Montelobos Mezcal Tasting @ The Curtain

Candle wax drips in cascades as their lights flicker across the leather chesterfields. Dr. Ivan Saldana strides to the centre of The Curtain‘s basement member’s club, behind him an enormous lupine emblem, on either side matte black cocktail shakers and new expressions of the immensely popular Montelobos Mezcal.

One of the first big names in mezcal in the UK, Montelobos capitalised on the agave boom very early, becoming a recognisable presence on the back bar and in a Mezcal Old Fashioned.

Dr. Saldana’s academic background in botany has been invaluable to the mezcal’s inception, and will continue to be as agave varieties face deforestation in Mexico.

Montelobos combats this by harvesting rarer agave varietals like tobala and cupreata – notoriously difficult to cultivate, and thus varietals that face the most danger in the face of the ‘premium’ agave spirit market.

In an industry where ‘sustainability’ has becomes a buzzword to be thrown around at various trade shows, we see it in action at the Montelobos estate.

We raise the first classic Montelobos mezcal – the Espadin.

Clear crystal, the Espadin is a classic. The nose reveals sugary sweetness at the bottom of an espresso cup, before green peppers and asparagus burst from under the coffee grounds and sugar crystals. Petrichor and light sprays of citrus.

The palate isn’t far off – cooked and fresh agave, light funky fruit and some roasted nuts, a clean herbacity and mangos with a smoky cocoa. Wonderfully complex without sacrificing balance – perfect for cocktails.

The Ensamble is the gorgeous expression that separates the agave lovers from the rest. This beautiful spirit mixes Papalote, Espadin and Tobala agaves for a surprising blend.

A deceptive nose of roasted agave and nectar dripping over hot rocks and citrus masks a palate of capers and cheese, before a spicy hit of nutmeg and minerality, a chalkiness, before a peppery vinegar and grape skin. A wonderful combo recommended for brandy and eau de vie lovers.

Those who know the Hoodooist know he loves a Tobala. Once again, a deceptive nose – bright with citrus and pepper, one has to look at the tail end of spices to know where we’re going. The palate is full – sweet and oily. Smoky, almost peaty but not quite, the mezcal gives way too bright green herbs, like basil. But soon, caramel and roasted fruits like figs and nuts, making it almost reminiscent of sherried scotches (for those unacquainted with mezcals). This smoothness has the earthy funk of truffle, muscovado sugar and liquorice to finish on. A gorgeous, sweet/smoky combo.

Finally, a mezcal to wake the dead: The Pechuga. This Espadin based Pechuga carries the same characteristic of any other pechugas: distilled with spices and poultry – except the usual chicken breast is swapped out for kosher turkey breast, hanging over the distilling spirit.

With the Day of the Dead coming soon, the Hoodooist had to grab himself some, in keeping with Oaxaca tradition to serve pechuga for libations.

Orange peel and nutmeg greets the nose, the mouthfilling palate is awash with tropical fruit, papaya, honeydew melon, as well as floral hibiscus and roasted almonds, before the autumnal flavours of squash and maple. What a superb spirit.

Ivan has done an incredible job overseeing a collection of varied and environmentally responsible joven mezcals with Montelobos. The varied collection of flavours across the 4 mezcals provides a wide range of experience across a carefully selected ensamble of spirits.

When you’re ready to climb onto the next rung of your mezcal studies, consider the guilt-free smoky delights of Casa Montelobos.

Thanks to,

Montelobos Mezcal

http://montelobos.com/

and,

The Curtain Shoreditch

https://thecurtain.com

Manguin en Provence Distillery Tasting

“Between the palace of the popes of Avignon and the Phillippe le Bel de Villeneuve Lez Avignon Tower which in the 14th century were joined by the famous bridge of Avignon with its 21 arches, is the island of Barthelasse, the biggest river island in Europe, a land of sand and lemons, swept by the Mistral, perfect for the cultivation of exceptional fruits, bathing in the sunshine of Provence.”

In the plush environs of Fitz’s Bar, London, Beatrice and Emmanuel of the Manguin Distillery regale us with stories from Provence while holding close the guarded secrets of Manguin. The French distillery is most popular for its Poire Williams Eau de Vie, with a Williams Pear trapped inside the bottle for sale, but we had the wonderful opportunity to taste more of what they had to offer.

