Mezcal is up in the UK Spirit Market

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One of the most noticeable new trends in the UK spirit market is the rise of mezcal and we’re certainly very proud to have the best and most exclusive selection of mezcal available in the UK.

Not everyone will be familiar with the spirit mezcal and a lot of the time it can be mistaken to be the same as tequila. There are however a few major factors that set these two Mexican spirits apart.

Just a general fact for you all; tequila and mezcal can only be called tequila and mezcal if they are made in specific regions of Mexico. Where they’re made and how they’re made are the key differences that set these two apart. Here’s how…

Tequila is produced only in three small regions, Jalisco, Nayarit and Guanajuato, the most common of the regions being Jalisco. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be produced in most Mexican states with the majority of production taking place in Oaxaca. Tequila can only be called tequila if it is made with Blue Agave whereas mezcal can be produced using over 30 varieties of different agaves. Because of this each mezcal varies hugely in flavour as opposed to tequila which tends to be of a similar taste. When it comes to cooking tequilas, the piñas are baked in steam ovens whereas traditionally with mezcal the piñas are roasted in an underground pit filled with wood and charcoal.

Basically, think of it like this: mezcal is to tequila as scotch single malt is to bourbon, in that it’s a lot smokier and has a much more earthier flavour. Simple.. yes!?

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So when Jon Anders, Amathus Brand Champion, spoke to the Morning Advertiser, it was interesting to hear his view on the sudden rise of mezcal in the UK spirits market.

Here’s what he had to say:

‘Mezcal is the big one. It happened almost overnight, two or three years ago no one had heard of mezcal, now you can get it in bars all over the country’.

‘It taps into the same trend that gets people interested in whisky, as there’s so many different expressions out there. It’s a premium spirit, we sell small volumes but consistently, which is over the odds for a high price imported spirit’.

‘People will be willing to search out places that serve drinks that have that authenticity and quality. They are willing to learn, they read about something on the internet then they want to come to the bar and try some of the drink they hear about, to experiment’.

This just shows how much the spirit market can change over time. Something that people had never heard of 3 or 4 years ago is now fast becoming a must have in bars, restaurants and people’s alcohol cabinets.

If mezcal is your thing then stay tuned…we have a Mezcal Alipus & Los Danzantes masterclass coming soon to our Soho store. In the meantime have a browse of our great selection of mezcal, available in store and online. Happy shopping!

For the full article please visit http://bit.ly/1hrDuNX.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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Tovaritch! Vod-koff – Battle of the Brands

Today is the Amathus Vod-koff blind tasting session and I am sat in front of a flight of 8 clear spirit samples. Knowing that they are vodka, my brain flits back and forth from previous memories of rounds of vodka “samples” whilst out with friends. However, surprisingly, this time my nose is not overwhelmed by the stench of alcohol, but instead I actually smell nothing! I lean forward to check its not water and the light citrus fumes of quality, premium vodka tickles my senses… OK, now I am ready…

Introducing the event is Eugenio from Tovaritch! Vodka. He explains that the object of today and of Tovaritch! as a brand is not to sing and shout about an amazing brand but to sit and consider it against the market leaders. It wanted to create a product that was premium and in competition with the big names; Grey Goose, Belvedere, Ketel One – but was at a lower price point.

Tovaritch! is a Swiss company but its productions are 100% Russian and are proud to claim that this has always been the case. Not widely known it has positioned itself more in the trade market with an aim to become a leading bar house vodka – offering premium quality at great value cost.

Tovaritch! translated means “Comrad” – so called main to convey their worldwide values as a company; never drink alone and socialise with your friends with Tovaritch. The bottle design uses red and silver – red in association with spirits and vodka, and a silver man to represent an image of a “Comrad” socialising with friends in a social environment.

Distilled 5 times, Tovaritch! removes all impurities to create a pure vodka without flavour and is filtered 20 times and very slowly to create a smooth and quality product. It is made from organic grains which means they have not been transformed or enhanced/altered in any way. It is reduced using artisan water from melted snow, and blended with the distilled spirit to create an exceptionally pure spirit.

