The BEAT Society Takes Refuge In Manchester


The Pernod Ricard BEAT Society rolled into Manchester this week with its 6 strong team of some of the UK’s influential and engaging industry figures taking over the new Refuge bar and restaurant in the city centre.

Concentrating on seven categories, the likes of Phil Huckle (UK Brand Ambassador Chivas Regal), Liam Sparks (Irish Whiskey Ambassador), Megs Miller (UK House of Tequila Ambassador), Matthias Lataille (UK Brand Ambassador Martell), Michael Foster (UK Brand Ambassador Havana Club) and special guest Jake O’Brien Murphy of Callooh Callay in London showed off their respective brand and category, but with a twist that offered an insight ‘outside the box’.

With only two more cities out of the initial seven to visit, I thought I’d offer an insight into what you can expect for the day as the BEAT team head to Newcastle (31/01/2017) and Liverpool (28/02/2017).

Prepare to demystify the style of Irish Whiskey and the impact that Jameson and Midleton Distillery have created within the whiskey market as Liam Sparks talks through the process of creation. From both column and pot distillation, to the wood styles within ageing, Liam engages with his knowledge and stories over a couple of drams, including distillates from the column and pot stills, as well as the likes of Redbreast 12yr and Jameson Caskmates.

Following the Irish closely are the Scots, championed by Phil Huckle with his focus on the luxury blend of Chivas Regal. Promoting towards the history of the whisky cocktails and how Chivas Regal have been at the forefront of some of the most iconic classics, experience the styles and profiles of such forgotten gems as the Morning Glory Fizz, as well as last years Chivas Masters winning drink by Chelsey Bailey. You can also hear how you can enter the 2017 edition of the Chivas Masters, as well as experience The Huckster!

Heading to the grape side of the spirit categories, Matthias Lataille shows his insight into Martell by bringing it to the forefront of your mind when modifying your cocktail creations. Sample classic cognac drinks such as the Sidecar using the VSOP expression, as well as twists on staples including the Pierre Collins as Matthias shows his creativity and knowledge on cognac and tips of how to invite your customers to experience.

Special guest star Jake O’Brien Murphy of Callooh Callay in London is on hand for the tour to offer an honest insight into the world of cocktail competitions, using his own experiences of entering competitions, including Jameson and Havana Club, in his career that includes positions within famed bars in Liverpool such as 81LTD. The do’s and dont’s of performance etiquette, how to approach those all important judges, understanding the brief set out, and adapting yourself to the live situation with confidence, Jake goes through the motions of before, during and after as you set out to highlight yourself to your peers and industry figures.

Demystifying tequila is Megs Miller, one of the latest additions to the BEAT Society family, as she focuses on Olmeca and how agave is riding the trend of the bartenders inquisitive. Serving up samples of Blanco, Reposado and Anejo, she’ll guide you through the tequila process, how Olmeca has grown over the years to accommodate changing tastes and attitudes towards the category, as well as her own agave experiences and stories when visiting Mexico and teaching across the world.

You can listen to Michael Foster’s stories too as he talks about Havana Club, with an emphasis on Cuba itself. Diving into how Havana Club has impacted the island in regards to cocktails such as the Mojito, Cuba Libra, Daiquiri and El Presidente, the enjoyment of the traditional recipes of such too, plus an understanding of how these classics have been devised through the stalwart bar scene within Cuba itself.

Mr Jake O’Brien Murphy also talks candidly on the vodka category, with the focus on Absolut and twisting the pre-conception that vodka is a ‘dying category’. He talks about the iconic Pornstar Martini and Cosmopolitan whilst giving his own views on how vodka can be best utilised in any bar through some simple changes.

Of course, no day of learning would be complete without a tipple of Mumm Champagne, with Matthias Lataille guiding you through the brand as you finish off the BEAT Society experience.

If you’re anything like me, having the opportunity to listen to one iconic figure in the industry is amazing, but to have seven in one room, offering their slant on their chosen category, is beyond an experience. Get yourselves signed up to Newcastle and Liverpool, immerse within the BEAT and take it all in.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. 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.

Absolut Captures the Brazilian Spirit with a New Limited Edition – Absolut Rio

Absolut Rio

In celebration of an exciting summer of football, Absolut vodka introduces a new limited edition bottle – Absolut Rio. Absolut Rio will be available exclusively at Sainsbury’s out now (RRP £22).