Manguin Oli’Gin

Many gin purists these days have begun to rebel against the wealth of gins not led by juniper on the palate, and I’d agree if it were not for this beauty.

The Oli’Gin changed my mind – a superb gin if you like your olives.

Made in an alembic pot still names Cesar, the botanicals of obviously juniper, then familiar orris, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica, and flavoured with the maceration of three Provencal olives births a unique gin for the clean dirty olive Martini.

Love olive but not brine? Solved.

This nose is not kidding around. Olive tapenade pours out of the bottle when uncorked, and lingers. Mandarin follows soon after, and the aroma of truffle makes a powerful entrance, masking the shy bouquet of jasmine and white flowers. The journey ends with a train of olive and hints of coriander.

Max of Matango and the Water House Project whispers “I need to use this in a Harissa bun” and now I’m hungry.

The palate isn’t kidding around. The sweet black olive and juniper enter together – this is not a ‘flavoured’ gin as one might be led to believe at first. And here is the surprise of spices! A little bit of bite, but smooth enough to be in the driest of Martinis.

Manguin Oli’Still:

The secret to the Oli’Gin! So tantalisingly close, but the three olives that make this distillate are kept secret. The maceration is prepared in a Charentais alembic, this heart of the still is glorious to replace the brine for a Dirty Martini, and I would love to use it in a Bloody Mary.

The sweet black olives are back, let it sit and return and you will find the strangest of scents: freshly baked donuts!

Eau de Vie Abricot Quintessence:

How gorgeous is this? I have a… complex… personal relationship with Eau de Vie but I do love this brandy.

A perfumed bite, but the first sip’s powerful tarte tatin and apricot soon gives way to Provence’s chalky terroir, the aroma of sea spray – the lavender and heather that dominates the countryside sways into view, and soon ends on the sweetest of almond cakes, sugar syrup dripping from the sponge.

This EdV is Provence in a bottle – from its fruit to its flowers to its soil and sea. Gorgeous.

Finally, the last two liqueurs!

Moving into sweet territory, these fruit and floral liqueurs are a wonderful end to the afternoon.

Béatrice and Emmanuel Hanquiez of Manguin en Provence

Manguin Clementine liqueur:

Sweet, syrupy, beautiful. The bright spray of clementine explodes into almonds, followed by a parade of lemon sherbet. This is what you want from a liqueur: simplicity with depth.

Last but not least, the Manguin Citron Bergamote liqueur:

What I love about this, it leans into the sweetness of the liqueur rather than shying away to preserve the floral perfuminess of bergamot. By doing so it keeps with a liqueur’s foremost purpose without sacrificing the bergamot’s flavour.

Bergamot swirls into scene, soon cardamom crushes in a mortar. The pith of blood orange sinks into an earthy minerality to end on a soft bed of violets.

The opportunity to taste the Provencal flavours of Manguin’s products was an honour, and have definitely placed them firmly in my radar, as well they should yours. With a wonderful Eau de Vie, especially for EdV novices, spectacular floral and fruit liqueurs to drink neat or use in cocktails, and an olive gin and distillate for both cocktails and cooking, Manguin has stunned by bringing Provence to London.

Thanks to,

Manguin en Provence distillery

https://www.manguin.com/en/

and,

Fitz’s Bar @

Russell Square, Bloomsbury,
London WC1B 5BE

Fitzs

BOLD London Spirit

Charming BOLD Brand Ambassador Tomas Lenko welcomes us into London’s popular Hide Bar, famous for its policy on primarily serving up spirits and ingredients prepared in London.

DSC_9623

Many have probably already encountered BOLD London Spirit, an enigmatic little bottle popularly known as a cherry aperitif, but in reality a much more versatile cherry based spirit in its own right alongside vodka, gin and other cocktail bases we all know and love.

At 36% ABV, it packs a punch, but it doesn’t dull the flavours of cherry, cloves, or cassia. Inspired by the flavours of his childhood and the varieties of wild cherries in the UK, sour cherry bursts forth, followed immediately by bitter and floral notes of spices – making it a fantastic digestif as well.

