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.

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Amathus Sponsors Children in Need

On Tuesday 4th November Amathus sponsored Tony Blackburn’s BBC London 94.9 Soul Night Out at Koko in Camden; alongside artists including The Brand New Heavies, Shakatak, Si Cranstoun, Loose Ends, The British Soul Collective, Denise Pearson, Jaki Graham and Linda Lewis.

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We had a fantastic evening; and we were honoured to be able to support in helping towards such a magnificent cause. Amathus is proud to have sponsored BBC Children in Need, as it means that the running and profit from the event can go towards what it is meant to; helping disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

BBC Children in Need provides grants to projects in the UK which focus on children and young people; supporting small and large organisations which empower children and extend their life choices. Every penny from the money raised or donated goes towards helping disadvantaged children and young people right here in the UK. BBC Children in Need are able to make this promise because they use investment income and Gift Aid to cover all running costs; this means that you can be sure the money you donate makes a real difference.

If you’d like to show your support for BBC Children in Need, please follow the link to Donate!

Let us know by tagging @AmathusDrinks @BBCCiN and #BeAHero

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Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tasting at Amathus City

Last night Amathus at Leadenhall had the pleasure of entertaining the Jacumins of Chateauneuf. With them we tasted their wonderful white and red. Fresh from the heat and torridness that is typical of the southern Rhone their fresh and light 2012 white seemed oddly deft and slight of touch. With a subtle chalkiness and apricot fruit a hidden note of almond and vanilla lingered.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Domaine Albin Jacumin Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Domaine Albin Jacumin Chateauneuf-du-Pape White 2012
Domaine Albin Jacumin Chateauneuf-du-Pape White 2012

Small producers are the backbone of the area of Chateauneuf making up to 90% of the production. And for this reason their livelihoods depend more and more upon quality as opposed to quantity, not synonymous with more recent times when wines were sold for more than their worth.

With the Jacumin estate quality can be guaranteed. The Domaine Albin Jacumin Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010 is deep without the cloying sweetness that Grenache dominant wines can show. A peppery length matches the raisin-like fruit and a subtle grittiness clings to palette, reminiscent of dusty fruit from an untouched bowl. This is the hallmark of very good Chateauneuf.

Naturally these wines are of outstanding quality and value. Both priced between £25 and £30. The days of average Chateauneuf at eye-wateringly astronomic prices are thankfully a thing of the past and the wines of Jacumin reflect this faithfully.

Amen to that!

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

Idiom Wines with Roberto Bottega – by Tom Brown

Last Monday saw the Idiom wine tasting event at our city branch in Leadenhall, hosted by family member and producer Roberto Bottega. For those not familiar with this offering, Idiom are one of South Africa’s most recently celebrated and award-winning winemakers. Their wines have won top awards at the latest Decanter trade magazine competition and this was a wonderful opportunity to sample the wines and meet the man who knows them best.

To begin the evening we started by comparing the 2009 and 2011 viognier. Two contrasting styles meant a leap from a broader richer fruit to a lighter zestier and younger version showing the typical viognier characteristics of peach and apricot.

Then moving swiftly onto the reds, in both the sangiovese and zinfandel, we discovered the sangiovese showed a wild fruit very reminiscent of those from Italy, but richer and softer, while the zinfandel beguiled the party of attendees with its savoury aromatics of fresh rosemary and mint with a rounded rich black fruit on the palate and a wonderful freshness and length to finish.

With barely enough time to savour the deliciously rare and succulent sirloin steak prepared by the butchers of Leadenhall located directly opposite, we moved seamlessly onto Roberto’s latest offering of barbera and nebbiolo. Both reflected Roberto’s passion for all things Italian, in keeping with his Italian family roots. Each wine showed the unmistakable traits of their Mediterranean origin; cherry and liquorice, tobacco and lozenge, the Barbera unique with its freshness, a personal favourite of Roberto’s.

Onwards and upwards to the prestige blends of the house, the standard bearers of the firm and the wines winning accolades both here and at home. First came the Bordeaux Blend, firm but supple enough to allow the rich plum merlot fruit to come to the fore, while the Cape Blend, replacing the merlot with pinotage, that notoriously unpredictable grape, filled the palate more broadly splitting opinions as ever between the guests.

And then came the surprise, an unreleased pinot noir, two in fact, a 2010 and 2012, first to try being the oldest. An interesting offering, these are both experimental bottlings trying to pin down the elusive qualities of the earthy yet ethereal grape of Burgundy. The 2010 showed signs of maturation, maybe a hint of rubber, while the 2012 positively sang with poised fruit, perfect extraction and vibrant freshness, this will be an interesting one to watch, if it ever graces our shelves here at Amathus.

With a further offering of ribeye steak from our friends and neighbours the butchers at Leadenhall the evening came to a close. A good time was had by all. Lastly, came the vote for everyone’s favourite wine which threw up the usual conflictions and good humoured debate. All in all this was an enlightening evening hosted warmly and personably, we look forward to more of the same.

The wines are available in store and online for you to enjoy!

By Tom Brown,
Amathus City

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!!

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