Must Try Spirits of Summer 2017

Summer’s here and it is time to go over some notable releases for that cabinet!

Great to show off, some of these drops can be used wonderfully in simple cocktails, or best enjoyed neat after food. Let’s have a quick look:

Gins

What beats a G and T in the summer sun?

Two recent gins to be tried are certainly unique: the Scottish Isle of Harris, and the Japanese Ki No Bi!

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The Isle of Harris gin from Scotland is infused with sugar kelp, giving the gin a sweet but slightly briny finish. The nose is dry, juniper and florals are surrounded by citrus and pine. The palate has more of the pine and juniper, with sweet citrus and coriander. A light minerality is refreshing. The finish brings out the brine of the kelp after the vanilla and black pepper.

Great in a Martini, and only needs a small splash of tonic for a G and T.

mde

The Ki No Bi is smooth and well balanced. This Japanese gin has a nose of aromatic sansho and a powerful note of yuzu. The palate is silky, with the notable yuzu, sansho, bamboo and tea, the earthy notes followed by a hit of ginger root for a refreshing, fast finish.

Love this in a dry Martini for something subtle and balanced.

Whisky

oznor

Perched on the southern coast of Islay, the Ardbeg Distillery has forever held a deep connection to the sea. The depths around Ardbeg are full of legends of mysterious creatures that inhabit the skerries (small rocky islands) and kelp seaweed forests off our shore.

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Ardbeg Kelpie is named for the legends of the sea around Ardbeg. The whisky’s powerful aromas of oily peat, salty seaweed and tarry rope have been produced by virgin oak casks from the Black Sea, intermingled with the hallmark Ardbeg flavour profile. Waves of spicy black pepper give way to a delectable tide of bacon and dark chocolate for a deep, enticing dram.

This is notably far less smoky and peaty than the other Ardbegs, and instead revels in its chocolate sweetness, silky texture, and late afternoon soul.

Rum

Highball Hoodoo Appleton Estate Rum Joy Launch Review
Appleton Estate, the world’s leading Jamaican premium aged rum, releases Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend, a limited edition rum celebrating Joy Spence’s 20thanniversary as Master Blender. In fact, Joy Spence was the world’s first female Master Blender, paving the way for more women Master Blenders across the globe.

The Joy is a blend of rums whose ages range from a 25 year old pot still and other pot and column stills, up to a spectacular 35 year – creating a beautiful copper spirit.

Appleton Estate Master Blender Joy Spence

Appleton Estate Master Blender Joy Spence

The rum opens with Appleton’s characteristic orange, and a powerful hit of ginger. The ginger then dances and effervesces on the sides of the tongue to slowly open up to coffee and cocoa, almond and oak, and lingering vanilla. The finale is a long length of deep, lightly burnt brown sugar.

A perfect late night digestif.

Mezcal

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Del Maguey Papalote de Puebla is a recent release from the Puebla valley.

The agave spirit is wonderfully delicate – creamy, smooth. Beginning with traditonal agave, powerful florals like lilac mask a bedrock of tropical fruit, a finish that is delightfully mineral with light hints of vanilla.

This a mezcal you want to enjoy neat in the sunshine.

 

That’s all for today, hope you enjoy these spirits as much as I have!

Tequila Fest 2o16 Preview!

Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings 0f 2014, are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez, as we grab our tasting cups.

After last year’s major success, TequilaFest 2016 is not an event to be missed – on September 17th and 18th at the Boiler House Brick Lane!

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Hosted at Lupita, Shoreditch, the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of agave for the Hoodooist, such as Meteoro‘s pure Espadin mezcal – it even comes with a backstory – a crater from a crashed meteor in Oaxaca became the cooking spot for this mezcal’s agave. Delightfully smooth, the Meteoro Joven is a fantastic sipping tequila. Bold, muscling in with powerful smokiness and a bright trail left behind, it lives up to it’s media campaign, #ItFellFromTheSky.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Another of the TequilaFest newcomers to expect will be agave giant Patron with theirSilver, Reposado, Anejo and XO Cafe range – and in a few days will be unleashing their Incendio chilli-chocolate tequila onto #Drinkstagram tags everywhere.

