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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Taste of the Week
Bertha’s Revenge Gin
“Most important of all for us was the desire to produce a gin that other people would enjoy as much as we do.” So says Justin Green who, with Anthony Jackson, founded Bertha’s Revenge Milk Gin in 2015. The marvellous gin, which walked off the shelves of one leading Cork drinks store over Christmas, is our rich and smooth Taste of the Week. Any week!
The gin is named after Bertha, the oldest cow in the world, who died a few weeks short of her 49th birthday. The Whey spirit they use is made by Carbery in West Cork.
The producers - the tiny distillery is in Ballyvolane House - are so happy with the complexity and smoothness of this milk based gin that they really enjoy sipping it with a “splash of water”.
But they add “she works very well with a good quality tonic”. And she performs well also in a martini. Bertha, shaken with ice and a suggestion of vermouth, poured into a chilled glass with a simple zest garnish delivers “a gloriously smooth and precise cocktail experience”. Try it for yourself - stockists here - about 50 euro per bottle. You’ll also find it in various mixes in leading bars and restaurants.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Gardens, Glamping, Gin
|Munster Wine & Dine on tour!|
Initials galore at Ballyvolane House on Sunday when Munster Wine and Dine (MW & D) visited for lunch. Ballyvolane is the home of Bertha’s Revenge, so G and T (or maybe gin and just a few drops of water) was a topic. And it was our host Justin Green who brought up PG, paying guests!
Indeed, those first paying guests were a turning point for the house and the Green family who had been farming (dairy and tillage) there since 1953. The farming wasn't going very well by 1980 and it was then they started to take in paying guests.
Justin told us the house had been built in 1728 by Sir Richard Pyne and has been remodelled since, the 19th century remodelling included the Italian facade.
The PG model worked quite well until the crash and, like many other places, the Ballyvolane enterprise “fell off a cliff in 2008-10”. And then the wedding offering was put centre-stage and another rescue pulled off.
|Play with me? Please|
With vast grounds, of parkland and gardens, including a three acre walled garden, it is gorgeous setting for a wedding. And a fun one two. There is a 7-a-side soccer pitch laid out for the young to let off steam, tennis courts too and so many beautiful locations, particularly in the Rock garden, for special photographs.
With just six bedrooms in the house, accommodation was a bit of a problem. But then Justin and wife Jenny came up with Glamping! And just last year, they started producing Bertha’s Revenge, their little distillery in part of an old barn.
|In the Rock. Walled Garden to the right.|
That Rock garden, with its tall trees and shrubs and many extra plantings (colour all year round), is a delight and is often the setting for outdoor weddings. Justin’s 83 year old father has put great work into the area (this was overgrown and out of control a few years ago). He is still a great help and regularly clocks in a nine hour day just mowing the lawns.
The walled garden is also put to good use, providing vegetables and greens for the table. And soon, more fruit trees will be planted, with distilling in mind!
|One of the lakes, once dug by hand, now restored.|
Our walkabout with Justin had now reached the distillery, As you probably know, Bertha’s Revenge is milk based. The Whey spirit they use here in Ballyvolane is made by Carbery in West Cork, a spirit that is richer and smoother than others. It is Irish of course and also carries spices well. It is delivered at 96% and then about twenty botanicals, including love, are added. Their own spring water is used to cut the abv to 42 per cent before bottling.
“We knew that we wanted our gin to be local in nature, brimming with integrity and to possess an individuality that at some point might exceed the sum of it parts. Most important of all for us was the desire to produce a gin that other people would enjoy as much as we do.”
|One of the twin stills|
And so, with Anthony Jackson and Justin as “step-fathers”, Bertha was re-born as Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin in 2015. Bertha, the oldest cow in the world (dying just a few weeks short of her 49th birthday), was well loved. There was a huge attendance at both the wake and funeral! Read the full story of the Kerry legend here.
Bertha produced over 39 calves so she has a lot of relations still alive and the gin producers intend to get some of the younger ones and raise them in Ballyvolane. “She was a wonderful old lady,” said Justin, “and we are delighted to bring her back in spirit.”
|Justin in the distillery|
He took us through the various stages of making the gin which is then bottled and labelled on site. Four to six hundred bottles a week are produced here. “It is a neat sipping gin, maybe add a few drops of water!” So no G & T!