To celebrate the very best of Rio de Janeiro, Absolut collaborated with the visionary Brazilian designer Oskar Metsavaht to transform the bottle by paying tribute to the essence and exceptional nature of the people of Rio de Janeiro, the ‘cariocas’.

When creating the art for the special edition bottle, Metsavaht drew his inspiration from his own photos of Ipanema and brought the essence of the city’s universe of image and iconography to the world of Absolut. These typically carioca elements sum up Rio de Janeiro: sand, the sidewalk of Ipanema and the Dois Irmãos Mountain.

With a flavor mixture that goes way beyond exceptional, the taste of Absolut Rio includes a combination of tropical fruits – orange, mango and passion fruit.

“I accepted the challenge from Absolut because I think it’s interesting to take a world icon and be able disrupt it. This is also part of the soul of Rio; ‘cariocas’ don’t understand limits. And the special edition is to pay tribute to Rio, to reveal to the world what is exceptional in this city that I admire, that I live in and that I revere”, says Oskar Metsavaht

“We’re excited to be launching Absolut Rio ahead of an exciting summer of football in Brazil. The new tropical flavor will transform the football viewing experience by bringing some of the infamous Brazilian spirit to the table. With this bottle, Absolut has immortalized the coveted ‘carioca’ lifestyle through the hands of someone who is a ‘carioca’ at heart”, says Adam Boita, Marketing Controller, Pernod Ricard UK


For information on Absolut products, please visit

Absolut Tasting Notes

Absolut vodka is a well-known, pioneering brand all over the world, and recently I’ve been lucky enough to try the original, as well as several of their flavoured options.

But first, how did Absolut come about?

Every drop of Absolut vodka comes from one source – the little-known village of Åhus in southern Sweden. More than 400 years of vodka-making tradition stands behind Absolut. The precursor of today’s Absolut, “Absolut Rent Bränvin” (Absolute Pure Vodka), was introduced in 1879 by the Swedish entrepreneur, Lars Olsson Smith, also known as “The Vodka King” (the medallion on every bottle bears his portrait). Both Absolut and the Absolut flavours are distilled hundreds of times  with the process of continuous distillation, introduced in Sweden by L O Smith and perfected through today. The Absolut flavors are made by blending the vodka with only natural flavors. – no sugar is added.

Every day about 600 tons of winter wheat arrive at the Nöbbelöv Distillery. The wheat is grown in Skåne in southern Sweden and comprises about 20 percent of the total harvest of wheat in this province. Absolut makes the same high demands on its wheat as the food industry, and the suppliers must follow specific demands for minimizing the negative effects of cultivation on the environment. Absolut is Sweden’s largest food and beverage export with 125,000 tons of winter wheat harvested every year. Farmers in southern Sweden combine age-old tradition with the latest in agricultural technology to produce some of the finest winter wheat in the world. Sweden has one of the oldest vodka traditions in the world and in southern Sweden, the climate is ideal for growing winter wheat. The several hundred farmers in southern Sweden contracted by Absolut plant their wheat in September and October. The wheat germinates and grows five to ten centimeters during the mild months of fall. When the frost sets in, the wheat stops growing and lies dormant all winter. In the spring, when the sun and warmth return, the wheat continues to grow – but now at an accelerated pace. The winter wheat being planted this fall will be harvested in August next year and used to produce next year’s supply of Absolut. The wheat is transported from the nearby wheat fields to The Absolut distillery in Nöbbelöv near Åhus, where it is first grinded, then combined with water from the company’s own well.

The Wax Seal

Water to blend Absolut comes from a well in Åhus. The water from this artesian spring dates back as far as the Stone Age. The clean rains that fell over Åhus long before pollution many thousands of years ago, slowly trickled down through layer after layer of moraines and limestone. It was enriched on its way with healthy minerals and salts and eventually formed this artesian spring of perfectly clear water 200 meters below the ground.

