Everybody’s favourite Fairtrade spirits company is introducing three liqueurs that are 'ideal for cocktails' to its portfolio: Old Tom, Muscavado Rum and Cacao.
Fair's global brand ambassador walked us through the range that's got innovation and experimentation at its heart.
'Most coffee or cacao liqueurs have at least 300g of sugar per litre,' Paul Bungener said. 'This makes them viscous and quite heavy, but we only use 150g in the cacao liqueuer, so it’s much more ingredients focused, and Fairtrade sugar cane juice is much better because it’s not processed and organically produced.'
The vodka-based Cacao, coming in at 22% abv, is made using Peruvian cacoa nibs. 'It's a very exciting product for cocktails, especially some of those very old classics like the Alexander,' he added. Originally made with crème de cacao and cognac, the brand ambassador said it also works really nicely with Fair's dark rum from Belize, or gin which is a bit different.
'And, there’s a real old classic called the 20th Century, for which you add gin, cacao liqueur and lemon juice. It’s really nice, and again you can make it with rum. I think chocolate and rum work really well together. One of our main cocktails is a Cacao Old Fashioned, which are very much on trend this year.'
Small batch Muscavado Rum is only made 200 litres at a time. 'The specific type of distillation [we use] does create quite a different type of liquid, and the product after that isn’t aged, it’s just rested for six to eight weeks.'
Fair hasn't just distilled the liquid in a different way, it's opted to make the rum in Cognac because the team 'likes to innovate'. 'I think innovation is important in this industry because there’s new products all the time, but often it’s just different packaging,' Bungener added. France is tipped to be a big market for this product but there's promise in the UK, he said.
'It’s 55% abv and when you try it, it takes you on a journey of flavours that explode in your mouth. It starts like a rum that’s very fresh and very green like an ‘rhum agricole’, then quite quickly it erupts into something sweeter, like cherry, and a lot of people think of pisco, then the third step is most interesting, something heavier and more smoky, almost as if you were toasting cherries, and then it finishes up almost like a mezcal. It’s a very interesting liquid. Not for everyone, that’s for sure.'
In terms of cocktails, Bungener has only just got his hands on the liquid and is busy experimenting. 'It’s very good in a Daiquiri and we’ve used it for a Mai Tai and those kind of drinks. Our fruit liqueurs, like the goji berry and the pomegranate, work really well with mezcal, because it has a similar profile. I think what we’re going to start doing is sours, mixing the muscovado [rum] with the goji berry liqueur, egg white and lime juice and it’ll work really nicely.'
Last up is the Old Tom, made from six 'pretty classic' botanicals. 'Except we’ve sourced most of them from Uzbekistan and they have slightly different flavours' – not so classic after all. 'The idea was to go the opposite way to classic London dry gin that uses a lot of ingredients and has strong citrus notes at the end. The most interesting one is the calumus root, which along with the angelica brings a really strong earthiness on the nose, between truffle and mushroom.'
Aged in French new oak barrels for six months, Fair then add 22g of sugar per litre, 'so the mushroomy-feel disappears and it provides something softer and more woody, but you still get that sweetness coming through, and an interesting mouthfeel that’s quite savoury.'
Why an Old Tom? Bungener said: 'We had the original, then we did a barrel aged as a limited edition that did pretty well, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time in stores like Gerry’s and The Whisky Exchange doing tastings and we noticed there were a lot more customers asking for sweeter or flavoured gins. And now, I bet you there’ll be a load of Old Tom gins coming up on the market in the next six months – it’s really becoming a thing.'
With all this innovation, there must be something else in the pipeline? 'When you look at how saturated the gin market is now, it’s really like how the vodka market exploded maybe 10 years ago and then eventually started slowing down and it ends when there’s no more room for innovation, and I think we’re getting there with gin – we did the original, we did the barrel aged, we did the flavoured, and now the Old Tom, and even the gin and tequila. Eventually there’s not so much more you can do. Then there’s all the different ways you can mix it and garnish it, but eventually you just have to say enough and let’s just move onto something else.'
Gin (£35), Rum (£45), Cacao (£19), Borough Wines