The quality is extremely high in this round-up of boozes (and non-boozes) that have been delivered for us to review. We go big on tea, with a beer that uses Earl Grey as a flavouring and a caffeine-free brew that takes gin as its inspiration. And as a break from tea-time we have a top notch whisky blend contained in a bottle inspired by the Chinese Year of the Rat.
Adnams Jack Brand Earl Grey Lager, 5%
In our ongoing quest to find booze flavoured with tea we have been introduced to a lager brewed with Galaxy hops and infused with Earl Grey tea. This type of black tea, enhanced with oil from the bergamot fruit, is one of the best tea-based adjuncts for beer, and with brewing aces Adnams at the helm we knew it would be good.
So, why do we think Earl Grey should be a brewer’s best friend? As with this excellent lager, the bergamot oil gives it a citrussy aroma and flavour that you could imagine being squeezed from a brand new hop variety, in this instance marrying a treat with the peach and citrus notes of Galaxy. The black tea also lends an extra layer of flavour and aroma to beers, while the tea’s tannins help dry the finish, increasing the refreshment factor of our cold, canned lager.
The quest for tea-flavoured booze will continue, but it’s the combination of Earl Grey and beer that sets the benchmark.
Isle of Harris Gin Tea
The people behind Isle of Harris Gin have come up with an excellent idea, which they’ve executed to perfection: use the botanicals that go into their delicious gin to produce a caffeine-free tea blend. Open the lid and you’re met with such a fine aroma of gin that you’ll instinctively reach for the tonic, not the tea strainer, but submit the blend to the flavour-extracting abilities of hot water and a different drink emerges.
The juniper berries, those vital bitter fruits that are essential to all gins, sit more in the background at first, slowly infusing the tea with their slightly tart tang. This allows some of the other botanicals to take the lead, with cassia bark, coriander and the unusual sugar kelp among them, while a sweet thread of liquorice ties it all together with some tea-worthy depth. This is an excellent tea, the result of an idea so brilliantly simple we wish we had thought of it first.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Year of the Rat, 40%
In the run up to the Chinese New Year (January 25th) we noticed an increased number of drinks producers trying to piggy back the event for publicity. Most had tenuous offerings to say the least. By far the best tie-in came from Scottish whisky blenders, Johnnie Walker, who produced a limited edition bottle of their Blue Label adorned with ‘Year of the Rat’ illustrations on three sides, and a further rat in gold and blue foil on the box. It all makes for a stunning piece of artwork, totally appropriate for one of the best blended whiskies money can buy.
For those of you unfamiliar with Blue Label, it sits at the upper end of the Johnnie Walker range and is crafted from numerous old and rare whiskies, some from distilleries that no longer exist. It has all the oaky depth you would want from a mature whisky with a rich figginess and warming, smoke infused spices, sweetened and smoothed by chocolate and honey flavours.
This is the latest annual release of Blue Label whisky celebrating Chinese New Year, with the rat said to be a sign of wealth and surplus. And while you’ll need a certain amount of wealth to invest in this bottle, we’re sure that once you get a taste of it you won’t be leaving any surplus settling at the bottom of that beautifully illustrated bottle.