The last two weeks has seen me embrace my favourite rum brand more than ever with a trip to St Lucia for the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai season. Hosted at Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, the 5* venue became the hub for a host of international and island based bartenders for several days, welcoming with a Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Ice Tea upon arrival and offering the relaxed and chilled vibes St Lucia is famous for.
The aim of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai season is to culminate in a combined final of winning efforts from across the world from the last year, paired with St Lucian counterparts to crown the ultimate Mai Tai team and recipe. Representatives include the United Kingdom, USA, Spain, France, Portugal and Sweden, who each won their respective national heats to earn their way to the final.
After being inspired by a tour of St Lucia Distillers within the Roseau Valley, spiced rum talks from local producers, and an insightful chat on all things tiki by the renowned bartender and owner of Spirit of Tiki, Georgi Radev, culminating in the paired teams having the opportunity to experience the Castries Market in the capital city and pick up some local and home-produced ingredients and vessels, ready for the evenings finale.
With 5 judges, including myself and Alva Preville (Taste of the Caribbean winning bartender in 2010 amongst his host of accolades), each paired team had to create a twist on the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai, using their inspiration from their trip so far, whilst also showing off teamwork and producing to us all a display that would be worthy of the top prize!
With magic tricks and crowd chants for showmanship, it all accompanied serves such as the ‘Sop It To Me Baby’ by 3rd place winners Anthony Guaetta (Twin River Casino, USA) and Daniel Francois (Capella, St Lucia) that saw Chairman’s Reserve Spiced mixed with the 6th edition of 1931 rum, a homemade spiced liqueur and Key Lime juice. Second place had the ‘Chairman’s Spiced Intellect’ presented by Andrew Turner (Milk Bar, UK) and Ron Hillar (Capella, St Lucia). They shook up a blend of their homemade spiced syrup, Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Cask, lime juice, pineapple juice, Angostura bitters and a dash of Chairman’s Reserve Spiced, complete with a pineapple, ginger and rosemary garnish.
The winning drink though? It was the ‘Culture Paradise’ by Sharam Mohebbi of OGBG Bar & Restaurant in Sweden and his St Lucian counterpart Stephen Peter. Mixing Chairman’s Reserve Original and Chairman’s Reserve Spiced with Caribbean sherbet, ginger spice and passion fruit plus freshly squeezed lime, it won the judges plaudits! Earning them a cash prize, trophies and a trip for Sharam back to St Lucia, and Stephen to Sweden, plus local television coverage, it’s meant a truly well-deserved effort from both the winning team and all participants in placing them on the map when it comes to the Mai Tai cocktail!
Look out for the 2018 Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai season as more countries become involved with the challenge, as well as plenty of opportunities to experience a variety of Mai Tai twists, or indeed you can create Sharam’s and Stephen’s today!
As with all Society bottlings of single cask whiskies and other spirits, it is a limited edition, with only 234 bottles available. The Society’s expert Tasting Panel describe the whisky, which was matured in a refill hogshead ex-Bourbon cask, as having notes of “pebble beach, seaweed, sun-dried driftwood, bonfire, smoked mackerel and cigar boxes” on the nose, with “blow-torched pineapple and toasted marshmallows” on the palate.
The news comes on the back of exciting times for the SMWS and whisky fans in Sweden.
In August, the SMWS launched its first official partner bar at The Ardbeg Embassy in Stockholm. This relationship sees the world-renowned bar offering an array of Society whiskies and holding monthly Society tasting events. [https://www.smws.com/events/locations/sweden?event_town=462]
The tastings take place on the last Wednesday of each month and are hosted by local SMWS ambassador Patrik Axelsson. The next three events are:
· Wed 25th October: Preview tasting of November’s SMWS releases
· Wed 29 November: SMWS Single Cask Spirits tasting featuring rum, bourbon and armagnac.
· Old & rare whisky tasting – sampling old and hard-to-find SMWS whiskies.
The SMWS, which releases around 20 new whiskies and other spirits each month in Sweden, is also staging a tasting at the SPIS restaurant in Kiruna on Saturday 18 November [https://www.smws.com/events/locations/sweden/smws-sweden-lapland-kiruna-tasting] with local SM9WS ambassador Tommy Calner.
