As 2015 draws to a close, we're looking back on a year punctuated by a number of top-notch Imbibe panel tastings, with everything from beer and curry, England's finest sparklers, and a stellar line-up of Daiquiris. Here are a few of our favourite tasting and matching moments:
We kicked off the year in style, calling in a top end-flight of Northern Rhône reds, which unsurprisingly pulled in some high scores - no less than 78%, overall. Meanwhile, we called in four gins and four tonics, trying each combination to find the ideal G&T match. The results were surprising.
A brave and dedicated panel tackled a large selection of new liqueurs at Basement Sate in London, leaving them not only hopped up on sugar, but also excited about the category. Cointreau Noir and Combier Roi René Rouge took joint top spot, a double triumph for France.
The Daiquiri is a bartender favourite, and so it was an eager team of tasters that joined us at Merchant House to put 15 rums through their paces in this classic cocktail. Banks 5 Island Blend comfortably took first place here, followed by Doorly's 3yo.
There's no doubt about how exciting the English wine category is right now, but if there ever was, our English Sparkling Wine tasting would put paid to that, with no scores below 68%, an average of 75%, and a whole lot of gushing tasting notes. Similarly, there's absolutely no stopping the gin category right now. We put 22 of the newest examples in front of a team of bartenders.
Everyone knows that beer and curry goes together, but could we road test some new styles, and maybe find some undiscovered matches? There was no shortage of willing tasters for this one, unsurprisingly...
Imbibe Live this year played host to a wine tasting of epic proportions, in the form of a collection of indigenous varieties from Hungary, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Macedonia, Georgia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. The results are enlightening, and there are some real bargains to be had, too.
Japanese Whisky was our next definitive spirits tasting, featuring a broad spectrum of what's available in the UK, from grain whisky, to blends, blended malts and single malts. This only left our tasters wishing these were more generally available, and perhaps a little more affordable too.
And with all of the vermouth launches in the last couple years, it was about time we held a definitive tasting of new releases. Belsazar took gold in the dry category, while Australian brand Maidenii took top honours in the sweet flight.
Finally, we called in a crack team of sommeliers to answer that eternal question: Is 20yo the sweet spot for Tawny port? They went about their task with enthusiasm, crowned Ramos-Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro the winner on the day, and decided that the answer to the question was a resounding 'yes'.