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!?
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!
Last evening, we were thrilled to welcome StefanoMarello to Amathus City and get introduced to the great history and the background of Porto Cálem.
Cálem was founded in 1859 by Antonio Alves Cálem and remained in the family for four generations. Interesting fact: 1859 was also the year when Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species”. The history of the company is strongly associated with trade in Brazil – they were selling wines in exchange of exotic food with their own fleet. The logo is reflecting the history of the brand. Nowadays, their main cellar attracts more than 150,000 visitors per year.
Stefano talked about the greatness of the Douro Valley and gave us more information about the climate and the soil of Quinta de Arnozelo; the crown jewel of the company. Covering an vineyard area of 100 hectares and an excellent microclimate, it enables Calem to produce high quality port wines. He explained that the climate is Mediterranean with rain and severe snow in certain areas with temperature that can fall below -3 or -4oC. Summers are usually long and hot and temperatures can reach 40-47oC. It was very interesting to learn more about its soil, Schistose. As Stefano explained, you are not able to dig a hole with your hands and plant the vine but you actually have to break the rocks, plant the vine and reconstruct the vineyard. The soil is very poor in nutrients and doesn’t retain much water – this is excellent for high quality port production, as the plant is in hydric stress and tends to extend its roots in the ground in order to survive. The resulted grapes are small in size but highly concentrated.
How do you fortify?
The main question on Port-making was regarding the fortification. Stefano showed us pictures of the spirit being blended with the wine and informed us that the they use an odourless, flavourless, spirit made from distilled wine with a 77% ABV. The spirit is not adding any organoleptic characteristics to the resulting product. Many of our guests asked why the ABV is so specific and we were told that this is the ideal value as it kills all the yeast, so any higher values wouldn’t bring additional advantages.
Interesting fact: The first Port wines were dry but the producers had to add brandy in them so the product would stay safe during its trip from Portugal to England.
How does port age?
Stefano gave us detailed information about ageing and how the different styles of port are made. They use stainless steel vats, barrels and wooden casks. Our guests were surprised to hear that the average age of wooden vats is 62 years old in the winery, meaning that there are casks over 100 years old. The growers use to say that in that way “the new wines acquire all the experience from the previous wines”, meaning that the wood becomes an integral part of port-making without adding any flavours. We also talked about the “Angels’ Share”: Due to evaporation, a part of the production is lost every year.
We started the tasting with the NV White & Dry, which was very refreshing and with lemon and citrus aromas. You can enjoy it chilled as an aperitif or use it in a cocktail. Stefano highly recommends adding tonic, lemon juice and maybe some mint leafs. We tried it and it was delicious! You can enjoy it with fresh salads, light fish or pasta.
Moving on to the Fine Ruby, we all enjoyed the concentrated fruity aromas and the intensity of strawberry and cranberry notes. Very elegant and smooth. We paired it with a richly flavoured Camembert. The next one was the Cálem LBV, the most celebrated port style in the UK. It demonstrated rich cherry and blackcurrant aromas and firm, well-integrated tannins. It paired really well with milk chocolate and you can also enjoy it with strongly flavoured chesses, meat and fruits. A very popular pairing is Black Forest.
The Tawny 10 and 20 year old were the next to come; heavenly notes of nuts, caramel and toffee filled the room as we started swirling our glasses. The Colheita 1983 (aged Tawny Port made with grapes from a single vintage) gave out very concentrated hazelnut and almond notes with elegant caramel aromas. We paired them with almonds but you can also have them with caramel-based desserts, tiramisu or even foie gras and pâté. What a treat!
The Vintage 1983 was just superb. For 30 seconds, the room got a bit quite and we were all trying to indulge the amazingly concentrated jammy fruit, aromas of chocolate and raisins, the elegant mouthfeel and the very long finish. Once tried with blue cheese, we all agreed that this is an excellent pairing! Dark chocolate and meat dices would also be greatly complimented by the Vintage 1983.
We were particularly happy when we asked who wanted a refill and our guests pointed out their favourites.
We would like to thank our dear guests for their excellent company and Stefano for a very informative and yet engaging Master Class.
Last Night we had the pleasure to entertain Benedicte of agency wine labels Cazes, Domaine de Prince and St Hiliare. Fresh from the valley and Plateaus of the Costieres de Nimes and neighbouring Languedoc regions with wines in tow, we were whisked briefly but deftly through the evocative delights of what the very South of France has to offer.