Then it was time for lunch, over 40 of us seated at the long table in The Barn, warm and cosy despite the cold outside. Our starter was : Pear, rocket, nuts and Cashel blue cheese salad. The main course was Ballyvolane Saddleback Pork with outstanding vegetables and beautifully roasted potatoes. And dessert was Fresh Lemon Tart with extra including ice-cream, cream, and mixed berries.
|Checking out the botanicals|
The food was delicious, beautifully cooked. They believe in local: “This means from Ballyvolane’s walled garden, farm, river and from the local area. We rear our own rare-breed pigs (Saddlebacks, Gloucester Old Spots & Durocs). We are lucky being situated in County Cork as there is an abundance of fantastic artisan food producers close by.”
“Our beef, lamb and mutton come from Michael McGrath in Lismore, fish and shellfish from O’Connell’s Seafood in the English Market, Cork and from Ballycotton Seafood in Midleton, our bacon, sausages, black and white puddings and loins of bacon come from Caherbeg Pork Ltd in Rosscarberry and artisan cheeses from all over Cork, Waterford and Tipperary.”
|Just some of the botanicals|
It was a lovely meal, generous plates. Take the salad for example - you just helped yourself to the freshness of the leaves and found tasty cubes of the cheese and more. The pork, their own, was top class and the vegetables (carrot and leek) and roast potatoes were outstanding. And the dessert too was spot on. We were all well fed and fed well and nobody was stuffed with heavy sauces or chips or anything like that.
|Dessert. You get the tart and then add to it yourself. So the presentation is all mine!|
Country living at its best to bring the curtain down on another successful Munster Wine and Dine season. See you all in the new year when the 2017 programme will be sketched in at the launch in February or March. Watch this space!
|MW&D chairman Colm McCan welcomes the members to the long table.|
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Spirits of the Islands
Top drops from Ireland & Islay
Had a significant birthday recently - they are all significant now! - and treated myself to these significant spirits. Quite expensive when you consider that you can get a bottle of excellent Jameson for about thirty euro. But I must say, I am really enjoying these. And, just to let you know, there is a significant gift-giving occasion on the horizon!
Writer’s Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey, 40%, €45.99 Bradley’s, Cork
This single pot still, plus single malt, is fast becoming a favourite with me for its complex flavours and amazing smoothness. The name, according to Walsh Distillers, is because a whiskey such as this was enjoyed by famous Irish writers in the good old days.
Don't stick your nose in to get the aromas - a "mistake" wine aficionados make with spirits - just hover above the glass and they’ll come to you, apple and honey in this case. The attractive soft whiskey has been matured in charred Bourbon barrels and there are notes of the wood on the gentle palate, also a sweet spice, some toffee too in a gorgeous mix. And the finish is smooth, elegant and long. Quite the foxy lady and worth exploring. Very Highly Recommended.
- Writer’s Tears won the award of Best Irish Blend Under €50.00 in the 2013 Irish Whiskey Awards.
The Botanist, Islay Dry Gin, 46%, €59.95 Bradley’s, Cork
Lots of hype around this gin but what is undeniable is that it is a very very good one. The usual suspects are among the botanicals but there are no less than 22 local botanicals as well - Islay must be denuded. Undeniable too is the website claim that the foraged 22 are “unbuyable flavors” - amazing how the US English spellchecker takes over, even in Islay.
“You’re getting uncommon things”, they say and no denying Islay is producing an uncommon gin, one of the best.
On the complex nose, you meet the usual indispensable suspects (including juniper, orange and lemon peel) and, from Islay itself, come apple mint, thistle, summer flowers, gorse and other “unbuyable flavors”. On the palate this smooth Scotch gin seduces, its strength cloaked with its rich and mellow taste, its fresh and stimulating flavours, its warm and lingering finish. Very Highly Recommended.
