For this round up we’ve been kindly sent two Antipodean liqueurs, a pair of British beers and a sparkling mixer. Five very different, but very delicious, drinks…
Quick Brown Fox Coffee Liqueur, 20%
This coffee liqueur travelled half way round the world, starting its journey in Dunedin, New Zealand, before being delivered to our tasting desk in a small sample bottle with a hand-written label pasted on the front. And what a treat it turned out to be.
It’s a thick liqueur, oozing with creamy goodness, full fresh coffee flavours and some dark chocolate and vanilla sweetness. Liqueurs can often be sickly if taken neat, but not this one. The sweetness was spot on with the blend of flavours providing a taste as smooth as the texture. We tried half of it in a creamy White Russian-ish cocktail. It tasted great, but it was even better sipped neat. A superb liqueur seemingly unaffected by its long distance journey.
Brookie’s, Byron Slow Gin, 26%
Another liqueur, another long journey. Brookie’s Gin is a product of the Cape Byron Distillery in Australia and this ‘slow’ edition has been flavoured with the Davidson Plum, a native of the local rainforest. It’s an obvious take on a sloe gin, with the rare plummy rainforest fruit being steeped in the distillery’s gin and tamed to a sensible 26% ABV with spring water.
It’s tart (like our sloe gins) but has a slight floral quality that reminds us of Turkish Delights and a dry, juniper rich finish that gently tugs at your cheeks. For sloe gin fans it’s definitely worth checking out as an unusual variant, and we also suggest gin lovers seek out a bottle of Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin, a full flavoured spirit with plenty of juniper and citrus to enjoy.
Ginking Botanica Italia, 8.5%
Ginking is a blend of white wine and gin botanicals, stuffed with bubbles and packed at a party friendly ABV of 8.5%. We don’t usually go for pre-made mixes and cocktails but there was something about this special Italian inspired edition that looked appealing, so we replied ‘yes please’ to the offer of a sample and stuck the bottle straight in the fridge.
It didn’t last long. The easy going fizz has crisp white wine at its core and a guzzleable bitterness from the botanicals, but with much more complexity than most flavoured fizzes and a sensibly lower-than-average sweetness. The Italian influence is apparent by the use of ingredients that feature in vermouth and it certainly made a fine summery aperitif that we drained with glee.
Skinner’s, Towans Lager, 4.4%
We drink (and write about) Cornish beer quite regularly. This is because (a) we live in the South West so it often features at local pubs and beer festivals; (b) we spend most of our holiday time in Cornwall* and; (c) Cornwall has lots of breweries we like. The kind of breweries that are rooted in English real ale traditions but are capable of doffing their caps to modern craft ways without being engulfed by craft craziness.
One such brewery is Skinner’s who have just added a lager to their core range. The instant thing we like is that it tastes like a Skinner’s beer. We think having a ‘house style’ is a good thing – these days it’s not that hard to find a decent lager, so rather than recreating another identikit lager product it makes a refreshing change when breweries turn out their own version of a style. Skinner’s lager has summery light malts and peppery Saaz hops, but it has been given a modern edge with Chinook and Rakau hops which, along with the yeasty flavours, give it plenty of character. The kind of thing that would well suit ale drinkers who don’t normally go in for lager.
Marston’s No 1. Horninglow Street IPA, 7.4%
This new release immediately caught our eyes. It’s the first in a series of one-off beers brewed using Marston’s famous Burton Union system and was made along similar lines to the old Burton IPAs that were exported to India from the early 19th century. The process involves a two-day fermentation in rectangular ‘squares’ before being transferred to oak barrels – 24 of them, interlinked – where fermentation continues for another five days.
It’s another beer that tastes uniquely of its brewery, with Marston’s yeast adding to the flavours from the pale malt and four hops – Goldings, Sovereign, Ernest and Cascade. It’s a smooth boozy brew with a delicious rich honeyed toffee flavour to it, some subtle tropical fruits mixing with the typically English hoppy notes, and a dry oaky finish. You can pick up a bottle from Waitrose, while stocks last, for what we think is a very reasonable £4 and reckon it’s one worth storing in the cellar for a few years. Hopefully, while you wait, there will be plenty more of these Marston’s limited edition beers to enjoy.
*Rich is currently in St Ives, grumbling of a St Austell Proper Job Hangover, while Nick pieces together bits of his booze-influenced copy and sends it to our clients