An up-by-the-bootstraps project, the home-grown spirit is a tribute to life in London.

ptr

The Strongman’s Sour mixes BOLD, lemon, orgeat, chocolate bitters for an excellent nightcap. A sweet sour, the cherry settles in with the chocolate like the perfect liqueur candy, with the nuttiness and floral of the orgeat lifting it up from being too heavy. How rare is it for me to love a drink with chocolate bitters?

DSC_9624

The BOLDvardier gives us BOLD, Campari and sweet vermouth for a wonderfully fruity take on the classic, and is much more forgiving for those who struggle with the strong whiskey flavours of a classic Boulevardier. Instead the BOLD removes the need for a cherry garnish and instead replaces it with a bright and uplifting orange, which classically intensifies the brighter flavours of the vermouth and Campari.

ptr

And in time for the summer, the Chelsea Rose is a tall tipple with BOLD, raspberry, apple – super-sweet, yet somehow not offensively so. Perfect for the summer, classic fruit flavours of cherry, apple and raspberry make it a great grown up juice box.

And in a world where G&Ts are a dime a dozen, the Hoodooist is pleased to see the B&T be a refreshing change – and something that changes the way we approach an icy summer afternoon fruit cocktail. BOLD, Tonic, ice, sorted.

ptr

Two years down the line, BOLD continues to be one of the more intriguing additions to the London drinks scene, and one that I massively enjoy. Cherry liqueurs are too cloying, but as a spirit, BOLD allows us to enjoy the flavours in a completely different way – as an aperitif, a digestif, a winter warmer like the Strongman’s Sour, or a summer sip like the Chelsea Rose as easily as ordering a BOLD and Tonic.

 

The Real McCoy Rum Tasting @ Bobby Fitzpatrick, West Hampstead

Bobby Fitzpatrick lounges over two floors of 70s nostalgia and low lighting – and the upper floor hosts a small choice of bar seats and a mini kitchen space (not just the kitchen for their pizzas, but like, a 70s kitchen. You’ll see what I mean) where a range of The Real McCoy Rums were presented for tasting in the company of UK Real McCoy Ambassador, Gergo Murath.

bobby

Onto the rums!

The 3, 5 and 12 year rums are named after Bill McCoy, pioneer rum runner of the Prohibition, who’d park his boat bar stocked with Caribbean rum 3 miles off-shore in international water – lauded for serving his alcohol without toxic additives like turpentine, which illegal alcohol was often cut with in during the dry days. These Barbados rums are aged in charred Bourbon casks.

 

The Real McCoy 3 Year Old White Rum / Bourbon Barrels

 

Citrus and floral wafts in with the youngest of the rums, the 3 year, along with the expected vanilla. My favourite of the three, the light straw coloured rum is smooth, woody and spiced with nutmeg and rich with caramel, almond and coconut. A long, warm length follows.

Light, strong, confident – fantastic for cocktails.

 

 

 

The Real McCoy 5 Year Old Rum / Bourbon Barrels

 

 

The sweet, fruity nose really stands out in the 5 year, and is much more familiar to the rum drinker. The oak and caramel palate is strong with the added kick of cinnamon. The length brings both the coconut we know and love from the 3 year as well as the welcome surprise of smoky tobacco.

 

 

 

The Real McCoy 12 Year Old Rum / Bourbon Barrels

 

Finally, the 12 year brings in an astonishingly smooth texture, and a chocolate nose with oaky sweetness.

Definitely for the discerning sweet tooth, take time to appreciate the rolling complexity of flavours, the buttery sweetness now presents a woody, spicy spark, with the sharpness of orange and tobacco. A lightly smoky finish with the slightest hint of pepper brings an end to the tasting.

 

 

And we were lucky enough to try the cocktail special at Bobby Fitzpatrick that ranked as the most popular drink of the season!

The Gran Hotel Barbados mixes the 5yr Real McCoy Rum with apricot, pineapple and lime, for a sweet drink that is instead light and refreshing. The caramel and coconut notes take centre stage, and the apricot holds the pineapple up for a well-balanced cocktail perfect for summer.

No automatic alt text available.