In the coming months, the SMWS will announce plans to stage more tasting events in other locations across Sweden, such as Gothenburg.
SMWS is registered for distance selling in Sweden, so members can order from over 90 bottlings online which are delivered with DHL direct to their door, inclusive of all local taxes – as opposed to ordering and collecting from Systembolaget.
Local SMWS ambassador Patrik Axelsson said: “The release of ‘Burning scarecrows by the sea’ exclusively in Sweden is a great opportunity for our existing members and other like-minded spirits enthusiasts to enjoy a classic example of the single cask whisky that makes the Society unique.
“Through our tasting events at our partner bar the Ardbeg Embassy and the new selection of whiskies and other spirits we release each month, this is a really exciting time to be a member of the Society in Sweden.”
Virtuous Vodka, a high-quality Swedish vodka made from 100% organic, natural ingredients will launch to the UK on-trade with a portfolio of four flavours: Blond, Bitter Lemon, Raspberry and Ginger. Made using a base spirit of Swedish rye, and with no added sugars or aromas, Virtuous Vodka prides itself on only using the best ingredients and methods to produce flavours that are natural and genuine. The result is a grown-up and authentic take on the flavoured vodka category, ideal for mixing in long drinks and cocktails.
Available in 700ml bottles Virtuous Vodka is column-distilled once and unfiltered to render a smooth and well balanced flavour. The resulting Virtuous Vodka Blond has a sweet, peppery scent reminiscent of fresh baked bread and light notes of fruit. Pure and smooth on the palate, there is a fresh, sweet bitterness and touch of spice, with a short and delicate aftertaste.
To create the flavoured varieties only natural, organic ingredients are used. They are added during a maceration process before the vodka is gently filtered, the resulting flavoured vodkas stay true to the flavour profile of the original ingredients, providing a departure from synthetically flavoured spirits:
Virtuous Vodka Raspberry Flavoured with organic raspberries A rich scent of aged raspberries leads to a striking and ripe taste, whilst a certain acidity and sweetness from the fruit balances the vodka. Matures with time to develop a more complex flavour, with less acidity.
Virtuous Vodka Bitter Lemon
Flavoured with organic lemon peel Intense aroma with a sharp and sweet fragrance, the complex taste of lemon-zest elevates the vodka. The juxtaposing flavours of sweetness from the zest and bitterness from the peel results in a modern lemon vodka reminiscent of bitter marmalade.
Virtuous Vodka Ginger
Flavoured with organic ginger A full and aromatic scent of fresh ginger is complimented by a strong and spicy flavour that carries a certain amount of heat.
Like any natural flavour, Virtuous Vodka’s flavoured varieties have an indefinite shelf life, a testament to the authenticity and realness of its ingredients and something founder Claes Stenmark sees as a strength, not a flaw. On the launch he comments, “As a company we believe in three things: true flavours, sustainable business and braveness, and that’s how we produce our vodkas. We’re excited to be launching in the UK at a time when venues and customers alike are looking for something authentic and honest, something we always strive to be. We only say yes to the real deal and no to stuff created in laboratories. Most importantly our vodka is made to taste, not to last.”
With its natural flavourings, commitment to only using organic ingredients, and fresh approach Virtuous Vodka is an exciting addition to the vodka category.
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.
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.
“The inspiration creating Rhuby comes from a childhood in Sweden, at my grandparent’s house, squinting into the early spring sun while punching a juicy Rhubarb stalk into a cup of sugar biting off its frayed end”
It’s amazing what can inspire you to create a product, one that does so much for the bartending community and ultimately one of the most used liqueur expressions around. The above words were uttered by Ylva Binder, founder of the Rhuby liqueur based out from Sweden. Her love of all things sweet can be traced back to her early years alongside her father who had an avid interest in herbs and spices for the traditional SNAPS. Since then, and up to the launch of the liqueur on December 1st 2011, she had worked with such stellar names as Grey Goose, Berkeley Square, BLOOM and Absolut in a career that spanned some 25 years. But it was coming back to her roots in Åker Styckebruk, Sweden, a small village situated in the countryside by lake Visnaren, that really boosted her profile as a Master Distiller.