The 600 tons of winter wheat that arrive at the Nöbbelöv Distillery every day is cleaned and milled in hammer mills that can process up to 18 tons of wheat per hour. The milled wheat is mixed with the pure spring water to form a mash. An enzyme is also added (a biocatalyst), which helps the starch in the wheat to break down into sugar. For three hours the mash is heated to a maximum of 90° Celsius. The heat releases the starch from the wheat and speeds up the breakdown of starch into sugar. The heat and the long “cooking time” also helps kill any bacteria. Before the fermentation process begins, the mash is chilled and poured into enormous vessels called fermenters, which have a capacity of around 600,000 liters. Yeast is added at the same time. The yeast transforms the freed sugar into ethanol (alcohol). The mash ferments for two days; by then the sugar has been used up and the alcoholic content in the mash is 10%. The fermented mash is pumped into the raw spirit distillation process. The alcohol that forms is distilled off and concentrated to 87% abv, so-called raw spirit. On average the distillery at Nöbbelöv produces 150,000 liters of raw spirit every day, all year round.

The raw spirit is further distilled in order to achieve the correct purity. The method used is called continuous distillation; this implies that the spirit is distilled more than a hundred times in order to achieve the highest possible quality. This revolutionary method was introduced in Sweden by “the King of Vodka” Lars Olsson Smith in 1879. The last remnants of the fusel oil and other impurities disappear at this point, and after distillation the spirit is 96%, now called fine spirit. The entire process takes a little longer than three days.

On average 600,000 bottles of Absolut are produced every day in Åhus. Most Absolut bottles are made in Limmared not far from Åhus, but production also takes place in France. All bottles are manually checked and then rinsed with Absolut. After washing, the bottle is filled with the scheduled variety of Absolut. The same bottling machine is used for all flavours and is washed automatically between flavours. The bottling machines can fill up to 240 bottles per minute. After capping, the bottle is sealed, the modern seal replacing the seals of former times. The seal is now made of plastic, which is heated and “shrunk” on to the bottle and the cap. The most intricate part of the whole bottling process is fixing the medallion showing “the King of Vodka” L.O. Smith on to the bottle. This must not vary by more than 0.5 mm. The bottle is positioned correctly with the aid of marks on the glass, and then the medallion is attached. Apart from the medallion, there is also a back label and in certain cases an importer’s label on the bottle.

Some of the Absolut Range

So has the ‘vodka king’ done his country proud? Well below I give to you my tasting notes on each –

Absolut Blue – 40%

Clean on the nose with a slight hint of wheat. Smooth as it hits the palate, with tons of liquorice on a short offering.

Absolut Peach – 40%

Very strong peach aromas on the nose results in a harsh hit on the palate that mellows out. A little dry on the end.

Absolut Kurant – 40%

Fresh dark berries mix well on the nose with a good, long finish that combines subtle currant flavours.

Absolut Vanilla – 40%

Soft vanilla nose that’s inviting for a long, rich finish on the palate.

Absolut Pear – 40%

On the nose it’s very fresh and sweet. with the freshness carrying on to the palate with light tones of pear creating a long finish.

Absolut Mandarin – 40%

Lots of fresh mandarin aromas on the nose, although quickly disappears on the palate. Very short.

Absolut Raspberri – 40%

Strong, overpowering aromas of raspberry hits the nose and palate, but mellows out quickly with a burst at the end.

Absolut Elyx
Absolut Elyx

Absolut Ruby Red – 40%

No immediate aroma on the nose with very little happening until it hits your palate. Mouth watering slow bursts of grapefruit creates a long finish.

Absolut Citron – 40%

Subtle, smooth citrus flavours on the nose, with an almost creamy offering on the palate. Likened to a lemon meringue.

Absolut Pepper – 40%

On the nose, a smooth dance of spice, hots up on the palate but mellows quickly resulting in a long, long after-taste.

Absolut Berri Acai – 40%

An instant hit of blueberry that moves quickly into the aromas of the pomegranate and acai. On the palate, the acai hits first, with the blueberry following in a big burst and then finishing with a warm feeling of pomegranate.

There’s been a new variation that has shaken the Swedish vodka tree with the introduction of Absolut Elyx in 2010. The combination of using manual processes, craftmanship and attention to detail by human instead of machine through every aspect of its production. The single estate wheat from Råbelof castle in Sweden is distilled by hand in a 1921 copper still.  Every part of the production, from the planting of the first seed, all the way through distillation and bottling, is performed within a 25 km radius in the Åhus region of Southern Sweden. The water comes from the natural underground spring, upon which the copper distillery rests. Filtered through the limestone bedrock, the water is exceptionally pure, low in minerals and incredibly soft.

