavings to garnish
Fresh ginger to garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker or blender. Close, shake or blend for 30 seconds, pour over ice cubes into a hi-ball glass and add crushed ice as a top layer. Garnish with wedge of cookie or with chocolate shavings and fresh ginger.
A great cocktail to enjoy not only all year round, but with one of these –
Amarula Bread and Butter Pudding
500 ml Milk
375 ml double cream
5 ml vanilla essence
40 g butter, melted
6 large eggs
200 g castor sugar
125 ml Amarula Cream
6 small soft bread rolls
25 g sultanas, soaked in water and drained
100 g apricot glaze, warm
In a pan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla essence to the boil. Use a little of the butter to grease a large oval pie dish. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and castor sugar until pale. Gradually add the milk-cream mixture, stirring. Add the Amarula Cream and strain through a fine sieve. Cut the bread rolls into thin slices and butter them. Arrange in the pie dish and sprinkle over the sultanas. Pour the Amarula mixture over the bread. The bread will float to the top. Place the dish in a bain-marie on top of folded newspaper and pour in hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake in a preheated oven, 160.
You have to love such a versatile liqueur! Ever since its release back in 1983, its been a staple for both bars and kitchens world wide. Which means only one thing, your missing out.
This is the gin that got me back. I’ve never been a lover of gin but I first tried RIGHT way back at the Restaurant Show in 2009 when it was under the portfolio of Cellar Trends. And WOW. I don’t know whether it’s me and my sweet tooth but RIGHT gin doesn’t seem to give you a dryness that has always put me off the category. It’s filtered 5 times from corn all the way from the USA and then given the mix of 8 botanicals including juniper, coriander, bergamot, lime and bitter orange.
So with this in mind, the aroma of a soft mix of all 8 botanicals is present, with the coriander poking its way through as the more dominant flavour. On taste, the bitter orange powers through, with the citrus lemon refreshing your palate as black pepper notes lead you to a sweet after-taste that lingers, and begs you to have more.
RIGHT gin is a classic on its own or over ice, but shouldn’t be discounted from being used in cocktails such as Tom Collins or Mojito, and is a great addition to a Martini. Priced at around £35, its in the league of the premium gins and should be rubbing shoulders with Chase Williams, Tanqueray 10, G’Vine or Martin Millers Westbourne on any back bar.
This is a spectacular gin, and will be the first addition to my own bar.
The Lounge is Knutsford’s new stylish champagne and cocktail bar located on Princess Street and with its opening night only a few days before, and seeing their video of the refurbishment on YouTube, I popped in to see what all the fuss was about!
With an ambient setting of Italian sofas, and a combination of both small round tables and tall bar seating surrounded by a soft velvet feel, this gave an instant first impression. Decorations of hand drawn champagne bottles, scatter cushions and buckets of champagne bottles don’t look out-of-place, with plenty of space to mingle with friends and colleagues whilst you sip on champagne from the likes of Laurent Perrier or Veuve Clicquot.
Scanning the back bar, i notice bottles of both Chase and Ciroc vodka, Makers Mark, the Havana rum range and Tanqueray 10 . Looking at their menu, I notice you can buy these spirits by the bottle, and receive 2 pitchers of complimentary mixers! On offer there’s also the usual suspects of classic cocktails as well as some specials to tempt your tastes.
Champagne cocktails include French 75, Bellini and Royale Martini and a drink named Chanel No6 (vodka, Chambord and pineapple topped with Champagne) priced between £6.95 and £7.95. Classic cocktails of Mojito’s, Cosmopolitan, Sours and Lynchburg Lemonades are available, with a Mitch Martini catching my eye (vodka, apple and passion fruit puree) priced between £6.95 and £8.95. Wines are available with 3 offerings in the red, white and rose categories. The red include a Hardys Shiraz and a Chilean Monte Verde Merlot, both at £12.50 a bottle. Whispering Hills Californian White Zinfandel and a Spanish Abadia Tempranillo are highlights of the rose sector, both priced at £13.50 whilst you have a Delle Livino Pinot Grigio at £13.50 and a Don Jacoo Rioja for £15.50 for you white wine lovers. Of course the Champagne is flowing freely with both the Laurent Perrier (£55) and Laurent Perrier Rose (£85) on offer and Veuve Clicquot at £65.