Using her experiences and her childhood traits and memories, she opted for local, natural rhubarb from within the vicinity of her distillery (although soon she will be harvesting from her own distillery). She uses a wheat vodka base which comes from one of the first organic distilleries based in Södermanland, Sweden. Together, with a low sugar content, it creates the base of many a drink.
To go into a bit more detail of the production, Solveig Sommarström (the master blender of Rhuby) juices the rhubarbs after having been frozen, which ultimately releases more of the flavours. This is preserved with vodka and added at the blending point with water from the natural source of Storskogens Källa. Sugar and a small amount of bourbon bean vanilla are also added. before being rested and left to marry together. Once 24 hours passes, it can be bottled.
So how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Rhuby – 20%
Slight vanilla on the nose rounds off the dominant rhubarb. Fresh, sweet and incredibly inviting. Thin on the palate, with the natural flavour of rhubarb coming through, followed by a velvet sweetness. Slightly thick viscosity on the finish, but a slightly dry hit of the rhubarb creates a long experience.
A stunning liquid on its own, and incredibly fresh to enjoy. However, It’s not a crime with this spirit to enjoy within a cocktail –
50 ml Rhuby
25 ml Cachaca
2 wedges of fresh lemon
Muddle lemon (rather than the traditional lime and sugar). Add plenty of crushed ice and pour a generous serving of Rhuby. To top it off add a splash of cachaca. Garnish with a pink edible flower.
Delightful, and fits well with the Brazilian nature we’ve all picked up on with the FIFA World Cup and Olympics.
Something Ylva prides herself in is raising awareness for charity. The annual ‘Pink Your Drink’ campaign has gone from strength to strength since its inception back in 2012. Rhuby and the ‘Pink Your Drink ‘foundation commits to a loyal and long-term alignment to raise funds and increase the awareness of the Pink Ribbon and support female entrepreneurs.
The major activity of the year takes place in October, Breast Cancer Awareness, when the finals for the all-female bartender competition takes place, with this year (2014) hitting USA, Britain and Sweden. The all-female bartender competition supports women in what frequently is seen as a male dominated industry, as well as donating to charity during the events.
If you are a female bartender and wish to enter, please click here. For more information on the cause, please click here.
It’s great to hear how working in the industry can create a journey that culminates in making your own spirit, and one that reminds you vividly of your childhood. Fair play to Ylva, I think she’s got this brand spot on. One to enjoy.
Mackmyra has come a long way since 1999. Founded as the only whisky distillery in Sweden, it has earned a reputation despite its un-traditional Scandinavian location. But how, and more importantly, why is Sweden coming through as a force to be reckoned with in the whisky world?
You have to start at the beginning to work this out.
Back in the spring of 1998, eight friends on a skiing trip met up at a mountain lodge armed with a bottle each of whisky. The conversation turned to not only enjoying, but wondering why Sweden hasn’t taken advantage of producing. With this, the coming weeks looked into how whisky is produced and to see if they could make Sweden’s first ever. In March of 1999, Mackmyra was founded, alongside their first distillery. To really give you a scope of the size, there were no employees within the company. Instead, all aspects were run by the company’s eight founders. Nine months later, hard work paid off as the first whisky to be distilled came to fruition on 18th December after going through 170 different recipes.
In spring of 2002, the first releases came after much deliberation. The Mackmyra Elegant and Mackmyra Smoke were the graces of Sweden, alongside their new distillery opened in Gävle during the same year.
Mackmyra also offered an initiative called the Mackmyra Reserve. This idea revolves around the opportunity for customers to track their own personal 30-litre cask from production through maturation to final bottling, at a time of the customer’s own choosing. Currently, several thousand co-owners and/or cask owners have their name to Mackmyra.
The year 2006 and 2007 saw Mackmyra release their first young, bottled series of limited editions, creating a prelude to new Swedish whisky. Incredibly popular, they sold out within a couple of hours. To capitalise on the popularity, the following year saw Mackmyra release ‘The First Edition’, the first to be produced in large volumes. Using Swedish ingredients and no additives, this unique expression is still available to enjoy today.
The following years saw more innovative expansions, with 2009 being the start year for their own whisky village deep in the forest Kungsbäck in Gävle that includes tours of their distillery, and in 2010 launching Mackmyra Brukswhisky, the first from them to establish their premium range.
