A new sort-of distillery joined the ever-growing number of east London independent spirit makers last year, and now its first liqueur, Escubac, is out.
Sweetdram calls its activity 'viral distilling' – what actually happens in its Dalston workshop is the development of liqueur recipes. The distilling then takes place at host distilleries around the world. So Escubac is distilled at Combier in Saumur, in the Loire region of France.
Why that choice? 'The most fun part of the process, for us, is designing the recipe,' co-founder Daniel Fisher told Imbibe. The other man involved is Andrew MacLeod Smith, previously of The London Distillery Company. The pair met when studying an MA in brewing and distilling in Scotland. 'The host distilleries quite enjoy it. We're working with a gin distillery next. They distil the same thing day in, day out, so [hosting us] can be a breath of fresh air.'
'Gin is getting really saturated,' Fisher continued. 'We think liqueurs can be the next big thing. We're just trying to put a contemporary twist on it.'
For Escubac, they started from a recipe for an old French liqueur of the same name (itself inspired by a British cordial recipe), that they deconstructed and reimagined for today's market and palate, Fisher explained. It's made with plenty of spice, which is evident on the nose, with star anise and fennel seeds quite prominent at first, before warmer notes of clove-studded orange, cubeb and liquorice create a Christmas feel to it. It remains quite fresh though, and especially so on the palate, where some minty notes emerge, among more clove, with a juicy orange and cardamom finish. The mouthfeel's light but the spicy aftertaste is lengthy, and we can see it work well with tonic, ice and a lemon twist, its suggested serve.
The bottle's worth mentioning too, as calling Sweetdram design-centric would be an understatement – the process for creating its custom bottle's even featured in an upcoming exhibition – and its branding is quite striking too, setting it aside from traditional liqueur bottles.
As for the future, the focus will remain on liqueurs, with plans for a core range of two to three liqueurs by the end of 2016, and some smaller, limited-release liqueurs along the way. Expect the first one around February/March time next year.