The Imbibe editorial team have been reporting in their PJs for the last two weeks. They've also been raiding and restocking their drinks collections. These are their favourites from the last two weeks
[Robyn Black, editor (RB), Millie Milliken, deputy editor (MM), Jacopo Mazzeo, news editor (JM)]
Thompson Bros Single Malt New Make Spirit
Just before the covid-19 crisis took hold in London, I picked up a bottle of the Dornoch Distillery in Scotland's new make spirit from the The Whisky Exchange on Borough High Street.
It's made using floor-malted plummage archer barley and fermented for up to 10 days in open-top oak barrels. On the nose, it's sweet and milky (almost like a vanilla milkshake or icecream), while on the palate come more floral notes, with a creamy texture. Despite its 60% abv, it drinks well as a sipping spirit, but I can also imagine this working well lengthened in a highball.
It also comes in an apothecary-style 200ml bottle, doesn't break the bank (under £20) and is packed in a pleasingly minimalist, brown box – a delivery of this will brighten up another day in isolation. MM
Château Ksara Old Vine Carignan 2018, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Carignan is not a new variety in Lebanon. It was in fact brought there in the mid 19th century by the Jesuits.
This is however the first old-vine Carignan varietal released by this renowned Middle-Eastern producer. Made with fruit from 60yo vines grown at over 1,200m, this is an intense and profound wine.
The nose is savoury and fragrant, with sour cherry complementing a gentle leathery note and aromas of forest floor, blueberries and blackberries. The palate is savoury too, crunchy and full, showing pulsating yet ripe tannin and flavours of Mediterranean herbs, pepper spice and great concentration. Just a hint of vanilla and smoke top it off. Very satisfying finish. JM
Shrub & Shutter's Clarified Aviation and Nuclear Daiquiri
Brixton institution Shrub & Shutter’s coronavirus lockdown ‘first aid box’ offers both cocktails (£12 each or 4 for £40) and pasta (£12 for two-person serving) for delivery. I mean why wouldn’t you?
I ordered two of the cocktails – the Clarified Aviation, a mix of JJ Whitley violet gin, Luxardo Maraschino, violet droplets, citric acid and sweetener, and the Nuclear Daiquiri, a heady concoction of El Dorado 3yo rum, yellow & green chartreuse, citric acid and sugar.
Both arrived in re-purposed 200ml spirits bottles, labelled with hand-written luggage tags, along with a bottle of Franklin & Son’s Rhubarb Tonic Water with Hibiscus, a plump lemon and a juicy lime.
The tonic was for the Clarified Aviation, which was my favourite of the two cocktails. The violet giving it a very floral nose, but the entire combination is actually very refreshing and a great aperitif-style palate sharpener.
The Nuclear Daiquiri gave off more ‘late night, high tempo’ vibes, no doubt in part due to its virulent shade of chartreuse, but it looked pretty in the low lights of my living room and went down a treat.
The pasta was fresh spaghetti with a tomato sauce and a liberal amount of grated Pecorino to go with. It was delicious, but I won’t bang on about it as mainly I’m here for the drinks.
And a big-up for the door-to-door service as well – technically I am out of the current two mile radius for delivery but they took pity on me and delivered anyway. Thank you! RB
Innis & Gunn Islay Whisky Cask Amber Ale
This 7.4% abv amber ale is the Scottish brewery’s first limited edition this year, made by maturing the base beer in quarter cask Islay whisky barrels.
The result is a very well-balanced brew, with the oaky character elegantly supporting the base beer. Aromas of winter spices and peat, blend well with the ale’s classic caramel, toffee, and ripe red fruit notes. The palate is rich in flavour though the body is medium, which lends the beer an excellent drinkability. Some further complexity comes through in the finish, with touches of salt and coffee.
Four more limited eds are in the pipeline for 2020, be ready. JM
Bottled Boulevardier by The Sun Tavern
The team at Bethnal Green's The Sun Tavern were one of the quickest to act when the PM called for the closure of all bars, restaurants and pubs in the UK. So, I ordered a bottle each of its Old Fashioned and Boulevardier.
Made using Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth, the Boulevardier is (just) my favourite of the two – perfectly balanced, it's not too sweet, not too bitter and the Woodford Reserve sings as the star of the show. Each bottle comes with serving instructions, batch number, a drink before date and feel wonderfully hand-crafted.
The team are churning out their Quarantini Kits which contain eight serves at only £30. Isolation never tasted so good. MM
El Bandarra Vermut Red, Catalunya
Alright, confession time. This isn’t a new arrival to the Imbibe drinks cabinet, it was released in the UK last spring but its place here is assured by the fact that it’s pretty bloody good actually.
It has a rich, unctuous toffee-ish sweetness, balanced by bitter orange notes and the botanicals of which the clove comes through particularly well. It’s matured in oak barrels for two months, which adds a just a suggestion of vanilla.
The makers suggest you enjoy it neat over ice, which I have on many occassions, but it does also makes a banging Negroni. RB