So, we’re coming up to what feels like an eternity of lockdown and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, it’s probably looking far better than your haircut right now!
We’ve also been lucky with the weather so far (long may it continue), and we believe that this unique crisis has given us some much needed ‘us’ space, slowing down the hands of time and allowing us to focus on what’s important to us individually. For us, this means experimenting with some new tipples, learning what’s out there in terms of premium and small batch spirits, and reporting our findings back to you first hand – it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it!
We hope you enjoy what we found and are naturally inspired to go experiment for yourselves!
Glen Moray Speyside Fired Oak (10 years) (40% ABV) If you like your whiskies smoky and perhaps more to the American Bourbon palate, then you’ll not go far wrong with this. Glen Moray have been busy experimenting with flavours and away from their core range, in this instance with ex-bourbon casks and virgin American oak casks that have been heavily charred. Strong flavours of vanilla, spice and smoky oak are in abundance with a sweetness that lingers on the tongue. This is an uncomplicated, everyday dram offering a lovely honeycomb sweetness on the tongue. Brings a whole new dimension to a Whisky Highball! £37 Master Of Malt Glen Moray Speyside Elgin Classic (Sherry Cask Finish) (40% ABV) With a price tag of around £27 Elgin Classic is well worthy of a position in the drinks cabinet. For the majority of its life, this liquid gold resides in American oak casks, only to be transferred to sherry casks for the final 8 months. The result is a smooth, refined sweetness offering creamy sherry apricots and exotic fruits on the tongue. There is a complexity to Elgin, there’s a lot going on after all, but a straight up dram over ice in the sunshine makes lockdown a pleasure! £27 Master Of Malt Cotsworlds Single Malt (46% ABV) OK, we’re bias and we’re not afraid to admit it when it comes to Cotswolds Single Malt – it’s quite simply a top 5 for us and there’s good reason why. If you’re passing through the Cotswolds, then you simply must pop into this amazing distillery, such an interesting story behind it that reflects on the delightful taste you’ll experience from (arguably) England’s finest single malt. We’re not alone in our feelings either, every review site has a 5 star rating, which hopefully gives you comfort your £££ is well spent on this. The spirit is distilled twice in their bespoke copper pot stills before being aged in first-fill Kentucky ex-Bourbon barrels and highly active shaved, toasted and re-charred American Oak red wine casks. The result… a tipple that’s more refined than Idris Elba in black tie! Expect a rich, fruity and sippable delight – garnish with an orange and relaaaaaax!! £35 Waitrose J&B Rare Whisky (40% ABV) A classic staple, J&B Rare is a blended whisky found in almost every bar around the world and hails from 42 single malt and grain whiskies no less. Another affordable whisky, expect a mellow smooth flavour with distinctive fruity character. At this price, you can afford to make this your staple mixer, works perfectly in a variety of cocktails and add the right notes to and Old fashioned or Manhattan. £22 Amazon Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky (43% ABV) Oooohhh, our very first foray with an Indian Single Malt. It’s not surprising India are making huge waves in the whisky world, their demand for fine spirits is growing at such a huge pace. Rampur distillery, India’s oldest distillery, has been making a name for itself in fine spirits since 1943, producing a range of rums, vodkas and brandies. Whisky production started back in 2004, releasing their first single malt in 2016. The brand makes play of the fact that this is a Himalayan whisky, meaning the maturation will see higher temperatures, ultimately speeding up the process three to four times of that in the Scottish climate. Onto the flavours – on the nose you’ll pick up a delightful sweetness. In the mouth, thick, juicy, cinnamon and a faint woody flavour. Worthy of a lockdown purchase – oh yesssss! On the rocks or straight, what a treat! £50 The Whisky Exchange