The usual soft drinks, tea and coffee are also available, as will a light food menu which will hopefully be up and running at the start of next week.
With friendly staff and an excellent setting, the likes of Amber Lounge and Knutsford Wine Bar better be looking over their shoulders. I know I’ll definitely be back, that Mitch Martini needs sampling!
Last night was Kro Bar’s monthly whiskey tasting night involving a range of whiskey from the Irish based Cooley Distillery.
For those of you who don’t know what Kro Bar is, they’re a Danish family business who specialise in Danish food and beer. A popular idea, they’ve expanded from 1 outlet to 5 in the space of 10 years.
Our host for the evening was Alex Johnson of Eaux de Vie, and he took us through a thorough history of Cooley Distillery itself as well as each individual brand under their portfolio. These included –
– Kilbeggan Blended
– Greenore 8 year old Single Grain
– Tyroconnell Single Malt
– Tyroconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask Finish Single Malt
– Connemara Peated Single Malt
– Connemara Turf Mor Peated Single Malt
Now I’ve personally never tried any of these whiskies before so this was another great insight into another part of the whiskey world. Below are my tasting notes on each whiskey offered to us:-
Kilbeggan Blended – 40% £23.99 rrp
Kilbeggan distillery has the title of the world oldest distillery under its belt (opened 1757) so with a whiskey steeped in history, we expected something a little special, and it delivered. On the nose it gave off a subtle mix of both vanilla and a rather sweet caramel aroma, whilst a soft and almost silky taste of caramel and dark chocolate lay themselves down on your palate, giving you a creamy finish. Recommended as a good starter whiskey to unfamiliar Irish whiskey drinkers, and I’d whole-heartedly agree!
Greenore 8 year old Single Grain – 40% £31 rrp
Produced in a continuous still instead of the traditional copper pot still, the Greenore 8yr is lighter in taste but rougher on the back of the throat. So with this in mind, the nose gave off some delicate citrus notes with a slight mix of corn. As it hits your tongue, it gives you a short, sharp hit but mellows quickly into a more distinctive citrus taste with a hint of barley coming through as it gives you a subtle burn (not as harsh as you would expect a grain whiskey to be).
Tyroconnell Single Malt – 40% £32 rrp
Named after a race horse back in America, it was originally produced by the Watts Distillery until prohibition forced them to settle in Ireland. Tyrocennell was Americas biggest selling whiskey before the prohibition, and was one of the first to be brought back to life by Cooleys in 1992. On the nose it gave off a fresh mix of jasmine, malt and honey with the palate enjoying a fruity blend of orange and lemon with the malt making a strong presence in the long after-taste.
Tyroconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask Finish Single Malt – 46% £49 rrp
Initially matured in American oak barrels, it finished life off for 6-8 months in a Madeira cask. Hints of cinnamon softly enter your nose but you get a kick of mixed spice as it hits your palate.
Connemara Peated Single Malt – 40% £31 rrp
Connemara distinguishes itself away from the Scotch peated whiskies as being produced in rural areas, not coastal, so there’s no powering hit of sea spray or iodine. On the nose it gives you a balance of dried fruits, honey and wild flower. The palate however gives you a silky smooth start of honey, with a more powerful and intense taste of fruit and peat coming through giving it a long finish.
Connemara Turf Mor Peated Single Malt – 46% £51 rrp
What Alex described as ‘bringing out the heavy stuff’, the last whiskey of the night was the heavily peated Connemara Turf Mor. It gives off a rich mix of salt, spice and subtle smoke. On the palate it gives you an intense kick of peat and smoak but develops into a mellow after-taste that leaves dry spice flavours lingering.
Mid-way through the tastings, Kro supplied us with a delicious lamb-stew which went down very well on a cold and rainy night in Manchester!
A thoroughly enjoyable night in which we were able to sample a good range of what both Cooley Distillery and Ireland have to offer. Irish whiskey hasn’t been something I’ve taken much notice of in the past, with only Jamesons and Bushmills my only knowledgable ports of call. But I’ll be looking out for the Kilbeggan Blend as well as the Greenore 8yr which Alex says are widely available in places likes Corks Out.