Herencia de Plata has entered the ring as well, with their bright, peppery range, and can carry it’s weight in combat with the other stars of the show.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Expect to see old reliables like Ocho, who have unveiled their Curado – a Blanco tequila that has been infused with agave – carrying their Blanco’s feel and kick, with a fruity wave of agave, addictive this one.

Stars of last year are back, from the smoky caramel Espadin San Cosme mezcal, to classic Altos and Siete Misterios Espadin, with that spicy, earthy smokiness and sugary dried fruit (so, so beautiful). And you certainly can’t go wrong with a Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

After the food provided by Lupita was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist realises that this year’s TequilaFest at the Boiler House Brick Lane is going to enormous in comparison to the previous year – this is an event he – and you – should certainly not miss.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, “Real tequila.”

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

Tequila Fest 2015 Preview @ Barrio East

Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings 0f 2014, are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez, as we grab our tasting cups.

After last year’s major success, TequilaFest 2015 is not an event to be missed

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Hosted at Barrio East, Shoreditch (keep an eye out for their next Brixton opening, Barrio South), the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of agave for the Hoodooist, such as Meteoro‘s pure Espadin mezcal – it even comes with a backstory – a crater from a crashed meteor in Oaxaca became the cooking spot for this mezcal’s agave. Delightfully smooth, the Meteoro Joven is a fantastic sipping tequila. Bold, muscling in with powerful smokiness and a bright trail left behind, it lives up to it’s media campaign, #ItFellFromTheSky.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Another of the TequilaFest newcomers to expect will be agave giant Patron with their Silver, Reposado, Anejo and XO Cafe range – and in a few days will be unleashing their Incendio chilli-chocolate tequila onto #Drinkstagram tags everywhere.

Herencia de Plata has entered the ring as well, with their bright, peppery range, and can carry it’s weight in combat with the other stars of the show.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

Expect to see old reliables like Ocho, who have unveiled their Curado – a Blanco tequila that has been infused with agave – carrying their Blanco’s feel and kick, with a fruity wave of agave, addictive this one.

Stars of last year are back, from the smoky caramel Espadin San Cosme mezcal, to classic Altos and Siete Misterios Espadin, with that spicy, earthy smokiness and sugary dried fruit (so, so beautiful). And you certainly can’t go wrong with a Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

After the food provided by Barrio East was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist realises that this year’s TequilaFest at Old Spitalfield Market is going to enormous in comparison to the previous year – this is an event he – and you – should certainly not miss.

Tequila TequilaFest Mezcal London Mexico

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, “Real tequila.”

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

Tequila Fest Weekend 2014!

The much-awaited weekend finally showed up! Let me mention though, that a 5 day birthday bender is not a good way to prep yourself for this fest – but hey, I got a job to do.

We have an article about the Tequila Fest Press Preview a few weeks ago (Click HERE for Review!), where we covered a good list of tequilas and mezcals that caught our attention (Oh, that Ambar Extra Anejo *sigh*), so today we’ll post a few pics of tequilas and mezcals that were not covered in the previous article!

For one, this massive fest brought a whole new selection of spirits under the same roof, alongside cocktail and food stands, specialty Mexican cheeses and sauces, and of course, London’s La TienditaAy Que Chula! – your source of Mexican candies, randomness and accessories (We’ve met them at the Yelp! Elite Endless Summer Garden Party, Review HERE!). And don’t forget the extensive masterclasses and pairing sessions. And luchadors. Certainly don’t forget the luchadors.

So bring on the snaps! Remember, this is a no salt and lime zone.

TeqFest

 

Cocktails

 

On the left, we have The Lost Steps from the Megaro Bar (Click HERE for Review!)The Lost Steps (Ocho Blanco, cardamom sweet tea, Chartreuse elixir)  is a tequila fan’s dream; the nose is strongly citrus, and since I last tried it at the bar, this creation had a more intense cardamom flavour. The tea allows the notes of the tequila to unfold in a manner to savour the tequila’s various layers, smoothly and pleasantly.

On the right, the Metaxa: Tequila meets white armagnac and Bittermen’s Orange. Surprisingly smooth, the tequila’s edge is dulled for a relaxed drinking experience. The aftertaste of Bittermen’s Orange seemed to be enjoyable to some, but not others. Personally, greatly enjoyed it.

