The resurrection… of brandy, whisky, vodka and beer

Can it really be Easter already? I have only just put away my Santa hat and elf slippers! Early as it is, I am grateful for the opportunity to reunite with family so soon after Christmas  and to take a breather before facing the rest of the year. In my family, it starts with the Good Friday breakfast ritual of delicious hot cross buns from the local bakery (New Norcia), before the inevitable progression to a glass of bubbles as preparations begin for the Sunday feast. This year I have even put my hand up to host Sunday lunch and am looking forward to sharing in an abundance of good company, yummy food and fabulous drinks.

Easter seems like a fitting time to reflect on the ‘liquor cycle’. While some varieties seem to naturally ride the wave of popularity and arrive on the table true to old form, others owe their rise in fame to subtle (and not so subtle) alterations in flavour. Age old, staple drinks are being challenged and enhanced by new generations of creative drinkers, and as a result the liquor cycle is churning at an unprecedented rate; all manner of alcoholic drinks are being redefined.

In recent blogs we considered the evolution of Vermouth and Rose, but even the steadier, serious drinks like Vodka, Whisky and Beer are being spruced up.

Observations of a wine retailer:

Vodka – While staunch vodka purists may oppose the adulteration of this ancient and powerful substance, floral and herbal notes have been creeping their way in, inviting a wider following.

Whisky – Recent years have seen the traditional solemnity of whisky tickled with spices and flavours; the resultant personality sparking the interest of the young and hip. Big brands such as Wild Turkey, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels are thriving.

Beer – As far as beer is concerned, bitter is better. Brewers have been pushing the limits of IPAs, producing very hoppy beers that make ‘a cold one’ an extremely intense experience. In the recent past I have seen all sorts of successful experiments in beer brewing, from spicy chili-beers to spritely ginger…beers.

The creative introduction of flavours such as cinnamon, vanilla, clove, honey and spices, has inspired a new generation, but even old and forgotten varieties are suddenly new and exciting. Liquor varieties are being ‘resurrected’. Dust off those forgotten bottles of Rum, Whisky and Vodka, you can proudly offer them to your guests with the confident assurance that they will now be appreciated for their true worth.

One treasure, well deserving of its steadily growing popularity is Brandy. Those dedicated readers that took time to peruse my Christmas blog amid the busy festive season may remember my glowing reference of St Agnes Brandy. Further, I am sure those who attended the St Agnes Tasting at La Vigna earlier this month will attest to the amazing depth of XO,15, 20 and 40, so kindly shared by Richard Angove.  If you haven’t tried them…you must.

 St Agnes and Hardy’s have become Australian icons for grape brandy. Yes, I said ‘grape brandy’.  While well-known brandies such as French Cognac and Armagnac are made from grapes (Colombard and Ugni Blanc), brandy can also be made from pomace or other fruits. Pomace brandy, made from pulp remaining after the crush, produces a more rustic flavour. Italian Grappa is produced in this way… need I say more? Fruit brandy is the delicious result of fermenting fruits such as apple, pear, berries and plums. You may have tasted French Calvados made from apples, or Slivovitz from plums? If not, the coming holiday may be the perfect time to try them.

Take a few quiet moments this Easter to reflect on the ancient history of our yummy drinks and perhaps take the opportunity to experience some of the more recent flavours that have given ‘new life’ to old varieties. If you would like a little help with your selections, please visit us in store; I am always keen to be a part of your journey. Happy Easter!

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