Next month’s Kro 2 whisky tasting will be hosted by Compass Box who are an independent Scotch whisky company. On offer will be Great King Street, Spice Tree, Hedonism, The Peat Monster and Orangerie. 5 whiskies I’ve never tried, but can’t wait to taste!
Corks Out is an independent wine and spirit merchants who base themselves in the North West. A couple of years ago they opened a store in Timperley and I use to frequent there to purchase that something special. Both wines and spirits have been bought including Licor 43, Goslings Navy Seal rum and Martin Millers gin, Old Tom ales and various wines from different countries.
Me and my flat-mate made a recent trip there a few days ago to purchase for him a bottle of gin for a friend’s birthday. As ever the staff were very knowledgable and helpful in choosing the best gin for our price range (he opted for Martin Millers London Dry), a selection that also included Chase Williams, Blackwoods and Haymans.
We had also heard about Corks Out new seating areas that they have recently introduced where you can have a glass of wine or champagne. We decided to go for their corkage deal where you can purchase any bottle of wine for over £10 and pay only £3.50 corkage! We opted for a Chilean Montes Pinot Noir 2009. An easy drinking medium-bodied red wine that had wonderful red berry and raspberry aromas. On the palate, it gave off an intense flavour of strawberries and vanilla with a savoury character which gave it a long lingering after-taste. At only £9.95, this was a bargain, and to be able to drink it surrounded by what literally can only be described as a wine cellar on street level, it can even beat having a glass of wine in a local bar.
Theres stores in Alderley Edge, Chester, Stockton Heath and Heswall so if you’re near, pop in and take a look at what I can safely say is one hell of a good range! I may even see you there myself!
Check out their website at http://www.corksout.com for deals and details of there wine tasting sessions that they offer every month. Don’t forget to sign-up to my drinks blog (available at my home page) for reviews of the upcoming tasting sessions as and when they happen.
Classed as Manchester’s best bar for whisk(e)y, The Briton’s Protection has got it all. On the corner of Great Bridgewater Street, the outside decor gives it a traditional pub feeling, and with hanging baskets from every window, it oddly doesn’t look out-of-place nestled in Manchester. Once you step foot inside you enter the long bar area where your greeted with a smile by both barman and customers. On my most recent visit, I of course opted for a whisky, but they do have other varieties available including Guinness, Staropramen, Strongbow and Carling on tap, and a range of spirits including the new Kraken spiced rum and Monkey Shoulder. Wines are available as well as ales including Tetley, Beartown and Angel Tears.
As mentioned, my most recent visit I opted for a whisky. You are handed the whisk(e)y menu (something that has never happened to me before!) and can browse through their quite stunning selection. You can scan there backbar that includes the Scotch Glenfiddich range and Johnnie Walker, the Irish Jameson’s as well as American Jim Beam, Makers Mark and Knob Creek but the menu indicates some little gems that you can miss. Their selction also includes a Czech and Welsh whisky which im going to have to go back and try. I went for a Dalmore 15yr (check out my tasting notes on the Dalmore 15yr here – https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/dalmore-whisky-masterclass-review/ )
Whilst sipping on The Dalmore, I couldn’t help but notice they have a certificate hanging predominantly on the bar with the words ‘Whisky Bars of the World 2011’. I couldn’t agree more! With nearly every whisk(e)y available, you will surely find something that will take your fancy, and if not, the barman seem more than capable in offering you their advice which although probably mandatory in the job description, always makes you feel a more welcomed.
If your ever in the Manchester area, this is one of the must-see places on your to-do list and when you can pick up a Glenfiddich 21yr for just £7.50, even Jamie Milne, the Glenfiddich UK Ambassador, is pleasantly surprised!
The Bacardi Training Team were back in Manchester recently for the next round of their training sessions, this time held in the Champagne and cocktail bar Epernay. Leanne and Tom were our hosts in this popular Manchester bar and perfect setting to learn about Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve!
Starting off with a cocktail named Stonefence, a mix that I’ve surprisingly never heard off yet so simple – whiskey and cider! Apparantly made around the 1800’s in the time of Jerry Thomas, it was surprisingly nice and balanced quite well!
