There’s no denying that I love Christmas. There is also no denying that I love the artisanal products Britain produces. We produce some of the finest drinks in the world, and we are currently in a period of growth with many wonderful new drinks coming onto the market and flourishing.
If you don’t frequent tastings and trade shows and festivals, it can be difficult to find these glorious newcomers and break away from your tried and tested favourites.
Booze is always a welcome Christmas gift, and if it isn’t, you need new friends. The following products are all exciting, of high quality, none too pricey, and are worthy of your purchase as you’re supporting British industry.
English wines are currently going from strength to strength, but I feel the one thing holding back English wines from being on everyone’s shopping list is the price point; why pay £28 for a perfectly drinkable and pleasant wine when you can buy a similar Continental wine for a third of that price? Although I have tried many pleasant English wines (to me, the word pleasant denotes a niceness, but lacks excitement) I had never tried any that excited me. I tried this Nyetimber Demi Sec the other week at a tasting evening at Majestic Mayfair, and it was outstanding.
A sweeter style of fizz, Demi Secs usually have somewhere between 33 – 50g of sugar. With a delicate bubble and perfect balance of sweetness and dryness, this Demi Sec is perfect on its own, or paired with food – and not necessarily dessert. I think it would work amazingly well with spicy Thai; the sweetness would cut through the heat.
Retailing for £34.99 (as part of a mixed six from Majestic) this is well worth every penny and is sure to delight.
White Herron British Cassis
Unlike other versions of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), White Herron is not overly syrupy and sweet. It has a gorgeous sharpness to it and works beautifully in a glass of bubbles, which incidentally would make an ideal welcome drink at Christmas parties. There’s something festive about its lovely pinkish hue. It also works well in cocktails, adding depth and intrigue – try in a bramble.
Founded by fourth generation Herefordshire farmer Jo Hilditch, British Cassis is a sustainable product and is made with an approach similar to winemaking; the blackcurrants are picked when at their peak and fermented with champagne yeast. Hilditch believes in a product’s provenance and says that “the farm hasn’t changed much in 140 years.”
I first tried White Herron at the Hampton Court Good Food festival in August; it was the super warm bank holiday and the festival could not have been in a more idyllic location. I think my Partner in Crime and I worked our way through the entire White Herron menu. Retailing for £19.99, a bottle will last quite a while as you only need a small amount to make big impact.
Still in the midst of our gin craze, the number of new gins that have come onto the market in the last few years is staggering. Having written my Masters thesis on the resurgence of gin in the London drinks scene two years ago, I can’t believe the scene is still on the up; I thought it would have plateaued by now… but gin is one of my favourite drinks, so I am not complaining.
I only came across McQueen (Super Premium Dry Gin) the other week at a bar in Paddington which has added a gin exploration to their menu. What struck me was its punchy juniper flavour. I find so many new artisan gins do not taste all that ginny as they pull back on the juniper, which doesn’t really interest me. I like my gins, ginny! McQueen is certainly ginny and is an ideal gin to mix with tonic as it does not get overwhelmed by it as some do. It has notes of pine forest and a robust body. Delicious!
Distilled in Callander, Scotland at Trossach’s Distillery by wife and husband team, Vicky and Dale McQueen, it launched in June 2016 after following over a hundred trial recipes. The recipe they have settled on is mighty fine indeed, and it is evident that a heap of passion and love goes into every bottle.
McQueen has won a swag of awards this year, most notably a Double Gold at the San Francisco Spirits Competition. Another striking feature of this gin, is its bottle, which has won design awards too. Deep blue ceramic with a wax sealed top. A 500ml bottle will set you back £29.95, which isn’t overly-expensive and will certainly make an impressive gift.