Mermaid Gin (42% ABV) We just can’t get enough of Mermaid gin… whether it’s mermaid magic at work, the piece of art that is the bottle, or perhaps the delicious seafaring flavours, this has a special place in our heart and drinks cabinet. If you want the ‘perfect’ G & T, then we don’t think you’ll be too far from the mark with this liquefied treasure. Smooth, deep and rounded with a long finish… what else could you possibly ask for?! Expect a zing from 10 botanicals including rock samphire, elderflower, organic citrus zest, orris root, angelica root, liquorish root, juniper, grains of paradise and boadicea hops and English coriander. Team with juniper berries and a little Fever Tree Indian tonic for the best results. But don’t rely on our bias, the internet is buzzing with 5 star reviews too! £35 Master Of Malt Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin (40% ABV) Another absolute corker from the World-renowned Rampur Distillery, Jaisalmer will become the treat you never knew you needed during this lock down. Expect citrus liquorice, angelica and coriander, as well as cubeb and grains of paradise offering a spicy take on traditional Indian flavours. Smooth and refined – Jaisalmer just earnt a spot in our top 5 gins. We went the whole hog and teamed with a traditional Indian tonic and ice along with a delicious Indian take away from our local. The two are a match made in heaven, try it for yourself! £35 Master Of Malt Boatyard Double Gin (46% ABV) A fabulous gin hailing from Ireland, Boatyard, whilst strong at a hefty 46% proof, offers a unique line up of 100% organic botanicals including juniper, sweet gale, unwaxed lemon peel, coriander, grains of paradise (light peppery heat), orris, angelica and liquorice. The dominant botanical here is grains of paradise, offering a slight cereal quality to the taste. There are plenty of layers here giving you plenty to explore. This is best enjoyed with an Indian tonic and slice of grapefruit, which instantly turns this into a cooling and refreshing tipple, ideal for a hot sunny day under lock down! We had to mention the beautiful bottle design, which is actually created on a 1960s Heidelberg letterpress by a small company in Wales. Give the designer a round of applause! £33 The Drinks Shop Seven Crofts Gin (43% ABV) Only a year old but been in the planning since 2014, Seven Crofts gin is making some big waves right now and for good reason. This Scottish delight leans on 7 botanicals including; juniper, angelica root, coriander seeds, cubeb pepper, pink peppercorn, cardamom, fresh lemon peel, which keep the taste simple, classical and beautifully layered with spicy notes to taste. Serve with lots of ice, a good quality tonic (1 part gin to 2 parts tonic) and garnished with a slice of orange. If you like a traditional gin, you’ll not go far wrong with this. Beautiful art deco bottle too! £40 Master Of Malt Roku Gin (43% ABV) What we love about the gin explosion over the past couple of years is the emergence of premium product’s featuring local botanicals from countries you’d simply never associate with gin! In this case welcome to the land of the rising sun, Japan. In Japanese, ‘Roku’ means six, which relates to the six quintessentially Japanese botanicals within the gin (green teas, cherry leaves and sakura blossom, yuzu and Japanese pepper). These sit alongside a further 8 more traditional botanicals – each etched out beautifully on the bottle. Expect a rich character with a note of citrus and a hint of smoke with the tea varieties offering prominence. To get the most out of these unique botanicals, try this neat over ice in the first instance. Don’t overcomplicate with flavoured tonics, you really don’t need to. £30 The Whisky Exchange Barentsz Mandarin & Jasmine Infused Gin (40% ABV) Barentsz you’ve hit on the summer vibe with this delightful tipple. Super smooth and creamy, you can quite easily drink this straight. Key botanicals include juniper, orange peel, coriander seeds, almonds, liquorice, angelica root, cassia bark and orris root, not to mention the spirit being infused with Mandarin & Jasmine of course. Yummy! Team with an Indian Tonic (you really don’t need anything complex here), pull up a sun lounger, and enjoy this very special moment. £36 Master Of Malt Cotswolds Dry Gin (46% ABV) We’ve been hooked on Cotsworlds Dry Gin for the last three years. In fact, ever since