So now we get to the blind tasting! We are all set to the task of tasting our way through the vodkas, and this is no easy task! All the vodkas are at premium quality and only a couple stand out above the rest… (3) for its rich and vanilla creaminess, (4) for a somewhat “raw” feel to it, and (7) for its distinct floral and perfumed nose profile! We all put our heads together and comment the following:

(1) A peppery smoke on the nose and quite a warming alcohol on the throat – though this was the first one so our palates are probably just adjusting. Long finish.
(2) Quite creamy, smooth. Oily and a little sweet spice.
(3) Rich, rounded, with a creamy vanilla and a hint of citrus on the nose – otherwise very odourless!
(4) Raw tasting – quite aggressive in comparison to the previous and it has a quite a raw element to it.
(5) Quite a silky feel but in terms of flavour, very nondescript.
(6) Grassy notes and a long finish.
(7) Floral, perfumed, sweet to smell and taste – I was wondering if this had been a flavoured vodka by accident!
(8) Earthy notes such as mushroom and a long finish.

Eugenio agrees along with us that vodka is a hard spirit to compare as it is known for its neutrality and qualities lending well to cocktails; as opposed to different expressions of the spirit itself. With lots of shocks and surprises along the way, the results were revealed…

(1) Rye-based Belvedere
(2) Wheat-based Absolut
(3) Wheat-based Tovaritch!
(4) Barley-based Sipsmith
(5) Wheat-based Grey Goose
(6) Wheat-based Ketel One
(7) Grape-based Ciroc (unflavoured!)
(8) Potato-based Chopin

There certainly were some shocks in there as people realised that their favourite/house vodkas were not so hot comparibly! Also, Eugenio described how there were debates in the industry as to whether Ciroc can be classed as a vodka due to it’s base being grape, but controversy aside, it cannot go unsaid that Tovaritch! had a great response blind! It clearly matched its competitors in the field and among the crowd came in the top 2/3 favourites of the bunch – but here’s the real shock, it is not only the cheapest but is priced at almost HALF the price of others at its level of quality!!

As I head for a rather strong coffee to find my feet again, I will leave you with a link to try for yourself! Working well in many, many vodka cocktails or enjoyed on the rocks in real Russian style – here is Tovaritch! Vodka >>>

By Clare Corlett
Amathus Drinks

Artisanal Cachaça: The Versatility of Germana, by David T Smith

With the closing of London’s Olympic Season for 2012, my thoughts turned to the host of the 2016 Games and the 2014 Football World Cup, Brazil. With the sporting world’s eyes on this South American powerhouse, no doubt interests will also increase for their national spirit, Cachaça.

Anyone who is familiar with the drinks industry will know that Gin, Cognac, Rum and, now, Tequila have all grown in popularity, but, for many, Cachaça still remains an unfamiliar spirit.

An introduction to what Cachaça is can be found here on the Amathus site and so, to avoid repetition, let’s move on to looking at one brand in more detail.

Germana is made by Uniagro, but was first made by the Caetano family on their Vista Alegra ranch in 1912; the family still retain some ownership today. The name “Germana” means something that is genuine, pure, without mixing. It was also the name of a mystical nun who used Cachaça in medicinal preparations.

Germana is an artisanal Cachaça, made without the addition of sugar or chemicals and from spirit that is distilled in copper pot stills. They also use natural fermentation (using the cornmeal-fed yeast in the sugar cane) for their mash.

Today, we are looking at their Unaged Cachaça (40%ABV), but Germana also make Cachaça that has been aged for 2 years and 10 years, as well as a Single Barrel and a Heritage bottling. Some of the bottles are wrapped in dried banana leaves, which is hark back to a tradition started a century ago to protect the bottles as they were transported.

On its own
Nose: Very fruity: figs, raisins; lots of jammy fruit. Also, a touch of spice.
Taste: Quite thick in texture, this is also rather rum-like, with flavours of dark treacle and raisins. It reminds me somewhat of Pusser’s or Wood’s Rum. The finish was clean, woody and dry.

