This month we were invited to watch the stars with Siren Brewery and sample their latest beer. We also attended a virtual Islay whisky festival, tried an aqua vitae from an exciting new distillery, boshed a ‘booch and were treated to a neighbourly gift of lager…
Siren, Lumina, 4,2%
We consider ourselves experts in staring blankly into space, but Berkshire-based Siren Brewery have enlisted the help of Oxford University astrophysicist Dr Becky Smethurst (pictured above) to give a Zoom-based stargazing masterclass to help launch their latest beery creation.
Inspired by the celestial, Lumina is a golden glowing session IPA with flashes of delicate citrus. Maris Otter provides the malty backbone for a stellar line up of hops – Hallertau Blanc, Mosaic and Chinook are flung in at kettling stage, whilst Azacca, Mosaic, Ekuanot and Hallertau Blanc are propelled into the mix late on to provide Lumina with its distinctive tropical notes. The addition of oats gives it a full mouthfeel while its gluten-free creds will help widen its appeal.
Siren have brewed Lumina to sit alongside their flagship range, and we think it complements the rest of their line-up perfectly. We are more than happy to sing to the sound of this Siren.
Bunnahabhain, Fèis ìle 2020 Wee Drams
During lockdown we’ve been taking part in more drinks launches than ever before, courtesy of tasting sessions via Zoom and Facebook. This is something we hope continues long after lockdowns are lifted – an hour of our time over the internet is much easier than the schlep down to London where most launches take place.
Even more of a schlep (but a worthy one) would’ve been the Fèis ìle 2020, a big whisky knees-up on Islay (which we have shamefully never visited). Sadly the event was cancelled this year, but Islay distillery Bunnahabhain held a very well attended Fèis-at-Home instead with whisky experts from the distillery and further afield talking us through three wee drams via Facebook Live.
These special whiskies got better each time. First up was a Madeira Cask Finish 2002, 56.9%, with sweet vanilla, dried fruit and a sweet coffee-tinged oak finish. Next we enjoyed a Moine Amontillado Finish Nine Year Old Whisky, 56.9% – a super smooth sipper with sweet peat and a mineral tang. It had a cherry freshness and a long finish of smoke and maple syrup. After this we were purring with delight.
But the big finish was spectacular – a mystery dram was revealed to be a limited edition 30 Year Old Whisky, Spiorad An Dochais, 49.9% – which sold out straight after the event despite its £650 price tag. Rich oak and tannin slowly crept through the palette, sprinkling sweet citrus flavours on the way. It was a super creamy treat, luxurious in its maturity but very accessible. Thanks to the Bunnahabhain team for hosting the event and hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re able to take that first visit to Islay.
Lindores Abbey Aqua Vitae, 40%
We get excited when any new Scottish whisky distillery opens, but there’s something about Lindores Abbey that excites us more than most. It could be that its home is an Abbey that used to practice distilling over 500 years ago. It might be that they appear to be doing things right, sourcing local ingredients and with plans to reinstate ancient gardens and orchards that surround the distillery. Or it could be that Abbeys have a great track record with booze.
Excitement levels were ratcheted up a notch when received the first product to be released by the distillery, Lindores Abbey Aqua Vitae (extra applause for not opting for gin, as so many other whisky distilleries do while waiting for the whisky to mature). The Aqua Vitae is produced as they imagine it might have been at the Abbey back in the 15th century: a pot still spirit infused with spices that include Sweet Cicely, Douglas Fir and the much under-appreciated Cleavers.
It’s a lovely spirit with an aroma of light whisky grains and a vermouth-like mix of botanicals. The flavour is sweet and herbal with some spicy notes that give it some complex sophistication. It’s highly sippable with just ice but at its best as a long drink mixed with soda or tonic. This is a great spirit to keep everyone going until the first Lindores Abbey whisky is released – and our eagerness to try that whisky is now more keen than ever.
Freedom Lager, 4%
Staffordshire’s Freedom Brewery has been spreading neighbourly lockdown love by giving out gift packs for your neighbour to enjoy whenever you make a purchase from their website. Consisting of four 330ml cans of lager and a tote bag, this generous gift is bound to bring a smile to the lucky recipient’s face, not least because the lager goes down a treat during the hot summer months.*
Our faces certainly broke out into an extended grin when a gift pack was delivered to our door. The lager is one we’re plenty familiar with, it being a regular feature in our fridges, and we enjoy it for an uncomplicated lightness, where easy-going grainy malt and bitter hop flavours mingle together in neighbourly harmony with a touch of sweetness. Load up and share the neighbourly love.
*Or weeks. Or days. At time of writing it feels like summer is over already…
Nick likes a nice Kombucha. “Oooh, la, kombucha, kombucha kombucha ya yah” he will sing, slurping pints of the stuff whilst wheeling around his house with a tea towel draped over his head. We tend to make our own using pet SCOBYs* that live in specimen bottles on our respective kitchen surfaces, so were intrigued to try this fruity collection, courtesy of JARR.
These kombuchas come in medicinal-looking 240ml bottles and are a tad less aggressive on the throat than the ones we are more accustomed to. Having been filtered for commercial consumption they are also thankfully free from those phlegmy globules you sometimes get in home brewed ‘booch. (Or is that just ours?)
JARR’s kombucha are available in a variety of flavours including raspberry, ginger and passion fruit, but we, being simple folk dig the ‘original’ – a tangy brew made from organic green and oolong tea.
*Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.