we visited the distillery and were served it with a slice of grapefruit following a fascinating tour. Call it what you will, but we can guarantee you’ll not be disappointed with the results. Featuring nine botanicals including lavender from the Cotswolds, and freshly peeled lime and pink grapefruit zest, what makes this delight so different is the fact it’s made with over 10x the average amount of botanicals – giving it a unique citrus vibe. What’s more, due to the high oil content from the botanicals, when mixed with tonic, ice or water the liquid turns a beautiful pearlescent colour. Whilst this makes for the best tasting G & T ever, we recommend trying a French 75 (simple syrup, champagne, lemon juice, Cotswolds Gin and a twist of lemon). £32 Master Of Malt Rosemullion Seafarer Gin (43% ABV) Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside… but sadly we’re on lockdown so I’ll just pour myself a glass of Rosemullion Seafarer Gin and day dream for now! This is a new gin from Cornwall’s most exciting distillery and it’s every mermaid’s dream. Alongside selected botanicals including juniper, orange, orris, angelica root, cassia, lemon and liquorice, Seafarer is flavoured with Cornish samphire and three types of Cornish seaweed giving you very delicate, earthy tone with a refreshing splash of citrus. There’s a flavoursome depth to this gin, which we can’t get enough of. It’s not over complex with botanicals and needs a straight up tonic with ice and a slice in our view. Well done Rosemullion, you’ve got our vote (again!!) £35 Master Of Malt Zealot’s Heart Gin (44% ABV) Those punks over at BrewDog have been cooking up a storm in their unique triple-bubble still… well a delicious gin (or 3) to be precise! Zealot’s Heart Gin was formulated out of 197 recipes no less and comprises a unique blend of botanicals, notably Thai lemongrass, kaffir lime and grapefruit, which provide a distinctive air of Asia. These are balanced with floral notes from the other botanicals, which include Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Lavender Flower, All Spice, Goji Berries, Meadowsweet, Lemon & Lime Peel, Mace, Szechuan Peppercorn, Sansho Peppercorn and Grains of Paradise. The lavender is especially fragrant in the mouth in a similar way to our fav gin, Cotswolds. Zealot’s is hands down a delicious tipple when teamed with a tonic and slice. Prepare to open your mind and experience something a little bit different, in a good way of course! Worthy of a mention is the bottle – clear glass from top to tail, teamed with a mystical Victorian era label design that would actually look quite nice hanging on my wall! £30 Master Of malt
Diplomatico Mantuano Rum (40% ABV) With a lovely spicy caramel to the nose this is likely to be your go-to Rum this summer. In the mouth, this rich, oily liquid offers you so much more – polished oak, caramel, toffees followed by a slight charred bitterness. It finishes on a soft and sweet herbal high – love it! Aged for up to 8 years, Diplomatico Mantuano is made from molasses and sugar cane honey, giving it a powerful sweetness and making it an incredibly versatile all-rounder for cocktails. We highly recommend trying it in a Pina Colada – Diplomatico Mantuano adds a whole new dimension to it, taking you to the Caribbean and back in every sip! £25 Master Of Malt Three Tides Smoked Demerara Rum (40% ABV) Have you ever wanted to feel like a real-life pirate? Well, get yourself an eye patch and a bottle of this swashbuckling delight. Aaaaarrrgggghhhhh, hic!! First to note is the simplicity of the bottle, which presents the delicious, deep honey coloured liquid inside – I could watch this for hours. This is a serious rum for rum lovers. It’s not cheap, but there’s a reason for that. This is a rum with a lot of difference. Ingredients include; scorched gorse, wild elderflower and oats, which provides a creamy, fragrant smoke laced with dark chocolate bitterness on the tongue. Delicious over ice, as a shot as well as in a cocktail – you must try this with fiery ginger ale and a squeeze of lime, unreal!! You’re welcome! £35 Wine Buyers Spirited Union Lemon & Leaf Botanical Rum (38% ABV) Launching onto the premium spirits market in 2019, Spirited Union’s Lemon & Leaf Botanical Rum appears to be getting a fair amount of online praise right now, and for