In the latest round up of booze samples received for review we have possibly our most varied line-up yet. There’s a unique blend of old and new gins; a white port that goes great with tonic; some summery spritzes; a cracking tot of Navy rum and a beer made with a distillery’s smoked malt.
It has taken a while, but we’ve enjoyed drinking them all and we hope you enjoy finding out more about them…
FIFTY/50 Gin, 50%
When new drinks arrive they usually join the end of a long line of boozes until it’s their turn to be tasted*. However, we were so excited by the arrival of this unique gin that it jumped to the front of the queue and was tasted as soon as it left our Covid quarantine facilities.**
It is claimed to be the oldest gin in the world, a 50/50 blend of 20 year old gin and a young gin. The mature gin has been stored in whisky casks for ten years and virgin oak for a further ten years, giving it loads of oaky flavour, while the young gin has been added to return some of the botanical freshness to the mix.
Forget the tonic, we were straight onto this neat, and it really is a unique drink. The smell is a marriage of boozy vanilla, the likes of which you might expect from a quality bourbon, and the botanical freshness of gin. Sipping it, we get more vanilla and spice, and even a touch of coconut, while the rich, aged-oak flavours lead to the familiar fruity bitterness of juniper, speckled with other zesty and rooty botanical notes.
Our sample arrived with a booklet containing cocktail suggestions, but we haven’t yet tried any of these. The gin itself is a melange of so many interesting flavours that we’re still exploring it neat before considering adding anything else.
Graham’s Blend No. 5, White Port, 19%
In a bid to cash in on gin’s recent success, lots of other boozes are reminding people that they’re excellent when paired with tonic. Once such booze is White Port, a less familiar member of the Port family that is now gaining a bit of popularity thanks, in part, to getting the tonic treatment.
Graham’s Blend No. 5, recently launched into Waitrose stores, is made by cold-fermenting grapes, with the process stopped by the addition of brandy, creating a super-sweet, dessert-friendly drink. There’s no barrel ageing involved so the colour remains that of a white wine and all the floral, fruity flavours are unaltered by the effects of wood.
Sip it neat and you get a thick, sweet and vinous fortified wine with chewy, fruity grape flavours, enlivened by a range of floral notes. Add tonic and you can see what the fuss is all about: even with the cheap tonic we found lurking at the back of the fridge those fruity and floral flavours came alive, while the sweetness balanced out the tonic’s bitterness to add some crispness to the drink. Judging by this effort we reckon the P&T is a genuine cocktail contender.
Finest Caribbean Black Tot Rum, 46.2%
In the rum world, 31st July is a date known as Black Tot Day, marking the occasion when, in 1970, the British Navy ended daily rum rations (or ‘tots’). To mark the 50th anniversary of this terrible day we took part in an online tasting of Black Tot Rum, jointly hosted by brand ambassador Mitch Wilson (above) and curator at HMS Belfast, Robert Rumble, whose main task was to regale us with some fine drunken tales of the high seas.
Besides a nip of Black Tot Rum our tasting pack also included the rums used in the blend, sourced from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados, as they would’ve been back in the days of the tot. The resulting blend is exactly the kind of cockle-warming sipper we would enjoy if ship-bound for any great length of time, possessing lots of spicy fruits and some soothing, toasty molasses. This rum avoids drifting into overly sweet waters, allowing those natural flavours to work their nautical magic with a hearty slap of alcohol.
As a closing bonus we also got to sample Black Tot Last Consignment, a rum made using the Royal Navy’s last remaining stocks from 1970, tracked down by eager rum bounty hunters and bottled. If the Navy’s rations were this good then 31st July was indeed a very Black Day.
Pedrino Vermouth & Tonc Spritz, 5.5%
Light, fizzy boozes are all the rage. We’ve just published a round-up of Hard Seltzers and now we’ve been sent a spritz to review. Spritzes are wines that have been mixed with fizz – in the case of Pedrino, the fizz is a hand-crafted tonic that has been combined with different wines for three different products: ruby (port) & tonic, sherry & tonic and, our favourite, vermouth & tonic.
It’s a bubbly burst of botanical booze, with some sweet zesty fruit and juicy grape flavours accompanying a whisper of dry vermouth and tonic bitterness. You could use this in any number of cocktails, or simply fill a glass with ice, top with spritz and add a slice of whatever citrus fruit you fancy (Pedrino suggests grapefruit and we reckon it’s a close thing between that and orange). A great little summer number.
Ardbeg, The Shortie Porter, 6.2%
We’ve been enjoying a few whiskies from Islay distillery Ardbeg of late, so were excited and intrigued when they sent us their first beer, The Shortie Porter. It’s a one off, limited edition, with all profits going to clean water charity Brewgooder and, as you would hope from a distillery famed for its peated whisky, it’s a smoky beast.
The beer uses Ardbeg’s peated malt, which was then brewed by Alloa aces Williams Bros, who know how to handle unusual brewing briefs. It’s a thick and creamy beer with a strong smoky aroma emanating from its jet-black depths, and is super smooth to sup. The roasted malt flavours add to the peated meatiness and, we think, there’s even a touch of Islay sea salt lingering in the background. We like smoked beers. We like Ardbeg whisky. We were always going to love this one and, with a great charity set to benefit from it’s sales, we’re hoping it proves such a success that they’ll consider making another…
*We’re watchful of our alcohol unit consumption and, contrary to popular opinion among our mates, we are not constantly guzzling booze