By the way, if your Latin is up to scratch, you’ll recognise the local botanical names which are embossed on the bottle: Galium Verum (Lady’s Bedstraw) and Cirsium Arvense (Creeping Thistle) are two examples.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Mixing Spirits. Three Sisters
Vodka - Gin - Tonic
Our three featured bottles come from neighbouring counties: Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford, the three sisters.
Highbank Orchards Organic Kilkenny Apple Vodka, 40%, €30.50 (35cl)
If you’re used to vodka with little more than 40% abv going for it, you’re going to be surprised by this with its aromas and flavours of the autumnal orchard, an organic one at that.
The base spirit is made from their own apples and the vodka itself “lends a wonderful apple flavor to cocktails”. Use this in cocktails instead of your regular vodka and wait for the accolades.
This is 100% organic, single estate (grown, distilled and bottled at Highbank) and, yes, it is normal strength at 40%. Haven't got to the cocktail stage yet - waiting for a recipe specific to the product! - but I certainly enjoyed mixing it with Poacher’s Tonic, an excellent new Irish product.
The Highbank vodka comes in two sizes: 35cl at €30.50 and 50cl at €55.00.
Blackwater No. 5 Small Batch Irish Gin, 41.5%, €30.00 (50cl) Bradley’s
In quite a short time, Peter Mulryan Blackwater Gin No. 5 has become one of the most popular of the small batch gins now available in ireland. This London Dry Gin is not the only one that Blackwater produce and their latest, a strawberry one, was launched at the recent Wexford Food Festival.
Twelve botanicals are 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. Juniper (the oil is extracted and used) is perhaps the best known element, having been traditionally used to make gin, and indeed provides the dominant flavour.
The No. 5 quickly gained loyal fans and Peter, from Conna in East Cork, was on his way. The gin is crisp and elegant with great flavour. They say “ it’s year round summer in a glass” and “liquid sunshine for the soul”. Add in quinine (via your tonic) and you have a most pleasant way of taking your medicine. Well the G & T was one method the British used to counter malaria!
Poacher’s Premium Irish Tonic Water, 20cl, Bradley’s
Now that we’ve highlighted two brilliant Irish spirits (from two producers who have even more on their lists), we’d better guide you in the direction of a good tonic. And just in time, comes this excellent Poacher’s from County Wexford. It is based on a “rich spring water: that has “been pilfered and poached since 1825”.
Taste it on its own and you'll immediately see the concentrated quality. Put it up against a 39 cent can, Freeway Indian Tonic Water from Lidl, and you’ll know why you will pay more for Poacher’s which is in a different class entirely.
Mixing cheaper tonic with premium products is a waste of time, a waste of good Irish gin and vodka and a waste of money. I mixed myself two gins, one of each. As an amateur it took me a while to spot the difference but you certainly notice it on the finish. With Poacher's, the finish (when you swallow) lingers and lingers but the other one kills it there and then. The longer the flavour lasts is a sign of quality in both food and drink. Much longer, much better with Poacher’s. Go for it!
The full list of ingredients for Poacher’s is: Carbonated irish spring water, sugar beets, Irish rosemary, Florida orange, natural flavours and natural quinine.
The full list of ingredients for Freeway is: Carbonated water, sugar. Acid: Citric Acid; Natural Flavouring, Flavouring (Quinine).
