UK Drinks Producers Are Filling Glasses In Surprising Ways.
On the world map of drinking, location is everything. Towns, cities, districts, and regions are world-famous for what they brew, distill and produce. The drinks and the places are symbiotic, indistinguishable: Champagne, Sherry, Chianti, Cognac, Bordeaux, Scotch, a dozen others. There are equally historic countrywide associations: Belgium and its beer; vodka from Russia, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Forty years ago, no-one would have predicted that wine made in New Zealand, the USA or South America could compete with that made in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Yet today’s wine drinkers, from fine-diners to supermarket shoppers and even some professional critics, consider New World wines as good or even better than those from the Old World. Something to bear in mind when you consider THE STAND’s round-up of the UK’s most surprising drinks.
Using a special yeast, the milk is made into ‘milk beer’, which is then fermented to make vodka
Whisky from Wales
About 30 miles northwest of Cardiff, at the bottom of the Brecon Beacons national park, the Welsh Whisky Company has been selling its wares since 2004. When the Penderyn distillery was founded in 2000, it restored whisky making to Wales after more than 100 years. Note the use of ‘whisky’ rather than ‘whiskey’, aligning it with Scottish and Japanese distillers; the latter form is the spelling you’ll find on Irish and American bottles.
Tasting Notes: The Madeira single malt, a three-time gold medal winner at the International Whisky Competition, is sweet and smooth. Drinkers pick up honey and vanilla, and have found it surprisingly complex for such a young dram.
Vodka made from Dorset cows’ milk
Jason Barber milks his cows like any other dairy farmer, but he has a truly unique use for the whey left behind when the milk is used to make cheese. Using special yeast, he turns the whey into a ‘milk beer’, which is then fermented to make Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, which first went on sale in 2012. In 2016, it became available in America for the first time.
Tasting notes: Unsurprisingly, the word ‘creamy’ appears in almost every description. It is certainly less harsh than the yak- and horse-milk alcohols made in Mongolia and Siberia. Mixologists like its smooth flavour for cocktails.
The world’s only ‘non-alcoholic spirit’
Seedlip began appearing in London hotel bars and other cocktail haunts at the end of 2015. It’s a botanical spirit like gin, but unlike gin, it is 0 % abv (and has no juniper). Its inventor, Ben Branson, was researching herb gardens and found mention of alcohol-free distilled drinks in a book published in 1651. Almost four centuries later, he made batches in his kitchen in the Chilterns; production has moved to a German distillery to keep up with increasing demand.
Tasting notes: The Spice 94 version has a refreshing citrus tang and complex gin-like finish. As a grown-up alternative to soft drinks for those wanting a booze-free night and hangover-free next morning, Seedlip is a revelation.
The British Rum Mini-Boom
Anyone who has been to a pub or bar in the last five years can’t have escaped the rise of UK gin production. The number of distilleries doubled between 2010 and 2015, from 116 to 233; 49 alone opened in 2015. This has disguised a 400 per cent increase in British rum production in the same time – from just one to five. One has since ceased production, leaving Bushtea, Glorious Revolution, Old Salt and the made-in-Scotland Dark Matter as UK drinkers’ choice of home-produced grog.
Tasting notes: Bushtea, a spiced rum, tastes “citrusy and spicy”, with cinnamon, vanilla and overripe banana flavours, and a honeyed, citrus-vanilla aftertaste, according to the Difford’s Guide for Discerning Drinkers.
In 2015, critics agreed on two things when they sampled ‘Chateau Largo’, a rosé-like wine made from 200 vines planted half a mile from the northern edge of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. It was undrinkable, but it was wine: structurally, the nectar made from fermented grapes. As climate change continues, places previously unsuitable for growing grapes (see also: Eastern Europe) will become possible future winemaking regions. The issue with drinkable Scottish wine is more ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Tasting notes: “Traces of swimming pool with a strong hint of fruit, particularly grapefruit, though there is definitely a bit of raspberry in there somewhere. And it comes with an afterkick — a mild burning of the back of the throat and a zing of bitter lemon.” Robert Hardman