Sounds like everything has gone from strength to strength, but how is it produced?
All ingredients used in the production of Mackmyra are sourced within a 75-mile radius from Mackmyra, except for the yeast, which is from Rotebro. The water goes through a natural filtration process in an esker nearby and is sterilized with a high-intensity UV light. The peat is from a local mire near Österfärnebo, and the distillery uses barley from Dalarna and Strömsta Manor in Enköping. Mackmyra bottles at their natural colour, without additives, and ages their spirits in four different cask types: bourbon, sherry, Swedish oak and in a special signature cask made from classic American bourbon casks and Swedish oak. The whisky is generally matured 50 meters below ground in the disused Bodås Mine in Hofors, and most releases have been at cask strength, except for The First Edition and Mackmyra Brukswhisky.
So how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my Mackmyra experiences so far –
Mackmyra First Edition – 46.1%
Very dry on the nose, a little damp but some sweetness follows. Ripe on the palate, a slight sweetness follows with wisps of cocoa coming through slowly. Short.
Mackmyra Svensk Reserve Double Wood Elegant– 48%
Plenty of wood and malt on the nose, although a lighter experience once upon the palate. Chocolate and tobacco flavours dominate before moving to a smooth vanilla finish.
Mackmyra 10 Years– 46.1%
Matured for ten years on high quality Bourbon, Oloroso and new American oak casks. Light, sweet green apple on the nose, with soft caramel coming through slowly. A building of warm spice upon the palate, with a kick of anise and raisin oak to start the lingering bold finish.
Mackmyra Expedition – 46.1%
Aged within American oak and Swedish oak, then partly finished in casks that previously stored Swedish cloudberry wine.
Very light and thin on the nose, with subtle dried fruits and berries coming through slowly. A blend of fudge and striking spice are present on the palate, with a subtle peat smoke carried towards the long, slightly dry finish.
Mackmyra Blomstertid – 46.1%
Aged within ex-bourbon casks saturated with cherry wine, American oak casks (New and 1st fill), Oloroso wine casks and Pedro Ximenez casks.
Gentle flowers, red fruit and subtle tobacco are present on the nose, leading to a ripe red berry profile on the palate. Fresh, with hints of dry herbs combine to create a cherried raisin finish.
Mackmyra Svensk Rök – 46.1%
Aged within American oak, Swedish Oak, ex-bourbon and casks saturated with Oloroso. Deep smoke forms upon the nose, with hints of vanilla creeping through. Waves of light peat cross the palate, with sweet salted fudge following. Wet tobacco and anise combine towards a lingering freshly smoked oak finish.
Mackmyra Bee – 22%
A liqueur made from Swedish whisky, malt vodka and organic honey. The honey is produced in the surroundings of Gävle and Valbo, and consists mainly of dandelion, linden and forest honey with hints of raspberry flowers.
Soft notes on vanilla and wood on the nose, with the honey dominating. Light, thin but with plenty of aromatic honey flavours blended with butter and coffee. Short and velvet.
Some fantasitc expressions, with such individuality compared to your more classic Scotland or Ireland offerings. I can see why the world is watching when new releases come onto the market. Although limited, it’s still a great addition to your drinks cabinet, and can be found in many a whisky led bar. It’s different, and bartenders love it and are more than willing to share!
This past Thursday saw the eighth meeting of the Manchester Whisky Club, held at The Castle in Manchester. Just like last month, a theme was the order of the day, and as we had covered Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the USA, it made sense to take look at some of the lesser known whisky producing countries including Sweden, Taiwan and England. Club founder Andy brought with him 6 expressions, so without further a do, lets see how they all fared –
Mackmyra First Edition – 46.1%
Swedish. Very dry on the nose, a little damp but some sweetness follows. Ripe on the palate, a slight sweetness follows with wisps of cocoa coming through slowly. Short.
Three Ships 10yr Limited Edition – 43%
South Africa. Very light with a sherry and fruit salad nose with hints of vanilla. A sharp start on the palate with bold citrus flavours and a slight blend of peat and smoak.
Kavalan King Car Conductor – 46%
Taiwan. Rich fruit and a sherry nose, with a sharp, dry texture and flavours of banana on the palate. Creates a long finish.