Absolut Elyx – 40%

Clean on the nose with a distinct flavour of the wheat coming through. Very clean on the palate, with a growing flavour of fresh wheat, smooth water and a mouth-watering finish. Lingers with hints of dryness.

Recommended to be drunk neat with a huge block of ice, or with one of these –


Absolut Elyx Vesper

Glass –


Ingredients – 

30 ml Absolut Elyx
30 ml Lillet Blanc
30 ml Beefeater 24

Method – 

Measure Absolut Elyx, Lillet Blanc and Beefeater 24 into a mixing tin. Fill three-quarters full with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupette glass. Press oil from the lemon twist over the drink and serve.


Absolut Blackberry Attraction

Glass – 


Ingredients –

30 ml Absolut Blue
60 ml Cranberry Juice
5 Whole blackberries
1 Twist of lime

Method –

Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Garnish with lime.

A cracking range of vodka, especially the Elyx. Worthy of having a couple of the flavours in your drinks cabinet, and they wouldn’t ruin a night-out at your local bar.

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at Canvas Lounge, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. 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.

The Liquorists Vodka Trail Review

Last night was another installment into The Liquorists busy calendar, the vodka trail. Following the same concept of their Nominees & Spirited Ventures trails last month, we were to be enjoying 5 different vodka’s, 5 different vodka cocktails in 5 different bars accompanied by 5 different light bite appetizers. Sound daunting? Challenge accepted!

Finlandia Caiproska at Blackdog Ballroom

Starting the night in the Blackdog Ballroom in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, we gathered in the bar’s Ballroom, a quietly tucked away private member’s bar which is perfect for events like this. Mr Tom Sneesby would be our host for the evening as he explained a brief history on vodka, what The Liquorists are all about and why we had a shot of Finlandia in front of us. Finlandia is a perfect example of how a spirit can get better when mixed properly. Although nice on its own, the Finlandia Caiproska that came after brought this Finnish vodka more alive. A small bite to eat followed in the form of breaded chicken strips and chips and then we were hopping into a taxi to our next venue, 24 Bar & Grill.
Cariel Vodka was the choice of vodka at this newly re-branded bar (formerly Obsidian), and one of my personal favourites in the cocktail world, the Pornstar Martini, was made to perfection using Cariel’s vanilla flavour. Nestled at the end of the bar in their boothed seating, we enjoyed small pineapple and coriander salsa pastries to accompany the cocktail, as well as a shot of Cariel vodka to finish the visit off.

Pornstar Matini with Cariel Vanilla vodka at 24 Bar and Grill

Epernay was the next port of call, with the stunning champagne venue offering us Belevedere vodka to sip while French 76 cocktails were being hand crafted for our pleasure. Tom gave us a little history lesson on Belvedere, and mentioned that the building on the front of every bottle is the Polish presidential palace Belweder, with the vodka being named after it. From Poland to Sweden, Absolut vodka was next to showcase themselves at Hula, with a tiki cocktail being elaborately concocted while we munched on what I can only describe as a volcano of sweets – literally. Sherbert straws were on hand in our tiki drinks, while we drank amid a beach bar with hammocks and fire (no joke with the fire part!).
Our last bar for the night was in Manchester’s mecca when it comes to cocktails in the Northern Quarter – Socio Rehab. The French vodka Grey Goose was sipped, while Grey Goose le Fizz cocktails were brought over to us amid vegetable and meat toasties to warm the cockles of the rainy weather outside.

Grey Goose le Fizz at Socio Rehab

A great night was had, with a round of applause given to Tom by all  in attendance. And it truly was. My friend came with me last night as the trail was a great idea for an early Christmas present, and he’s now raring to go back to all 5 bars again, with Hula and Epernay his highlights. As for me, all 5 bars are favourites of mine for various reasons, but the Pornstar Martini with Cariel Vanilla vodka at 24 Bar & Grill would be the recommendation of the night, but this is coming from a guy who loves vanilla!

They’ll be more trails coming up in the near future, so keep an eye on The Liquorist’s website and Facebook page for more information

Click on my Links page for links to all the bars and brands mentioned in this article


© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. 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.