We started with three precise and carefully crafted whites first of which was an unoaked Chardonnay under the label of Cazes. The hidden citrus fruits of such an understated variety simmered gently beneath a clean minerality and a tongue curling crispness. Often slated and sniffed at, clean chardonnays such as this one only enhance an otherwise awkward reputation. This was followed by a small batch production of Costieres de Nimes white under the label of Domaine de Prince. With mostly Grenache blanc in the varietal blend the very typical flinty notes dusted a bruised and light peach-like fruit. And bringing up the rear for the whites was the Cotes du Rhone St Hiliare blanc. Rounder and somewhat broader the Southern Rhone blends of Marsanne and Rousanne were given width with the inclusion of Clairette and Viognier. Clairette is closely linked with wines from the south east corner of France and can seem a clumsy grape when used alone, but marry it to a blend and the best of the berry fruit comes to the fore giving this wine an aromatic lift.
And so we turned to reds. The partner to the Cazes chardonnay was a Cabernet Sauvignon. Bottled as a single varietal but grown in a generally temperate climate, Cab sav, as we so fondly name it can express its typical character of cassis as did this offering. This was followed by the brother to the Cotes du Rhone blanc a peppery and coffee-like red while the evening was ended with Domaine du Prince which echoed the cotes du Rhone’s espresso and blackberry notes on a more brooding and smokier level.
A fitting end to a charming evening and don’t forget we have all these lines on sale here at Amathus Drinks Leadenhall and all surprisingly good value.
If you fancy learning more about the wines we tasted, visit the links below:
We had the pleasure of Lorenzo Marolo, visit us from Alba, Piedmont, Italy and we wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for him to host a master class and talk about his father’s products. Lorenzo talked about the producers who supply them with the pommace (skin and seeds of grapes) and the distinctive single distillation production method they use in their pot stills. They also distil at a lower temperature to achieve the characteristics and flavours they want.
The first grappa we tried was the Brunello made from Sangiovese with almond and cherry like aromas and a gentle spice finish. We then tried the lightly aged Monriondo made from Barbera which had notes of sherry, honey and light nuttiness.
We then tried the two aged grappas of the Barolo 12year, and then the Barolo 1983. The 12 year made from Nebbiolo had vanilla notes, cacao, honey and spices, whilst the 1983 had been finished in a variety of Armagnac, Sherry and Oak casks that gave a stewed fruit and vanilla aromas and tasted of rich plum, chocolate and spice.
The next couple to sample were the Moscato, and the Moscato Apres. The unaged Moscato was very aromatic with a floral nose and quite herbaceous with hints of sweetness and spice on the palate. The Moscato Apres had aromas of candied fruits, raisins and a touch of caramel on the palate, gentle spices and some citrus fruits.
We lastly tried the Milla, a Camomile liqueur, and the Chinato. The Milla had lovely fresh Camomile aromas with notes of honey and naturally herbaceous. The Chinato, aged in Barrique Barrels, used Barolo wine to give the cherry, plummy and fruitful flavours with hints of fig and tobacco. We had the pleasure of a Manhatten using the Chinato and a Rosemary Sour using the Moscato, both which were excellent and showed that grappa can be used in Cocktails more often.
On the hottest day of the year so far, what’s needed is a splash of Rum, and that’s what we got at theFlor de Cana Masterclass at Amathus, Wardour Street, on the 17th July! Hosted by Marc Catalan from Flor de Cana, we were refreshed with a complimentary cocktail called a Macua which was a concoction of Flor de Cana 4yr white, fresh lime, orange, and the addition of Goji juice which hit the spot!
Marc talked about the background and origins of Flor de Cana and how it has grown to be the biggest Rum in Central America! It is still run by the family and independently owned, and what was really interesting was that it is the only Slow-Aged Rum in the world. Slow Ageing means that it has to be naturally aged, no additions and does not blend different ages together.
We sampled the 4yr White and the 4yr Gold with some Mango ice-cream, both rums would be great in Cocktails with their range of flavours. We then tried the flagship 7yr with some dark chocolate, which really worked well as the cacao and vanilla notes really came through.
The final Rums we tried were the Centenario 12yr, a wonderfully aromatic Rum with a delightful taste with hints of prunes, chocolate and a gentle hint of spice. And lastly, the Centenario Gold 18yr, a delicate and sumptuous Rum reserved for a special occasion because as much as 80% of the original rum in the barrel was lost to the Angel’s Share! Lucky Angels.
A great evening sampling some fine rums and looking forward to mixing some Cocktails.
Friday 14th June saw our Whyte and Mackay whisky tasting working in conjunction with the build-up to father’s day on the following Sunday and it went down a treat. On tasting were Isle of Jura 10 year old and the peated Superstition along with Dalmores 12, 15, 18 years old and the King Alexander premium bottling.