And if you’d rather got for something more indulgent, the Rumhattan is the sweeter alternative to its whiskey cousin, playing the part of paradoxical sweet aperitif. Deeply sweet and sweetly deep, you’ll want to take your time with this one, in comparison to the easy necking of the Gran Hotel above.

Image may contain: drink and indoor

Here at Bobby Fitzpatrick, The Real McCoy displayed their variety and versatility when it comes to producing this popular molasses spirit. With a pour for every occasion from light daytime sips to late night indulgent pours, serves can also come straight from a balloon glass with a cigar in the winter.

An excellent range of rums from the House of McCoy.

 

 

Thanks to,

The Real McCoy Rum

http://www.realmccoyspirits.com/

and,

Bobby Fitzpatrick

273 West End Lane, West Hampstead
London NW6 1QS

https://www.bobbyf.co.uk/

 

New Release! Fortaleza Still Strength Blanco

After two years of waiting – it’s finally here!

Fortaleza stands among the Hoodooist’s favourite tequilas available in the UK, and with good reason. The Blanco, Reposado and Anejo revel in gorgeous flavours of pine and agave, and the Still Strength Blanco is no different – now available in the UK.

29594524_10156303423869559_3766942501096506474_n.jpg

In its purest form, what sets the Blanco Still Strength apart is it is delivered straight from the copper pot still, at 46% – compared to the Blanco at 40% – and it comes through in the flavour. Still packed in those man-blown bottles and hand-made stoppers, the bottling is classic.

Still beautifully smooth as we expect from Fortaleza, I….I actually prefer this to the Blanco.

The nose is earthy, strong notes of olive and agave, and as I’ve come to expect from the distillery (at least for me) pine. It’s livelier, earthier, slightly more vegetal, with the salty-peppery kick on a velvet feel.

29404422_10156303422809559_1736411467_o

The olive aroma really comes through when made into a Tequila Martini (not quite a 1942 without the bitters), for a strong kicker to wake you right up.

For the Hoodooist though, drinking it neat is the ticket.

Don’t mess with perfection.

 

New Release! by B.lo Nardini Grappa

You just haven’t tried the right one yet.

In the UK, you can expect any conversation about grappa goes the way of “I had a bad experience”. But everyone knew someone who said that about tequila or mezcal and they are dominating the cocktail scene at the moment – so when will grappa get some love?

29101807_10156270129934559_329626897283543724_n

In my experience, grappa is best drunk neat, and B.lo Nardini‘s new range, the Selezione Bartolo Nardini, is a great place to start. The oldest running independent distillery in Italy use a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Pinot Grigio pomaces to create the new selection: the Extrafina, and the three aged La Ramate. We tasted the new selection at the favulous Corinthia Hotel, London, led by Antonio Nardini himself.

This selection of warm, welcoming grappas are both a good place to start your grappa journey, as well as a place to end your meals – as traditional pomace brandies they work as fabulous digestivos either on their own or paired with after-dinner courses.

29063536_10156270130024559_4015519531943827917_n

Getting straight down to business, the Extrafina has a powerfully floral nose, the palate begins with a hit of spice, followed by summer fruit, almost tropical – ending with a lasting banana and maraschino and a clean finish. An excellent digestivo to cleanse the palate.

29103644_10156270129979559_5591320871734127855_n

La Ramate is where this 20 year labour of love shines: the three grappas are aged in Slavonian oak.

The Three year old Riserva has a nose of cacao and cherry, the palate is rich with wood. Much softer than the Extrafina, it is filled with butterscotch, cooked plums and peaches, enjoyable and surprisingly mature for its age. The three year is designed to be served with sharp cheeses and bitter dark chocolates.

The Seven year old Riserva stands out as my favourite of the lot! Powerful and spicy on the nose, it goes down dangerously easily. Szechuan spice and tobacco leaf dance with sour cherry to a honeyed finish, long and persistent. Adore.
The Seven year is paired well with sweeter desserts with its cocoa nuances.

Finally, the Fifteen year old Riserva is quite unlike anything I’ve had before. Intense and relentless, drier than the others but powerfully woody and rich with nutty flavour. Hints of vanilla and chocolate cut through the tobacco bitterness. I admire it’s complexity, and with its demanding and smokey flavour, it pairs well with cigars and dark chocolate.