Herradura

 

Herradura, the classic horse-shoe logo, presenting one of the most charismatic blanco tequilas present – the Herradura Plata. A long-rested blanco (45 days), brings out the agave, making an excellent sipping blanco.

Sierra

 

Ah, Sierra. Responsible for the worst hangovers of your sixth-form years. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but was pleasantly surprised – the Sierra Milenario Extra Anejo was actually a rather decent tequila, priced incredibly well around the 50 pound range for an Extra Anejo. Most notable was a milk chocolate smoothness, you could actually spend quite a while sipping this. As phrased by its representative, Sierra is kind of a victim of its own success, or/subtext, “We also actually make rather good tequilas,”. I do hope it is products like this that highlight Sierra more than sticky-floor-mini-sombrero association many initially think of.

Grillos

 

A young company here in the UK, Grillos could use the attention to get a chance to import their Anejos. Their Reposados were a bit sharp, but delightfully woody. I can sense a rather good Anejo in here somewhere.

Honourable mentions in Tequilas would be Arrette’s Anejo, with its pronounced violet flavours.

Onto the Mezcals!

Qui

 

Course, we can’t talk about mezcals without mentioning one of the most popular ones on the UK market, QuiQuiRiQui, named after the previous name of 184 Hackney Road, who you MUST check out for their Mezcalitas!

San Cosme

 

San Cosme is easily surging to the top of my favourite mezcals. Smooth as the devil, a fantastic introductory mezcal to initiates. I’m keeping an eye on this up and coming company.

Bruxo

 

Okay, Bruxo. These guys are exciting – presenting 5 different mezcals, each made with different – or a different combo of – agaves, creating a wonderful choice of mezcals, and great tasting flights for your cabinet. I noticed one of them being reminiscent of the rarely seen out of Mexico Fortaleza Tequila, only to find that the parent company is responsible for Fortaleza as well! Fantastic job. (For more on Fortaleza, click HERE).

 

And those are the tequilas and mezcals I haven’t covered before, but stood out on the incredible weekend that was Tequila Fest!

And if you had any sense about you, you’d keep an eye out for the next incarnation of the festival in the future.
¡ Salud !

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

 

Tequila Fest 2014 Preview @ Agaveria El Nivel

There are many ambassadors of Mexico to the UK,” announces the Mexican Ambassador behind the bar, “Tequila is one of them.

Working alongside event organisers, the Tequila Festival in London is being proposed almost as a diplomatic event – with good reason. Though the wide-spread drinking of tequila and the recent emergence of Mezcalerias like 184 Hackney Road are known well enough, a connoisseurial culture of the spirit never completely blossomed in the Isles. “This is a no salt or lime zone”, stresses Festival organiser Eduardo Gomez as we grab our Mexican passports.

Literally.

Literally.

Hosted at Agaveria El Nivel, one of the Hoodooist’s favourite openings this year (Click HERE for review!), the press preview brought forward a spectacular crowd to taste a large variety of tequilas & mezcals, either neat or in a margarita. A few fantastic discoveries in the world of tequila for the Hoodooist, such as Ambar’s selection of Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo; where the aging of tequila isn’t dissimilar to that of cognacs, as the vanilla and wood notes begin to grow over time. Delightfully smooth, the Extra Anejo is a fantastic sipping tequila.

It also works surprisingly well in cocktails – a Tommy’s Margarita bursts with flavour here, and saved the Hoodooist’s butt in a cocktail competition that evening. Who knew that a blander Margarita made with a blanco tequila of an unnamed company can be spruced to life with a splash of Ambar Extra Anejo? Definitely remembering that concoction.

Ocho Tequila obviously makes an appearance – but I still vote for its use in cocktails moreso than to sip.

Siete Misterios still a winning mezcal for me, as is the Del Maguey, which I discovered at the Cocktails in the City show (Click HERE for review!). And whereas I was recommended the Papadiablo, it came off a bit harsh on the throat for myself.

On the note of mezcals, you can’t go wrong with a nicely smoky Del Maguey Tommy’s Margarita.