Caipirinha
Cooling and clean, with some hints of smoked ham and anise. Simple, but effective and with character, this is very easy to enjoy, having some depth but not being overly-complex.

But there is more to the spirit than these two drinks and it is not just a beverage for the hot months; to illustrate this, I have used the unaged Germana in four seasonal cocktails.

Spring – Marmalade Sour
[30ml Cachaça. 10ml Lemon Juice, 1tsp Marmalade, 2 Dashes Orange Bitters – SHAKE]
This is a variation on Harry Craddock’s Marmalade Cocktail.
This drink is superb. I like gin, but I actually prefer this drink with Cachaça. The sweet, juicy elements of the Cachaça complements the rich, bitter-sweetness of the marmalade, with the lemon juice bringing balance to the drink. Delicious.

Summer – Woody Woodpecker
[40ml Cachaça, 15ml Orange Juice, 10ml Galliano – SHAKE]
OK, so this is not exactly the epitome of Brazilian tradition, but it’s a variation on a drink that many will be familiar with, the Harvey Wallbanger.
The drink is smooth and clean, but surprisingly sweet, making it more well-suited to a post- rather than pre-dinner drink. The sweet Galliano brings out the sweet, fruity flavours of the Germana. For a tarter drink, add 10ml of lemon juice.

Autumn – Rabo de Galo
[30ml Cachaça, 10ml Red Vermouth – SHAKE]
A traditional Brazilian cocktail, this is simple, but packed full of flavour. Warming, with the herbal notes, this is well-suited as an aperitif to stimulate the appetite. Very tasty.

Winter – Quentão
A traditional drink for the Brazilian Winter; a sort of mulled Cachaça. I used a mix of Cachaça, sugar, water, ginger, cloves and other spices, along with citrus peel, which I heated in a saucepan and then served in heatproof glasses.
The spicy ginger and christmas spices complement the juicy and jammy notes of the Cachaça, making for a cosy, warming and comforting drink – perfect for keeping the chills at bay.

After exploring Germana Cachaça a little more, I am impressed with its versatility, being easy to use in a whole range of cocktails, from summer coolers to winter warmers. My favourite was the Marmalade Sour, although I am quite fond of drinking Germana on its own.

 

By
David T Smith
Summer Fruit Cup
david@summerfruitcup.com
http://www.summerfruitcup.com
07759 419997

The World’s Most Awarded Rum – Flor de Cana! By Clare Corlett

As a keen rum fan I had been looking forward to this event all summer. As it came up to 3pm, the crowds were assembling and the anticipation was mounting. Marc Catalán, brand ambassador for Flor de Caña, introduced himself and we were off…


It was instantly apparent that Marc was passionate about rum and, more specifically, this unique rum from Nicaragua, Flor de Caña (“Flower of the Cane”). He explained that, to date, it remains the World’s most awarded rum in the market and is currently the leading brand in Central America, as well as a growing position in the UK and emerging markets. Flor de Caña is owned by the Pellas family, an Italian family based in Chichigalpa, and the rum is produced solely from their sugar mill in San Antonio, and has been for 122 years. What is remarkable and extremely uncommon is that they own this sugar mill, and do not import from outside – which means that they have complete control over the entire process, and in terms of what this means to the resulting quality… well, the rums speak for themselves!

Before I go on to tell you about the different samples, I will just take a moment to talk about the slow-ageing process that takes place. What this means, essentially, is that everything is matured and aged naturally. There is no chemicals or additives – not even caramel – added to adjust colour and there is no blending of ages to alter taste. It is this natural ageing and patience that creates the smooth, silky textures and pure flavours in all of their rums.

Extra Dry White 4yr
This is the only 4yr white rum on the market! Crystal clear in appearance, (achieved through filtration with charcoal) it is extremely light-bodied with a delicious exotic taste of coconut and subtle hints of vanilla. Smooth enough to enjoy alone but also a great base for some tasty cocktails.

Gold 4yr
In essence, this is the same as the Extra Dry without the charcoal filtration. In reality, this transpires into a smooth tasting and more vanilla dominating taste, with that coconut profile making a more subtle appearance. Very silky texture.