The charming Kai hosted the event outside our city shop in the charismatic surroundings of Leadenhall Market where there were no shortage of willing tasters. Curiosity turned immediately to the Dalmores, all blessed with a rich fruity character due mainly to the various cask finishes. The King Alexander being finished with no less than 6 but judging by sales it was the 15 year old that stole the show. This bottling spends its last 3 years in three different Sherry casks and it is thanks to this that the palate broadens and finishes with a lush and smooth length.
Isle of Jura 10 year old is a perennial favourite for many but it was the lightly peated non age specific Superstition that won our hearts here at Amathus. Though opinion divided over the richness and suppleness of the Dalmores versus the quirky assemblage of the Superstition, this whisky finishes in a curious harmony that suddenly gives an impression of good value.
All said and done the votes fell in favour of the Dalmores in general. The tasting wound up ending a very successful day and whisky sales reflected the trend. We hope those of you who managed to drop by and sample discovered something new and interesting.
Thanks to all who came and tried, and if you missed out we have the next tasting with Flor de Cana rum on 17th July, 12pm-2pm! Don’t miss out!
Thursday 4th July saw the Canary Wharf heat of the Centinela Cocktail competition that will soon be coming to its peak with our finals! Bartenders across the nation have been sending in their recipes and battling it out to be one of the lucky 3 regional winners and travel to Arrandas in Mexico to see the distillery! But they have some work to do to get there. All the heats have seen top quality cocktails, and the Four Seasons Hotel on Canary Wharf was certainly no exception.
As we were assembling at a lovely side bar in the stunning hotel, we were welcomed with delicious smoked salmon appetisers and a fruity Bellini, and their hospitality didn’t end there. I will take this moment to thank the team for continuing to bring out mouth-watering appetisers throughout the competition and making sure the judges had lined their stomachs before tasting the cocktails.
This heat had five participants, representing the Four Seasons, Parlour Bar, Rocket, Roka and The Pearson Room. First up was Xiandy from the Four Seasons who was kindly stepping in to make her colleague Jolita’s cocktail as sadly she was ill on the day. Jumping straight in, Xiandy measured out the tequila and a lime mixture and gave it a good shake. After pouring this into martini glasses she delicately poured grenadine and curacao blue into the glasses so they layered up on the bottom… making the Union Juan cocktail!
Next up was Radoslaf from the Parlour Bar making a Mexican Punch.. and punchy this number was! Muddling two jalopeno peppers, avocado, and a Mexican drink called Tamarind. Adding some lime juice for liquid he shook it up and served it rocks glasses with a garnish that showed all the flavours. And there was certainly a lovely kick to the drink!
Third was Paolo from Roka’s Okinawa Sunshine – a delicious medley of ginger, agave syrup, saki wine, and of course the Centinela tequila. Added on top was a unique topping with mustard seeds. Presented in martini glasses, it oozed with style and tasted sublime!
Next was Simone from Rocket who carried on the theme of yellow sunshine with his cocktail, Simone’s Summery. Based on combining the Centinela tequila with delicious fresh pineapple and bitters he transformed the clear tequila into a great cocktail, with amazing aromas coming from the pineapple leaf garnish.
Last up was Mario from the Pearson Room. Adding to the delicious Centinela, he combined the flavours of Cartron Framboise de Bourgogne and a jasmine tea homemade creation. After a firm shake he strained the liquid into sherry glasses with lovely orange peel garnishes inside. But he didn’t finish there… Mario added fire to the mix by a very skilful lighting of orange peel to bring out more citrus flavours into the drink! The result, a Jasmine Room.
With such a varied array of cocktails and so many techniques used to express the tequila, it was a tough feat for us judges to compare and contrast. All the cocktails were simply delicious and I could certainly see them all being popular if served up in a bar… but alas, a winner there must be. It gave us great pleasure to announce, the winner of the Four Season’s Canary Wharf heat was the lovely Mario from the Pearson Room! Congratulations Mario and we look forward to seeing your pyrotechnics in the London final!
Just in time for a lovely weekend heat wave as July gets under way, we had our Summer Wines blind tasting event at Amathus Soho! With a trio of whites, two pairs of rosé (one with bubbles!) and a trio of reds to tickle our taste buds – we were eager to get started and get tasting!