Leanne then spoke about the 400 year history of whiskey in America whilst we sampled rye whiskey (not very strong on the nose, gave off a soft vanilla scent. The taste gave a slight fire burn which resulted in a long after-taste). To be classed as Rye Whiskey, it must be made from at least 51% rye, distilled at less than 80 percent and stored in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years and most Rye whiskies are made in Indiana and Kentucky. An example of rye whiskey is Rittenhouse, a brand that I used to sell in my last place of work.
We then learnt about the start of whiskey, where in the late 1800’s, the Scottish and Irish settlers brought over to America their knowledge of the production of whisky and settled in the surrounding regions of Virginia. Since corn is native to America, this resulted in the use of corn as a basis for whiskey production. We tried a small sample of corn whiskey, before the start of maturation, that gave off a very overpowering and a scent of fresh bread which came more alive upon tasting. To compare, we also tried a wheat whiskey that gave a smooth scent and taste but a rather bland and virtually no recognisable flavour on the palate.
The legend of Elijah Craig was also explored. He apparently is credited in being the pioneer of the first true bourbon whiskey and also the charred barrel method of ageing the whiskey. Many stories for the charred barrel legend include that he purchased a barrel that had previously been used to store fish and burnt the inside to remove the smell. He then put his whiskey in and transported it down the river.
Next, the laws of American Bourbon were mentioned. These include –
Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA (but mainly found in Kentucky)
Only Bourbon from Kentucky can advertise the state in which it is made
Must contain at least 51% corn
However no more than 80% with the other 20-49% having a combination of rye, barley and wheat
All American whiskies must be aged in new American white oak casks that have been charred on the inside for at least 2 years.
As mentioned above, the charring of the barrels releases sweet and smoky flavours to the Bourbon which give it a stronger, more flavoursome whiskey than that of Scottish or Irish whisky. The barrels can’t be re-used, so they are sold to other spirit distillers of rum, tequila and Scotch.
The addition of ‘sour mash’ is also a signature of American whiskey. 25% of the mash from a previous batch is added to the fermentation process so to keep a consistent style.
The Lincoln County Process was also mentioned by Leanne, which is the main difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. In Tennessee, the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before ageing and must be made by at least 51% of single grain and can only be made in Tennessee. This brought us nicely onto Jack Daniels. Being from Lynchburg, Tennessee, it is therefore classed as a Tennessee whiskey. We sampled Tennessee whiskey both before and after charcoal ageing. The before whiskey had the same nose as corn however the taste wasn’t as strong and gave a smoother more delicate flavour. The post whiskey had a more subtle nose and a creamier taste than before charcoal ageing.
2 different Manhattans were then made to both see and taste the difference between the one made using Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels Single Barrel. Being a Manhattan drinker, both = excellent! And one sip was definitely not enough!
The Jack Daniels Single Barrel was next on the agenda to be tasted. On the nose it gave off a subtle vanilla aroma with a slight oak lingering behind. The smooth vanilla extracts were released upon tasting which made it just that little bit easier to drink than its Old No.7 version.
The Gentleman Jack on the nose gave off a very strong vanilla aroma yet on the tongue it was very smooth and not as harsh as you may think after the initial nosing. It gives a gentle vanilla/toffee colour compared to a more Old No.7 style colour for the Single Barrel.
We also tried Woodford Reserve to have a comparison. On the nose it gave off a strong caramel scent with a smooth lingering vanilla aroma which carried on to the taste. However the caramel becomes more subtle in flavour resulting in a smooth lingering after-taste.
If you are close to any of the BBFB Training Shows, make sure you go along and check them out. It’s a great chance to learn and sample the brands that Bacardi Brown-Forman have got underneath them. Check out there website at http://www.pourfection.com/trainingteam
I received a bottle of Eristoff Vodka (40%) from Russia as part of a competition I won involving Funkin Purees, and as a vodka I’ve never actually got round to tasting, I was pleasantly surprised!
You can pick a bottle of Eristoff up for around £15 so it’s in the same price league as Smirnoff and Russian Standard, but this I have to say is one of the rather better vodkas.
On the nose, it gives off a strong classic vodka aroma with a hints of fresh floral. However on the tongue, the vodka becomes very smooth, with the floral flavours still lingering around your mouth. It’s not as strong as I thought it would be and it gave a slight fire after-taste to ‘pick you up’. Its good enough to drink neat or over ice and would even work well with some classic cocktails like the Moscow Mule, or even a Vodka Collins. Don’t knock it till you try it!