Grand Reserve 7yr
A clear mahogany coloured rum, perfectly balanced and it said to make the “perfect rum and coke”! Defined vanilla and dark chocolate flavours and a wonderfully smooth finish that lingers in your mouth.

Centenario 12yr
Moving more into the realms liking to a fine brandy – this would be for those partial to a neat tipple topped with ice or water.. It is reddish-amber in colour and a semi-sweet, chocolate aroma with notes of caramel and nougat. These follow through onto the palate with some wooden characters from the 12 years ageing in barrels.

Centenario 18yr
Of every barrel roughly 80% of the original contents is lost by evaporation through these 18 years. This gives you an idea of the fine quality, concentration and finesse of what we are about to taste… pure amber with notes of almonds and chocolate. This is a melt-in-your-mouth, silky rum, oozing with finesse and sophistication. A rum worthy of no contact than that of from glass to mouth…

Floridita & Meza Food

Along with these great rums were some light bites provided by Floridita and Carom @ Meza. These were devine. There were mini lamb samosas… lobster pastries… pork belly… tasty doritos… and finished off with an amazing strawberry sorbet and puree. Just recalling these makes my mouth water. Check out the photo if you don’t believe me! Yumm…. (see below for website information).

To end a great tasting of rums and Cuban and Indian infused delicacies, came some cocktail ideas of what can be done with Flor de Caña. For a list of ideas please see here

Clare Corlett
Amathus Drinks

With special thanks to Floridita and Meza for the fabulous food and venue for the afternoon tasting!!

Jesus In Town – It Must be Centinela Tequila Time! By Lucy Rundle

Casa CentinelaIt did not escape my notice that a flicker of fear ran through the eyes of those I mentioned “tequila tasting” to. Oh no, doubtless they have memories, albeit blurry, of scantily clad women with holsters and small glasses insisting you down a shot with lemon and salt, whooping and banging on the table then disappearing as fast as your cash. But this was the tequila tradition of the eighties, and not at all the lifestyle we are introduced to at this tasting. In any case, the lovable Mexican from the House of Cabrito & Centinela Tequilas with us today is called Jesus Morasso, and there’s nothing harsh about him.

Jesus Morasso
Jesus Morasso

On the contrary, we learn how this family-owned business makes memories with its tequilas, living life ‘como va’ or ‘as it goes’ – no hurry or sense of urgency, just a careful watch over the Weber Agave plants, planted in the Jalisco region of Mexico – the tequila highlands. There are five tequila regions in Mexico, rather like the delimited areas indicating permitted wines of France (AOCs) amongst which Jalisco is the main player. With its red soil, rich in iron oxide to produce a good concentration of sugars in the agave plant, tequilas from here tend to be fruitier than the more herbaceous tasting tequilas of Mexico’s lowlands.

Having established the first tequila distillery in 1904, the Centinela Family has grown considerably, with agave plantations covering the equivalent of 3,000 football fields to produce 4,000 piñas – or agave hearts – each day in order to make enough tequila for the Casa to reign as the third largest producer, providing Mexico with its most popular tequila.

Time for the taste test! We start with the Cabrito range – this is Mexico’s No. 1 selling tequila and in case you were wondering cabrito means goat (as depicted on the label) and can also be used to describe a rather cool, do-as-he pleases sort of a person – an independent spirit.

Nick Making Cocktails
Nick Making Cocktails

Cabrito Blanco
A clear, bright liquid with fruity flavours of the agave plant and a touch of herbal notes too. This is the ideal mixing tequila really – Nick (see picture) made lovely margaritas with this; freshly squeezed lime juice and a touch of agave syrup for sweetness. They really were refreshing and delicious.

Cabrito Reposado
Reposado tequilas have spent a little time in wood barrels. Ex-bourbon barrels are used as they may only be used once for bourbon, so there is still plenty of flavour to be extracted from the American oak of the barrel. Consequently there is a more spicy and complex palate than the Blanco, and softer mouth-feel.
On to the elegantly packaged Centinela range. (Centinela: The one who defends or protects.)