Round one was the trio of whites, carefully picked by Amathus’ Wine Buyer, Sarah Knowles. “These are all aromatic wines, and don’t worry – I am not going to make you guess the grape varieties on these – this round is about what you taste in the glass” begins Sarah. The first was a zesty lemon and citrus nose with a hint of elderflower, and to taste there was fantastic acidity and a delicious white pepper spice note too! The second had a warmer nose – almost baked apples – and the taste was softer on the palate but there was this delicious “stony” minerality there too. At this point Sarah explained that she had picked these three as they all had something more than just fruit on their taste profile. The first being spice and the second being minerality – so we all delved into the third to try and decipher what this one might show… It was more yellow in colour and there was a lovely smell of orange blossom and peaches on the nose that followed through to mouth along with apricot and tropical notes; and that extra taste, which you couldn’t miss, was an almost salty quality to the wine!
Whilst tasting these we had a delicious piece of smoked salmon sushi – that went unbelievable well, especially with the final white!
Revealing the wines; we discovered the first was Ewald Gruber’s Gruner Veltliner from Austria, the second was an Italian white Gavi di Gavi from producer Il Poggio, and the third white was a wine from Spanish producer Agro de Bazan and was the Equita Ambar made from albariño grapes!
Round two was two pairs of rosé wines, one still pair and one sparkling.
Sarah told us first to look at the colour of the rosé wines. “Rosé doesn’t need to be pink,” she explained, “this is a decision that is made from the producer himself that chooses when to take the skins away from the juice. The long the skins are in contact, the pinker the resulting wine and also the more tannins and body there will be.” The first rosé was very pale, almost salmon, and smelt of strawberries and cranberries. The taste was light and refreshing, and surprisingly dry. “Rosé is becoming more sophisticated. It is largely drunk in France as a serious wine, and the preconception of rosé being just for women is starting to lift in the UK.” The second was much darker in colour and there was a smoky note on the nose that intrigued us all – and a smell that we would be well familiar with by the end of the tasting. Again there were cranberries on the mouth, that smoky note remained and there was a slight (pleasant) bitter note too, like aperol almost.
With this first pair we enjoyed a piece of chicory with pecorino cheese on top- and surprising for a rosé but the second rosé was incredibly paired for this little nibble.
The next two rosé wines were unmistakably sparkling. “You can tell from the bubbles, the quality of sparkling wine. Fine, persistent bubbles (i.e. they are moving for a long time) means the great quality wines – and it was clear these were both in that category. The first had notes of brioche, vanilla, toast and strawberry, a luscious round mouthfeel and a satisfying and tasty finish. The second sparkling again showed notes of brioche but was more complex as, again, that slight hint of smoky/farmyard smell was present. Slight softer in the mouth and a longer finish, and paired beautifully with a large rip strawberry to taste alongside!
Revealing the still wines; the first was a rosé from the Provence region in France from producer Chateaux de Nestuby – a blend of grapes including Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache and several more. The second of the still rosés was from a French producer that produces New Zealand wine in Marlborough, Georges Michel, and is 100% pinot noir (hence the smoky notes).
Revealing the sparkling wines; Both of the sparkling wines were from Champagne in France; the first was from Claude Renoux in Epernay, and the second was Louis Martin Grand Cru rosé from Bouzy – and was predominantly pinot noir based (again, those smoky notes – we sensed a theme!)
Sad to be moving on to our last set of wines, we progressed to the trio of reds. Unusually though, the first of these was slightly chilled! Intrigued we picked this up and started the tasting. Notes of blueberries, cherries and a hint of black pepper, this was a delicious red wine that was smooth, soft and low tannins – which is why it works chilled. The second red wine had an incredible cherry aroma, was much higher tannins and bigger bodied, filling your mouth, and had a lovely long finish. It was one we would all agree would go superbly with a summer BBQ and went very well with the selection of cured meats that appeared on the table! The third one had an unmistakably different colour, with tints of orange and brown. We picked up the wine and there were notes of strawberry, cranberry, leather and undoubtedly that lovely earthy, farmyard smell – this has to be a pinot noir!
Revealing the wines; the first was from Beaujolais made with the gamay grape from producer Manoir du Carra, the second was an Italian valpolicella from Le Ballerine, and the third – of course – a pinot noir from New Zealand and another from Georges Michel!
It was a fantastic evening filled with interesting facts, delicious wines, and we all learnt how to smell a pinot noir wine! With everyone staying to finish the remains of their wines and not wanting to leave a drop, it was clear that we would all be signing up to the autumn one – thanks Sarah!
We are well into our exciting Centinela Cocktail competition, with the London final taking place at the end of July, and the competition is heating up! We have 3 regional finals in total and the winners from each final will then get to go to Arrandas in Mexico, the home of Casa Centinela & Cabrito, and battle it out to be the ultimate winner for 2013!