29063315_10156270130049559_1937692567552580725_n

And there we have it! A great place to start for those who still want to get to know grappa, or those who already know her well. These new releases by Nardini are a sure-fire way to introduce you to grappa, and that 7 year Riserva will be on my own shelf soon enough.

T.T. Liquor, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Basement, Speakeasy, Cocktail School
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: After Work, Date, Small Groups, Tasting, Shop

The sudden appearance of TT Liquor is a welcome gift from some of the folk behind Umbrella Brewing of the amazing Discount Suit Co. and Sun Tavern!

Only a couple of hours after the sign was put up, the Hoodooist found himself amazed by the venue from the street – aged wood and metal clasps in the ground floor guard some of the fantastic products that can be surprisingly hard to acquire, like the 5% ginger beer by Umbrella Brewing that is the talk of the town.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Mind, there are three floors to this venue, behind the store and upstairs are cocktail classrooms that make up what is essentially a cocktail school – this is literally my Hogwarts.

Downstairs, though, that’s where we find the bar and the ex-prison cells that make up the vaults where gin, rum, and whiskey tastings are held, including Cocktail Journeys, where several cocktails inspired by the various eras of cocktail culture are enjoyed as a flight. The cosy, candle lit surrounds are excellent for huddling over cocktails and small dishes served up at the venue.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The menu is divided into eras, and are all wonderful takes on cocktails of their time. If you were to level a criticism against it, it would simply be that it seems to be a tiny bit gin heavy at times.

That’s not to say those that those cocktails that are there are not satisfying. They are gorgeous – the tequila Rosetta is one such beautiful cocktail.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Blending Arette Silver tequila, Briotte Rose, lime juice, rose water and syrup, the Rosetta’s nose is distinctly Arette. Upon first sip, it is tequila heavy – so agave fans will be most pleased. If the sound of rose is intimidating, there is nothing to worry about here, as the rose is quite subtle and soft, wisping in at the end, and lightened by the lime citrus.

Next, the Dorian, in keeping with one of Umbrella’s favourite whiskeys, mixes Redbreast 12 yr with hazelnut syrup and the Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters. A little bit on the sweet side and one note for myself, it is best to ask for a slightly less sweet take on this when ordering. Unless, of course, you’re really in the mood for bittersweet chocolate hazelnut!

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The Dorian

Next, the Sexy Kung Fu Fighter really goes for it – Jinzu gin meets kumquat, fresh bergamot juice, kaffir lime and shiso leaves, Belsazar white vermouth and syrup. A little heavy on the bergamot, a bright, lively and effervescent cocktail with hints of kaffir lime and cherry blossom from the Jinzu. An exciting and enjoyable drink.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

The Sexy Kung Fu Fighter

Le Chat Noir is dangerous. Hayman’s Old Tom gin, Lillet Blanc, Henry Bardouin pastis, fresh lime juice, syrup and tarragon will deceive you, and vanish in the space of seconds. A long drink that is easy to down, you will have to consciously nurse this one early on, so they don’t get thrown back late in the evening.

Reminiscent of a (much) lighter take on a Corpse Reviver No.2, Le Chat Noir manages to channel the herbal tarragon and pastis incredibly well, for a light cocktail that does not hold itself from packing a punch in the long run.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Le Chat Noir

And then there is the signature.

Doing the rounds since about London Cocktail Week 2016, the home made Umbrella Brewing Ginger Beer packs a punch at 5%, with gorgeous effervescence and spice. A candied and ginger nose is followed by a palate that is uncompromisingly spicy, with hints of malty molasses sweetness, and citrus.

Beautiful.

Umbrella Brewing TT Liquor London cocktail bar

Honestly, it was great to see cocktails go back to simpler combos and try not to outdo themselves.

The only cocktail here I can say I did not take to was the Dead Ringer. Woodford Reserve, Toussaint coffee liqueur and Bob’s Peppermint bitters formed something not particularly enjoyable. But when held up to the beautiful cocktails above, who’s to care?

Do the right thing – go to TT Liquor. Get a class. Buy a bottle. Support your fabulous new local.

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

T. T. Liquor

17b Kingsland Road,
London E2 8AA

http://ttliquor.co.uk/