Centinela Blanco
This blanco tequila had a stronger agave flavour than the Cabrito blanco, along with a real freshness. All the makings of a margarita linger, a hint of mint, salt and lime, although Nick mixed this one with Friché grapefruit soda and served it in a glass with a salt rim. This went down extremely well, possibly as the grapefruit flavour went so well with the agave.

Centinela Reposado
Now we are onto tequilas to spend time with, definitely to be sipped and enjoyed! The Centinela Reposado is my personal favourite, with a bit of a green tea flavour along with cinnamon, toffee, vanilla and a hint of smokiness. Easy to drink, smooth and a lovely, soft mouth-feel.

Centinela Añejo
Ooh, the intensity! This tequila is certainly more complex than the reposado, more closed too, but fuller in body, softer, heaps of vanilla and notes of sweetness – caramel, fudge and toffee. Not sure you would really want to mix this – not to make a margarita anyway, as that would hide some of the delicate flavours derived from more than a year on oak. A proper tequila lover’s tequila.

All tequilas at the tasting are 38% abv.

 

By Lucy Rundle, Amathus Soho
0207 287 5769

An Introduction into Alsatian Wine with Etienne Sipp, by Lucy Rundle

Louis Sipp Wines Master Class with Etienne Sipp
Louis Sipp Wines Master Class with Etienne Sipp

Our host for this indulgent evening was none other than Etienne Sipp, the great, great grandson of the founders of the original Sipp vineyard, Louis and Louise. Etienne possesses all the qualities you would wish for from a wine-maker: a background in chemistry, extensive wine knowledge and an even greater passion for his subject, excellent English coupled with French charm, and a wonderful sense of humour.

Aiming for purity, authenticity and elegance in his wines, Etienne Sipp uses organic farming methods to bring out the very best in the fruit, the vineyards being awarded full certification by ECOCERT for the 2008 vintage. Louis Sipp is considered to be amongst the very top of the 1000 wine producers in the Alsace region. Wines from the area are often described as aromatic as they have such distinctive fruit aromas and flavours, such as lychee in Gewurztraminer, which combine beautifully with delicate rose petal fragrances.

These unique tastes and aromas often match very well with spicy food, so on this occasion our tasting menu was provided by The Red Fort, a sophisticated Indian restaurant in the heart of Soho, known for its Mughal Court cooking.

We started things off with a pop – a lovely, refreshing Louis Sipp Crémant d’Alsace. This sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is perfect as an aperitif.

Murgh Tikka Chicken from The Red Fort
Murgh Tikka Chicken – The Red Fort

Then came the Louis Sipp Riesling “Nature’S” 2008. This was the first vintage to be certified organic, and produced this fresh, lively Riesling, showing stone fruit on the palate and gentle, floral aromas on the nose. The ‘Nature’S’ range was created especially to demonstrate the result of organic wine production methods in the finished product. Etienne says this means ‘the fruit is laughing’ and if the wine is anything to go by, happy fruit makes great wine!

The next wine tasted was the Louis Sipp Pinot Gris “Nature’S” 2008, matched with a delicious Murgh Tikka chicken. The aromatic, pear nose and residual sugar on the palate balanced perfectly with the fenugreek and chili spices, and there was enough acidity in the wine for it to shine through, as opposed to getting lost in all those lovely spices.

Louis Sipp Gewürztraminer Nature's 2009
Louis Sipp Gewürztraminer Nature’s 2009

Louis Sipp Gewurztraminer “Nature’S” 2009 has all the typical qualities we know and love in a Gewurztraminer; an intensely aromatic nose showing rose petals and lychees, some sweetness on the palate and very moreish length! The Red Fort provided lightly spiced spinach & fenugreek patties filled with cheddar, onion and coriander which brought the best out of this delicious wine.

Next in line were two Louis Sipp Grand Cru Kirchberg Rieslings, one from 2008 and one from 1999. The latter was rich and a touch waxy, very smooth and a real treat, without the typical petrol aromas but still fruit-driven and fresh. The 2008 was livelier with a hint of green apples and a mineral note. Both will keep for a while, so ideal for adding to your Riesling collection, but no crisis if you can’t wait and drink them tonight, you won’t be disappointed by either of these vintages.