After the food provided by El Nivel (incredible as usual) was demolished by the now slightly staggering clientele of the room, the Hoodooist retires to the bar for a cheeky little sip of a Fortaleza Tequila – who knows when he’ll get a chance with this rarely-seen-outside-Mexico tequila. On the nose the warm pine is almost identical to the interior of a Swedish sauna, strangely; with smooth length, and sandalwood aftertaste. Unlike any other tequila tasted that day. Incredible.

Opinion of the night? Fantastic execution, one of the better press nights I’ve been to in a while, so major thanks to the organisers and Cutlass Communications! If the organisers keep this up, I can’t deny that Tequila Fest is going to be an incredible weekend that I’m already looking forward to!

“The Tequila Fest will educate you in the customs of production and consumption and engulf you in the taste, smells, sounds and sights of true Mexico. There are few spirits with a more rich and fascinating lineage. Get to grips with the technical jargon, the process of distillation and the bounty of care that goes into every single bottle.” Also featuring blind tastings, cocktail tutorials and masterclasses, and what the ambassador calls, “Real tequila.”
UPDATE: London Tequila Fest 2014 has been reviewed! Click HERE.

http://www.tequilafest.co.uk/

Agaveria El Nivel, Covent Garden

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, Mexican
Damage££
Ideal for: Food, Tequila, Mezcal

The Hoodooist is in love. The Tomas and Jesse Estes venture upstairs at La Perla, Maiden Lane is a brilliant success. It is early days (Launch week), but it stinks of success. Absolutely reeks of it. Gifts of spirits from Megaro and NOLA, and the appearance of bartenders from various other bars speaks of its presence in the bartending world.

The La Perla/Café Pacifico branches have always been the chilled out venues to break into for a Margarita you know you’ll love, but the atmosphere up here at El Nivel takes on a more sophisticated, experimental twist. The wealth of knowledge in this tiny venue is expansive, the service impeccable. Sitting at the bar with drinking buddy Anastrophe and Cheese, was an absolute pleasure as the barmen served us tasters of various mezcal and tequila, and explained the process of their home-made cordials and accompaniments.

 

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Some of QuiQuiRiQui’s Mezcals

We began with the Mezcal Fix, my first, and favourite of the evening: Mezcaleria QuiQuiRiQui’s personal brand of 45%abv mezcal, roasted pineapple syrup, Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur and saltwater spray. Everyone knows I’ll snatch anything with Cynar in it. I was amazed by the incredibly harmonious combo of sweet with salty; how the pineapple’s roasting doesn’t give it a strongly pineapple flavour, but just its fruity sweetness that tames the mezcal – releasing only its smokiness. The Cynar does a wonderful job at just rounding out the drink for the saltwater spray to not overpower it. Unbelievable work.

The Fallen Angel was certainly an interesting drink. Gran Centenario Añejo, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Cynar. I’m not sure how to describe this drink except as the best sweet Manhattan you’ve had that wasn’t actually a Manhattan. A bit too sweet for my taste, but I know when to appreciate a well-made drink. The Añejo is an excellent twist on the classic, and my Manhattan-loving mate almost wept in excitement.

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The Mezcal Fix (L); and Fallen Angel (R)

The Horchata is a boozy twist on a classic Mexican refreshment: rice water, condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla with Ocho Reposado, garnished with an edible flower. As much as I enjoyed it, it might need a shorter serving, as the condensed milk gets incredibly heavy – but a pleasant drink no less.

Finally, the Siesta was a *very* citrusy complexity. AquaRiva premium Reposado, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, almond syrup, Campari and Merlet apricot, churned over crushed ice. The Campari is barely noticeable, but necessary to hold back the possibility of being too sweet. The first flavour is the tequila, until there is a sudden punch of lime citrus, to eventually settle on the apricot and grapefruit. A wonderful work for those less comfortable around tequila.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, they are working on mezcal/tequila flights!

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The Horchata (L); and Siesta (R)

 

Food is varied in substance and price, so I certainly look forward to returning for a boozy lunch – because return I will. El Nivel has all the makings of an excellent bar, certainly blowing its competitors on Maiden Lane out of the water – in terms of both drink and service.  I wish them all the best, though they probably don’t need it.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere:  ***
Service: *****

 

Agaveria El Nivel,

Upstairs @ La Perla,
28 Maiden Lane,
London WC2E 7JS

http://www.elnivel.co.uk/