12 Drams of Christmas #3: Wiser’s 18 Years Old

I didn’t really start this 12 Drams of Christmas series as anything but an excuse to raid my spirits cabinet and compose some short (but much needed) blog entries. However, it’s also providing an incentive to crack open some interesting bottles I’ve picked up over time that I hadn’t previously got around to sampling.

Number three in the countdown (or is that countup?) is one such specimen: Wiser’s 18 Years Old (40%), picked up at Toronto airport duty free a couple of years back on one of my occasional business trips to Canada. Not readily available in the UK, I’d read enough of Wiser’s 18 to know I should pick one up if I saw one. Not only was it a bit of a bargain for an 18 year old whisky – by today’s standards at any rate – it also turns out to be a cracking dram.

Continue reading “12 Drams of Christmas #3: Wiser’s 18 Years Old”

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12 Drams of Christmas #2: Mighty Oak Wilde Spirit

Number two in my Christmas rundown, and probably no surprise after my last post, is Mighty Oak’s Wilde Spirit (40%). For those coming here without reading that entry first, Wilde Spirit is distilled from the Maldon, Essex-based Mighty Oak Brewery’s Oscar Wilde mild (3.7%) beer at the English Spirit Distillery in Cambridgeshire, after which it appears to receive a dose of rapid wood ageing gaining an attractive honeyish sheen on the way.

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Mighty Oak: Free Beer and the Spirit of Oscar Wilde (Mild)

The last day of November took me to Essex brewer Mighty Oak’s annual free beer open day at its brewery in Maldon, to the east of Chelmsford. The event provides a showcase for the brewery’s wares – including selected barrels of its regular brews and an extensive lineup of seasonal specials – designed to create good will and to help secure take out orders of 36 pint pins and 18 pint mini pins for Christmas.

Both looked to be well on the way to selling out by the time I left, so the effort was clearly a worthwhile one. I didn’t myself end up walking away with an order for Bingle Jells, Rockin’ Reindeer or one of the seven other Christmas ales on offer (I’m not convinced that Yellow Snow was an obvious draw, though the beer itself was more than decent). What I did walk away with was rather more unexpected. Continue reading “Mighty Oak: Free Beer and the Spirit of Oscar Wilde (Mild)”

12 Drams of Christmas #1: Wemyss Peat Chimney 8 Year Old

Inspired by Master of Malt’s Whisky Advent Calendar, and my friends at Whisky Squad’s homemade version, I thought I’d use the festive season as an excuse to dip into my own spirits cabinet each day. As I’ve left it a bit late to cover the full 24 days, I thought I’d use the Twelve Days of Christmas as a more achievable target, although in truth I’ve already blown that too. Still, better start late than never. Plus I get two drams on a couple of days.

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Beers on the Wild Side: The Fall and Rise of Sour Brews

I seem to have been consuming a fair number of deliberately sour beers of late. I’ve even made a point of attending a couple of tastings in London earlier this year featuring such brews. These have included an excellent event given by Canterbury’s Bottle Shop in Covent Garden back in May and an eclectic sour-beer-meets-sour-mash beer and bourbon tasting at Craft Beer Co Brixton in June.

In July I even had the pleasure of exposing some relative beer novices to the delights of a couple of classic Belgian “sours” as part of a tasting I myself hosted at The Rake in London Bridge on behalf of my friends at Whisky Squad (barrel aging being the slightly spurious link to the whisky making process I used to justify their inclusion).

While my everyday preference is currently for good old English bitter – probably the first time in the past twenty years that this has been true – I’ve never failed to be drawn to the parallel universe of beers that lie on the sour side and their potential to turn drinkers’ expectations on their heads. Increasingly it seems that many others feel the same.

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The London Distillery Co: in search of the Thames’ water of life

As a reasonably established member of Whisky Squad I recently took up the offer of a Saturday “field trip” to The London Distillery Company (or TLDC for short) in Battersea. The first whisky distillery in London for over a hundred years – the former Lea Valley Distillery, in Stratford, east London apparently ceased making the spirit in 1905 – is the brainchild of Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Glenmorangie alumnus Darren Rook and investor (and former microbrewery owner) Nick Taylor.

I’d previously met Rook at last October’s TWE Whisky Show when TLDC was still little more than a business plan and was intrigued to see how far the project had progressed. Situated in a former dairy in a remote corner of Battersea, next to Ransome’s Dock, TLDC now boast two stills (Christina the gin still and Matilda the whisky still) and four mash tuns and washbacks (two of each I think). There’s also room for a dedicated spirit still (Matilda will serve as both wash and spirit still for the time being), some limited barrel storage (the rest will be kept in a bonded warehouse somewhere in London) and desks made from wood reclaimed during the dairy conversion.

Rook admires TLDC's handiwork so far
Rook admires TLDC’s handiwork so far

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Supermarket sweep: Co-op Tillington Hills Premium Cider

Cider may be experiencing its greatest period of popularity for many a decade but the foundation of that success owes little to traditionally made products. Rather it’s been the products of marketing departments – and countries not typically regarded as cider lands – that have led to the explosion of cider consumption (my guess is that genuine interest in these products is rather lacking among their drinkers, however). I don’t need to name names as you’ll know which brands I mean.

A few better products from large-scale, established English producers such as Thatchers or Westons can usually be found in the aisles. However, there’s still a real dearth of anything out of the ordinary cider-wise in local supermarkets I use in the East London and Essex areas. Which is why The Co-op’s Tillington Hills Premium Cider is so notable. Continue reading “Supermarket sweep: Co-op Tillington Hills Premium Cider”