good reason. With an eye-candy label as bright as the flavours within it, this is a new favourite tipple of ours. Hailing from Amsterdam and the Spirited Union distillery, this rum blends Amalfi lemons, blue eucalyptus leaves and Sri Lankan Highland black tea, coupled with earthy kina bark, Sarawak pepper and sarsaparilla root, creating a herbal, flavourful spirit with a complex spicy finish. On the nose, you can’t mistake the sweet citrus blended with Agricole rum. In the mouth expect more of an explosion of zest with crisp and minty notes, which finishes with a delightful earthy tone. This is amazing for cocktail experimentation! £35 Master Of Malt
H by HINE VSOP Cognac (40% ABV) A cracking, lower priced cognac that is not lacking in flavour! If you are looking for an authentic, premium cognac then this is a great starting point. It’s also a fantastic, lively mixer for cognac laced cocktails. On the tongue, expect hints of apple blossom and candied citrus with a sprinkling of spices, that make tor a luxurious finish. We’ve certainly paid a lot more for a lot less! £30 Majestic Wine Grahams Tawny Port (10 year old) (20% ABV) A fine Port is not just for Christmas you know! Aside from drinking straight with delicious cheeses, Port also lies at the heart of some very funky summer cocktails that will certainly keep you smiling during lockdown. Take the ‘Port Of Call’ for instance, you’ll never see Port in the same way again! 1 oz London dry gin 1 oz Grahams Tawny port 3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice 1/2 oz Cinnamon syrup 1 barspoon Cranberry preserves Garnish: Mint sprig Garnish: Speared blackberry and raspberry Grahams Tawny Port is especially tasty, giving you a rich, nutty, honey flavour coupled with raisins and figs – such a smooth finish. If you’re after an affordable, premium port for experimenting with cocktails… you’ve found your match right here. £20 Waitrose Cocchi Rosa Americano Aperitif Wine (16.5% ABV) Now what have we got here? An all Italian aperitif, that’s what! This is to be enjoyed as a Spritz with ice and tonic water or mixed with sparkling wine, you’ll essentially be creating a delicious thirst quencher that gives you berries and a bed of wild roses on the tongue (complex yet smooth) – I’m not sure I’ll drink sparkling wine the same way again to be honest. Cocchi Rosa is based on a very sweet red wine unique to the area it’s harvested, and combines herbs, fruits and spices, most notably gentian, vanilla, rose petals and ginger. We can’t move on without noting the magnificent red colour of the liquid, which is 100% natural. If you want to impress your friends and serve them a little something very special, try this: Gin Rosa – simply combine an unfussy gin with Cocchi Rosa, equal measures, add a squeeze of lemon and ‘hey presto’! £23 The Whisky Exchange Aloha 65 (27% ABV) So you wanna get the lockdown party started? Aloha 65 is here to raise your spirits and put a summer smile firmly on your face. The bottle is as bright as its delicious flavours, which are suited to shots, long-drinks and delicious mixers. Founded 30 years ago in a beach bar in Florida, expect fresh pineapple, lemon, ginger, scotch-bonnet chillies and carefully selected herbs and spices. This is not a gin, rum or vodka – it’s a drink in its own class! Personally, we love this in cocktails – you must try the Alohan: a double measure over ice topped up with ginger ale and garnished with mint and a slice of orange or lemon. £22 The Whisky Exchange
Vita Vodka 37.5% ABV Hailing from sunny Spain, Vita Vodka is actually a bit of a pioneer in its class… it’s actually sugar-free and gluten-free meaning far less sinful drinking, hurrah!!! The magic formula took 18 months to perfect and is made with Italian rye grain and natural lemon peel extract in a family-owned distillery in Barcelona. To drink, it’s refreshing, light and with a stunning lemon zing that hangs around on the tongue. Very palatable. The founders suggest you mix with water to help balance the dehydration caused by the alcohol. This also helps Vita retain its flavour, and having tried straight as well as with a dash of soda, we’d have to agree. Could we be seeing the start of a revolution in the drinks trade? Let’s hope so, Vita LA’Espana. £27 Amazon
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