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Monday, 2 April 2012

Craft Distillers part 3: Eau De Vie De Bier

What do the island of Jura and the Suffolk town of Southwold have in common? One correct answer would be that they were both home at one stage to George Orwell. But that's not the answer I'm looking for.

We all know that the isle of Jura is home to a single malt distillery producing whisky bearing the island's name. But did you know that sleepy Southwold now has its very own distillery, too?

Located in a beautiful part of England right on the far eastern shore, Southwold could not lie further across the British Isles from Jura, yet here you are to find one the newest distilleries in the UK. With a brewing history going back as far as 1345, Southwold is home to the Adnams brewery which has been churning out fine ales since the early 1800's.

Yet in 2010, the clever chaps at the brewery decided that not only should they spend their lives making some of the best real ales around, but that they should knock a huge hole in the end of the brewery and build... yes, you've guessed it, a distillery. And why not. If you're gonna brew, you might as well distil, too.

And so it was that the Copper House Distillery was opened producing gin, vodka and whisky. The current set up at Adnams consists of a 'beer stripping' column, a copper pot still and rectifying columns all made by the same German company who produced the stills for Tuthilltown.

One of the huge advantages of having brewing and distilling on the same site, is the idea of 'grain to glass' and the chaps at Adnams claim to the be the only small batch distillery in the UK to make vodka in this fashion.

But vodka is not what we're after here. No, sir! For beneath the distillery in the old vaults, barrels of whisky are maturing away. Not yet ready for the public, it is certainly going to be exciting when they do release something which they feel comfortable calling English Whisky.

In the mean time however, the Copper House Distillery has released a range of products, from their gin 'First Rate' through to two styles of vodka: 'Longshore', pure vodka and 'North Cove', oak aged vodka (or young whisky, perhaps?!).

Their newest offering is something quite different. One of the brewery's most successful products is an ale called Broadside. Named after the battle to stave off an attack from the Dutch navy in 1672, this beer has become a staple in the nations pubs for a good reason: it's bloody tasty.

Putting two-and-two together and getting 22, the obvious thing to do if you make beer and own a distillery is to stick your beer through the stills... so this is exactly what Adnams have done with a batch of their Broadside ale, distilling it and then aging it in new French oak casks for around a year. The end product? Eau De Vie De Bier, The Spirit Of Broadside.

Genius! If it tastes any good, that is. So let's find out:

Adnams Copper House Distillery - Eau De Vie De Bier - The Spirit of Broadside - 1 Year Old - New European Oak - 43% abv

Nose: The new oak casks give off big whiffs of freshly cut wood, garden chippings after the rain, potting shed and damp felt. Toasted pine nuts backed with vanilla finish off this unusual nose.

Palate: The initial hit is of cardboard, but not in an unpleasent way. This develops in to thyme, some rare roast lamb and mint jelly with an underlying farmyard note... in fact right back to the potting shed / allotment again. It's very strange. The flavours are not easy targets, moving around in a psychedelic manner on the palate.

Finish: BBQ crisps, slight hints of salt and smoke. Rich vanillas at the death.

Overall: Well, if the Speaker of the House can call Queen Elizabeth the 'Kaleidoscope Queen', then this is 'Kaleidoscope Spirit'. Very unusual. Not measurable by the normal proceedures, I can ask only one question: would I drink this at home? The answer: yes, but not on a regular basis. It's a real oddity, but a joy at the same time. If 'normal' whisky is the Beach Boys, this is Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band...

So there we have it. Another wee distillery making whatever the hell they like. And more power to them.

¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!