Our London finalists are being chosen from internal heats within bars around and so far we have some great people in the final:
Dominik from Evans and Peel with “The Shifting Punch” Ruairidh & Daniel from Love Jericho in Oxford, with “Pepes Tepache” & “$500 Dollar Fix” respectively Irene from Beach Blanket Babylon with “Cherry Lady Boy” Alessio from Drink Shop & Do with “Tiempo Fuera” Shane from Mokoko with “Papa Don’t Beet Me” Joe from Hidden Rooms with “Aguamiel” Csongi from Montgomery Place/Market Place with “El Cordial”
Congratulations to all the finalists so far! And to add to this list of amazing talent we have last night’s winner from Made in Camden… And what a fight it was! As my first time up judging a heat for this competition, I got a real insight into the level of thought and creativity that all the bartenders are putting into their creations. With real attention to the taste profile and history of Cabrito (the range used in this heat), the results were delicious and taste-bud-tingling treats for all us judges.
First up was Louis with a real concentration on the nutty notes of Cabrito blanco – using a dry amontillado sherry in the cocktail to really draw out these flavours. Along with this he introduced a little French character (from his home country) into the cocktail, using yellow Chartreuse. Adding his own honey recipe for sweetness and a dash of bitters, he stirred to temper the drink and poured into a Sherry glass.
Next was Teresa, who added a real kick to the competition and introduced flavours from the home of tequila itself by adding chillies to the cocktail! Based on Cabrito blanco – in order to get a pure agave flavour without oak – she added the chillies, simple syrup, Lillet and a splash of fiery bitters. She gave it a quick shake (but not too much!) to get the chilli flavours out and poured into a Coupe glass.
Mexican contender Freddy came next, adding some real fruit to the mix; a watermelon cocktail using fresh watermelon. Freddy wowed us with his history knowledge of Cabrito (the number one tequila in Mexico and one he was very familiar with). Using the blanco, he mashed up the tequila with the watermelon then added Sotol from Mexico (a mezcal-like drink), some orange bitters and fresh lime juice. He gave it a slightly longer shake and poured into a Coupe for a deliciously pink finish.
Last, but of course not least, was Rebecca who brought along her homemade roasted lime, onion and cayenne pepper puree to create a twist on a Bloody Mary. Seasoned with lots of herbs and spices; she was used the reposado and mixed in green tomato juice and some extra chilli sauce. It was served with a shot of spicy tomato juice and was certainly one to blow any cobwebs away!
I hope my brief overview conveyed that it really was a tough one to judge! All were different, had an understanding of
Cabrito, and tasted great… but after much deliberation we had to make a decision. The winner was the one we thought was a drink that really celebrated Cabrito taste at the heart of the cocktail; showed a consideration to the homeland of Mexico; and was balanced, well thought out and left us wanting several more of the same…. Teresa, with her cocktail “Hellquila”. Congratulations on being the next finalist in our Centinela Cocktail Cup!
The next heat is at Thursday 4th July at the Four Seasons in Canary Wharf! It will be at 2.30pm for anyone in the area that wants to pop in and give them a cheer!
Well done to our winners so far and good luck to all upcoming contenders!
On Wednesday, we were fortunate to be joined by the fantastic Andrea Martín Targa from Ron Montero to learn the history of this very special rum, while also getting a chance to try it for the first time. Started by her Great Uncle Francisco Montero Martín in 1963, this is still a family owned business in Motril, an area with a fine rum-making history.
Andrea explained to us the process of rum making, from the extraction of molasses to the distillation process, and what makes Ron Montero unique. Two of the key distinctions are their solera aging system and their use of un-charred virgin American oak barrels. We were also told of all the efforts that they go through to try and maintain the delicate balance between the flavours of the aguardiente and the oak as the rum ages. And having tasted the rums, their efforts are most appreciated!
We started with the Ron Monter Palido, which translates to pale rum, and is made using the solera system with rum aged a minimum of 3 years. It was a noticeably dry rum, and would be a great rum for cocktails. The next rum we tried was the Gran Reserva, which is made using rums with a minimum age of 5 years. This uses a higher proportion of the aguardiente, which leads to a fuller flavoured rum with strong hints of vanilla, caramel with a dry oaky finish.
The last rum we were treated to was the Francisco Montero, made to celebrate the companies 50th anniversary, and made using rums with a minimum age of 10 years. This was a stunning rum; mellow, smooth and rich, and the perfect way to end the tasting.