Amrut Fusion – 50%
India. Dry yet bold with toasted barley aromas on the nose. Very sharp on the palate, with a mouth-watering and long flavour of citrus. It soon dries though, with a salty finish.
English Whisky Company Chapter 6 – 43%
England. Slight smoke on the nose with a light sweet peat aroma coming through. Very sweet on the palate though, with a long flavour of dark chocolate creating a smooth yet dry finish. Hints of iodine and sea salt pop through too.
Penderyn Madeira– 46%
Light on the nose but with sweet honey notes lingering around. Sharp citrus cuts through on the palate, with a dry spice and hints of green fruit coming through. Creates a long finish.
A great look around the world, with some surprising results. My personal favourite out of the range would have to be English Whisky Company Chapter 6, although the Mackmyra First Edition came a close second. There seemed to be a split divide on which whisky favoured each member, but the great thing about the club is, and I could guarantee on my behalf, there would have been a hesitation in purchasing a dram in a bar if I had ever come across these brands, now though, I’d not only purchase, I’d recommend.
Next on the agenda for the Manchester Whisky Club is a touch of India, with Paul John whisky being showcased by the chaps themselves.
A relatively unknown yet widely used liqueur in the drinks industry is the Swedish Xanté. Xanté is a pear liqueur that is blended using pear extracts and cognac to produce a rather stunning, as well as versatile spirit. But if its so versatile, how come we very rarely see it in the market?
My research concludes that Xanté is a premium liqueur created by Richard Heinrich, a master blender at Maison Heinrich Liquoristerie Artisanale, in 1995 and it is blended with cognac from the Distillerie des Moisans in Sireul. Conceived using cognacs matured in barrels made from French Oak as well as sweet pears, it contains only natural ingredients, with its maturing process results in natural sweetening.
So how does a blend of cognac and pear fare? Well below, i give to you my tasting notes –
Strong, fresh pear aromas on the nose with a sweeter pear flavour introduced onto the palate. Slight Cognac flavours come through slowly with a velvet texture creating a mouth-watering sip. Very long.
Tradition goes that you can easily enjoy Xanté neat or over ice, but perhaps try this instead –
Xanté Frozen Berries
40 ml Xanté
40 ml Fresh, frozen or puréed strawberries
40 ml fresh lemon juice
Blend Xanté, strawberries and lemon juice. Add ice and blend until smooth and frothy. Add sugar for extra taste.
The best thing about a pear liqueur, it works fantastic with food –
Roasted Duck with Xanté Sauce
Ready in: 1 hour (if served with oven-baked root vegetables)
2 duck breast fillets
You will need a skillet with some dripping from cooking the duck.
1 dl or 0.4 cups Xanté liqueur
8 tablespoons brown sugar
1 dl or 0.4 cups dark balsamic vinaigrette
Serve with oven-baked root vegetables and lamb’s lettuce
Prepare the oven-baked root vegetables first and then the duck and sauce.
Preheat the oven to 125 degrees Celsius or 257 degrees Fahrenheit. Score the duck’s skin on the breast side at 3 mm or 0.1 inch intervals in a criss-cross pattern but do not cut into the flesh. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Put the duck breasts on a dry skillet skin side down. Heat the skillet and cook the duck for 3–4 minutes until the skin is brown. From time to time, pour off the excess fat. Flip and cook for a couple of minutes. Put the dripping in the skillet to one side for the sauce. Stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the duck, wrap the duck in aluminium foil and roast in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 50–55 degrees Celsius or 122–131 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take approximately 10–15 minutes. Let the meat sit in the foil for about 10 minutes. Slice the meat diagonally and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the sauce. Great garnishes include oven-baked root vegetables and salad.
Prepare the sauce while the duck is in the oven.
Place the liqueur and sugar in a skillet, bring to the boil and cook while stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened to a syrup-like consistency, a process that takes about 3–4 minutes. Add balsamic vinaigrette and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Serve together with the duck.
The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it becomes. Once it cools, it will solidify. Serve the sauce while hot and runny.
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.
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.
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 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
30 ml Absolut Elyx
30 ml Lillet Blanc
30 ml Beefeater 24
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
30 ml Absolut Blue
60 ml Cranberry Juice
5 Whole blackberries
1 Twist of lime
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.
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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.