From my oldest whisky to my newest. Thursday December 5th marked the commercial debut of the first two whiskies from Southwold, Suffolk-based Adnams Copper House Distillery, the third English distillery to successfully bring its own whisky to market since the revival in making uisge beatha south of the border. (Adnams follows St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk’s English Whisky Company and the “Hicks & Healey” cooperation between St. Austell Brewery and Healey’s Cyder Farm in Cornwall.)
Yes, yes, I know I’m writing about Adnams again but that’s because it’s perhaps the most progressive of the old established brewers in Britain and regularly has new things to shout about.
Anyway some friends and I, including fellow blogger The Guest Ale (until this point an Adnams sceptic, you can read his take on the same event here) couldn’t resist the offer of £10 tickets for a guided tasting of Adnams’ many beers in September in the company of its head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald. And what a well spent £10 it proved to be.
Given the surroundings, downstairs at the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store in Bloomsbury, a tasting of Adnams ales in cask-conditioned form would have been impractical. And the company doesn’t produce bottle-conditioned beers due to their wide distribution and requirement for a decent shelf-life. Nonetheless, Adnams beers seem particularly resistant to the brewery conditioning process that often knocks the stuffing out of many other breweries’ products, managing to maintain the house character derived from the Southwold brewer’s uniquely spicy yeast. Either that or Adnams has developed a far more sympathetic process.
I’d always promised to write about less-appreciated realms of alcoholic exploration in these pages but find myself having less opportunity than I’d thought, especially given the facts that a) my time is limited, b) I’m keen to avoid becoming primarily a reviews site and c) so much has been happening in my key area of interest, i.e. beer.
However, once again the rejuvenated Adnams has come to my rescue by coming up with something entirely unexpected. Well by me at any rate. If its recent adventures in mainstream spirits (gin and vodka) and beer-derived ones (Spirit of Broadside and its still slumbering whisky) weren’t enough the East Anglian drinks maker and importer’s Copper House Distillery has now extended its interests to that scourge of the pre-World War One Belle Époque Paris, absinthe. Or, more accurately, absinthes. One the traditional olive green Absinthe Verte (aficionados like to describe the colour as “peridot”), the other the hibiscus red Absinthe Rouge, both 66% ABV. Being a traditionalist I opted to buy a bottle of the Verte.
Southwold, Suffolk family brewer Adnams is for me, like Harveys of Lewes, a beacon for traditional British brewing, its values embodied in its accomplished, highly individual beers. Unlike its Sussex rival, Adnams has taken a decidedly entrepreneurial attitude to its business in recent years launching not only a range of special brews (including continental styles such as a Cologne-style Kölsch and a Dutch-style bokbier) but now also distilling some accomplished spirits, too.
Adnams has also begun opening its Adnams Cellar & Kitchen stores further afield, taking the company’s own beers and spirits, plus an extensive range of wines (Adnams has long been a wine importer and merchant, even if it hasn’t been well known as such) and kitchen goods outside its East Anglian homeland.