Showing posts with label Cappoquinn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cappoquinn. Show all posts

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Superb Gin From Blackwater Distillery. Watch Out For The Cappoquin Heron

Superb Gin From Blackwater Distillery.
Watch Out For The Cappoquin Heron!

The making of a London Dry Gin is a process subject to certain regulations as regards to inputs, almost like a wine appellation. This was our introduction to Blackwater No. 5*, the LDC from Cappoquin with the heron in the logo that is already making a name for itself.

Peter Mulryan was our informative guide on a visit to the fledgling Blackwater Distillery. Peter, the distiller and one of four directors, told us about the botanicals, 12 if I remember rightly, used in the process, including Coriander which goes “citrus-y” in the mix. Considering that citrus (dried skins) and bitter orange (also dried skins) are also used you could see why he advised against using a lemon in your gin. Lime would be a better choice.

The orange skins, by the way, come from Spain, the pulp having been extracted to make marmalade. Some spices, including Cinnamon and Cardamom, are also used.

Juniper is perhaps the best known element, having been traditionally used to make gin, and indeed provides the dominant flavour. Got my hands on a juniper berry and when I crushed it between the fingers it began to feel oily. It is this oil that is extracted and used.

In the still.

Three roots help complete the mix, including liquorice and angelica which “tastes kind of gin-ny”.

And if you thought that this was the first time that these exotic botanicals have reached the beautiful banks of the Blackwater, you'd be mistaken. Peter related the remarkable story of the White family from Waterford who, in the 18th and 19th centuries, imported spices, some from faraway places, and distributed them widely, even sending their own boats up the Blackwater with spice consignments for the many big houses on its banks.

The stills are small here, so small they even have names. Distillation though happens quickly and you can make a decent size batch of gin in a day. By the way, there is a reason why most stills are made of copper. Peter: “Copper softens the mouthfeel. The alcohol won’t ‘burn’ you”, he told us. Aside from the stills, they also have a bottling machine on-site.

Already, the new distillery has cooperated with local brewers, including Dungarvan Brewing Company, as it seeks to position itself away from the really big distillers with which it cannot compete on price.
Still and, right, cooling tower.
 And Blackwater can certainly be different as I found out with the next few tastings. First up was the Curious Still vodka distilled from a double IPA by Black’s of Kinsale. “That is taking the bland out of vodka,” said one obviously impressed taster in our small group.

Now we were on to Poteen, called the Spirit of West Waterford, made from local ingredients, and recently subject to government regulations. This was based on a hop-free oatmeal stout, brewed by Dungarvan Brewing Company. It also contains local barley, Flahavan’s oats and "a smidgen of molasses". This “very soft” drink, with an ABV of 43%, was such a hit at the recent West Waterford Festival of Food that the plan is “to move it into commercial production” in the months ahead.

And there is even better news to come. Peter proudly showed us a few small casks made in Finland from juniper wood (the wood itself imported from Serbia). It is hard to get enough of the timber as juniper is a bush, not a tree. An initial batch filled one of the casks and has been a success, “a great gin”, and production of this will also be scaled up. One way of being different.

Small cask, made from juniper.
 And whiskey, Well, no whisky yet. Remember you have to wait three years and one day to have your whiskey approved as Irish Whiskey or as Irish Whisky as Peter would spell it. Plans are well advanced but you won't find their whisky on the shelves anytime soon. At present, you may pre-buy one of a limited number of  50 litre casks.

“We offer people a choice of seven whisky styles in a choice of wood finishes,” says Peter. These won't be any old whiskey. You’ll be offered anything from Single Malt to a peated Pot Still Irish. Check out their website for details.

Innovation is the name of the game here. Peter, a native of nearby Conna, learned the trade in Scotland and that knowledge and his enthusiasm are now being let loose on the final big bend of the Blackwater. Watch out for the heron silhouetted on their bottles, coming to a shelf near you.

*  Blackwater No. 5 is distributed by Classic Drinks.

Peter (left) and Yours Truly

Monday, April 13, 2015

On The Bus Bia Tour

On The Bus Bia Tour
Cheese, Ice-Cream, Bread
Wheels of fresh cheese, waiting to be stored.

It is ten o’clock on an April Saturday morning and we’re on the Bus Bia, heading into the countryside north of Dungarvan. The Bus Bia (Food Bus) is just one element in a packed weekend of activities organised by the West Waterford Festival of Food. We’re on the Blackwater tour and there are two other tours to different areas.
In the sunshine, we pass the house of famous local chef Eunice Power and the memorial to the renowned racing greyhound Master McGrath. Soon we are in Cappoquin. For a while we follow the spectacular Blackwater River, its big houses Dromana and Camphire standing proud, before cutting off deeper into the countryside for the farming area known as Knockanore. 
Bus passengers at Knockanore Cheese

First call is to the Knockanore Cheese company where we are greeted by Donal. They have 120 cows milking here. The milk is left unpasteurized and none is bought in. He tells us they make cheese in six flavours. The most popular is their Smoked version though the Black Pepper Cheese is well up there as well. They smoke it themselves, two weeks with oak-wood.
It is a long day in the dairy, from about 6.30am to 4.30pm. They process over twelve hundred gallons three times a week, producing about 190 wheels a batch. Each wheel weighs 2.8 kilograms. The cheese is then stored for around six months before being sold on at home and abroad (including Denmark, California and New York).
Tom Baldwin

They have grown the business gradually but now are in the throes of expanding their facilities at Knockanore, concentrating on more refrigeration and a bigger cutting area. Around six people are involved in the operation that was started in 1987 by Eamonn Lonergan who is still at the helm. The range is widely available and is stocked in SuperValu shops.

Baldwins are neighbours of the Lonergans and here we were greeted by Tom. Tom found himself with a conundrum in around 2005, whether to move from farming or whether to add on an enterprise to the existing farm which was being smoothly run by the family in any case. Inspired by Eamonn Lonergan he took a course in ice-cream making and started the Baldwin Ice-Cream business.

“We make ice-cream the traditional way. Sarah (who plays a similar role at Lonergan’s) does production for me two days a week. The eggs used are free-range, and all ingredients are natural. We sell to cafes, restaurants, hotels, retail. We pride ourselves on the unique quality and that comes out in the product.”

It is all manual work “at the moment”. “It suits me, is very flexible. For instance, if a chef wants a particular small order, we can do that special.”

Esther Barron
 The ice-cream enterprise has seen the dairy herd grow from 50 cows to some 100 plus. He still delivers direct to the customers: “We have no central distributor. I’m happy the way I'm going as it is a sustainable model. Most of our customers are in Waterford and Cork and we have built a good reputation.”

Back then to the bus and we retraced our journey to Cappoquin. Here we stopped at Barron’s Bakery which has been operating for five generations, serving only the local community (up to an 11 mile radius) for all those years. Esther Barron was our passionate host at the oldest bakery in Ireland and she underlined the importance of spending locally.

Oven closed
 They have 12 employed nowadays and bake during the night, using the amazing old-fashion Scotch Brick ovens. Bread-making here is a slow process but the bread is all the better for it. The bread is two hours in the making before it even gets to the oven whereas a factory process take only 20 minutes. “Hand-moulded bread is always more flavoursome. The bread can't be rushed. My father used to say ‘the art of bread-making is beyond science’”.

The bakery was established in 1887 and is one of the last bakeries in Ireland that still uses the Scotch Brick ovens. These give the bread an unique taste, flavour and crust as we found out for ourselves thanks to a parting gift of a Waterford bla from Esther and Joe.
A great half day on the bus, all for 15 euro. Put it in your diary for next year!

Oven open, like a small room inside