Spiced, roasted minced Devon lamb skewers accompanied the Grand Crus and were similarly subtle in flavour, again creating a great match.

Roasted rabbit was served with the Louis Sipp Pinot Noir “Nature’S” 2009. Pinot Noir is often paired with game, so this was a little different from the usual with the chili spices and tangy flavours to bring out the delicate, sweet cherry nose of the wine with its smooth, fruity palate.

We finished off with the Louis Sipp Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2007. This was extremely popular and delicious with mango Kulfi – an ice cream dessert. Etienne explained that despite being a vendanges tardives, or late harvest wine, the grapes are not picked too late so as to retain freshness and acidity, making a well-balanced, sweet wine, with good length and wonderful flavours including some refreshing, tropical fruit.

Buy your Louis Sipp here now >>>
By Lucy Rundle,
Amathus Drinks 

Eaux de Vie “Water of Life” Master Class with Philippe & Nathalie Traber

We were delighted to welcome our great friends Philippe and his wife Nathalie Traber for an evening of tasting the fantastic French spirit, Eau-de-vie, from the brilliant producer Mette. For those of you who are not fully aware of what Eau-de-vie is, it is translated into English as ‘the water of life’. By using only the purest of fruit (the producer is so fanatical about the quality of their ingredients that some are grown as far away as Madagascar!) for their distillation, the brandy is so pure and flavourful that it is becoming internationally recognised and are enjoyed all around Europe.

Founded in 1985 by Philippe’s godfather J-P Mette, J-P taught Philippe everything about distilling; from sourcing the finest ingredients to distilling the pure spirit. Philippe, along with his wife Nathalie, bought the estate in 1998. After the ingredients are distilled, through experience and a little bit of trial and error, the fruits are left to macerate from anywhere between 5 days and 6 weeks (it all depends on the sugar levels in the fruits). They now produce around 100 different flavours, and tonight we were lucky enough to sample a small selection of their range. What became apparent as the evening went on was the level of commitment by Philippe when creating his eaux-de-vie, and it’s a quality that has to be admired!

We tasted seven different bottles that Philippe had bought with him from France, all of which (and many more) are available to buy through Amathus Drinks.

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Mette Master Class
Mette Master Class

Eau-de-vie Poire Williams

The pears are picked in the Rhone valley and then sorted at the distillery so that only the purest and finest pears are used. Left for six years to age, the spirit has a pure and elegant note of pears but with a creamy backdrop on the palette. The length of flavour is sublime and like a good book, leaves you wanting more.

Eau-de-vie de Vieille Mirabelle

Aged for 12 years using the finest apricots. Floral notes on the nose then divulged into rich and intense apricots on the palette that then finishes with a soft and creamy flavour. Why not try using this in a Mirabelle martini?

Eau-de-vie Framboise Sauvage

The wild raspberries are sourced from France and Romania and aged for 6 years. The instant notes of raspberries arise from the glass, but deliver an almost dried plum like flavour in the mouth that develops in a spicy finish.

Eau-de-vie Marc de Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1990

Agds for a whopping 22 years and sourced using Mette’s own grapes. The flavour is like a fireball, a big whack of white peach and flowers that then slowly peters out into a sweet and delectable finish.

Eau-de-vie d’Alisier

Sourced from the forest of Vosges, it is ages from 8 years. A rich and slightly sweet taste of marzipan then develops into a rich flavour of almonds.

Spiritueux de Cacao

Using the finest cacao that is sourced all the way from Madagascar! A spicy flavour that oozes dark chocolate and cacao in the glass.

Spiritueux de Gingembre

The ginger is grown in China and Thailand and is left to macerate for 8 weeks. An engulfing flavour of ginger but with a hint of lemongrass in the finish. A perfect digestive after a large meal or why not try flambéing over prawns?

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Amathus Soho

113-117 Wardour Street
London
W1F 0UN