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Wine & Drinks Events in the Drinks Theatre at #Litfest16
at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine
Saturday 21st May and Sunday 22nd May 2016
|Jancis is sold out!|
Saturday 21st May 2016 wine & drinks events, Drinks Theatre at Litfest16
Irish Craft Cider
Saturday 21st May, 9.30am – 10.30am, Drinks Theatre, talk and tasting €16
Panel talk & Irish Craft Cider tasting with the producers and drinks writers including Pete Brown, co-author of ‘The World’s Best Ciders’ http://litfest.ie/events/irish-craft-cider-0
Hugh Johnson in conversation with John Wilson
Saturday 21st May, 11.30am – 12.30pm, Drinks Theatre €25
Hugh Johnson OBE, the world’s most successful wine author, and a recipient of the French National Order of Merit, has written a series of landmark books on wine during the past five decades. His annual Pocket Wine Book has sold more than 12 million copies in a dozen languages since its first edition in 1977. http://litfest.ie/events/hugh-johnson-conversation-john-wilson
‘Monastrell, Mourvèdre and Mataro – three grapes in one’
Saturday 21st May, 1.00pm – 2.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
Join the Irish Examiner wine writer, Leslie Williams as he explores this overlooked and intriguing grape variety with a wine tasting by way of illustration with a selection from Spain, France and Australia. http://litfest.ie/events/monastrell-mourv%C3%A8dre-and-mataro-three-grapes-one
The World’s Under-priced Wines with Jancis Robinson MW
Saturday 21st May, 3.00pm – 4.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting (sold out)
Described by Decanter magazine as 'the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world', Jancis Robinson MW is editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, wine columnist with The Financial Times and has written and co-authored many books including The World Atlas of Wine and Wine Grapes, each of these books recognised as a standard reference worldwide. http://litfest.ie/events/worlds-under-priced-wines-jancis-robinson-mw
Irish Whiskey and The Role of Wood
Saturday 21st May, 5.00pm – 6.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
With Kevin O’Gorman, Master of Maturation, Midleton Distillery, and drinks writer Dave Broom, author of more than a dozen books, including The World Atlas of Whiskey, and recipient of Drinks Writer of the Year, and IWSC Communicator of the Year
Cooperage with Master Cooper Ger Buckley
Saturday 21st May 6.00pm – 7.30pm, talk & cooperage demo €16 (free ticketed event)
Midleton Distillery Master Cooper Ger Buckley learned his trade directly from his father. His family have been making barrels for over 200 years and Ger himself is a 5th generation cooper, an ancient craft and skill, dating back thousands of years
"Tales of Ales"
Saturday 21st May, 8.30pm – 9.30pm, Drinks Theatre, Theatre & tasting €16
This is an enlightening tasting event fusing history, storytelling and craft beer tasting with Beer Sommelier and writer Judith Boyle and her sister, writer, performer & drinks consultant, Susan Boyle, both of Two Sisters Brewing. http://litfest.ie/events/tales-ales
Sunday 22nd May events in the Drinks Theatre at Litfest16
Kefir, Kombucha, and Kraut shots…
Sunday 22nd May, 9.30am – 10.30am, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting (free ticketed event)
Fermented Drinks' panel talk & tasting of fermented non-alcoholic drinks including Kefir and Kombucha with John Wilson, wine & drinks writer, The Irish Times and Virginia O'Gara of My Goodness
“Hops and Glory” – IPA Craft Beer with Pete Brown and Caroline Hennessy
Sunday 22nd May 11.30am – 12.30pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
Pete Brown, member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, and Beer Writer of the Year, will be talking and tasting IPA Craft Beer in Hops & Glory with Caroline Hennessy co-author of Sláinte, the book on Irish craft beer. http://litfest.ie/events/hops-glory
‘Islands in the Sun’ – Unique wines from Europe’s ancient island vineyards
with John Wilson, Irish Times wine & drinks writer
Sunday 22nd May 1.00pm – 2.00pm, Drinks Theatre, talk & tasting €16
There is a fantastic history of wine making on many of the various islands in the Mediterranean going back to ancient times, from Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Croatia and elsewhere, including the Canaries and Madeira with some amazing stories behind them. This wine talk & tasting will also look at the various ancient traditions of viticulture and vinification on these islands, many of which are now attracting renewed interest. http://litfest.ie/events/islands-sun
Gin with Dave Broom, Peter Mulryan and Nick Strangeway
Sunday 22nd May, 2.30pm – 3.30pm, Drinks Theatre, talk and tasting €16
Dave Broom, prolific spirits writer, is also author of the recently published Gin – the Manual, will be joined by author and Irish craft gin distiller Peter Mulryan of Blackwater Gin and international drinks guru Nick Strangeway http://litfest.ie/events/gin-0
Cocktails, with ingredients foraged from the Big Shed with Nick Strangeway and Oisin Davis
Sunday 22nd May, 4.30pm – 5.50pm, Drinks Theatre, demo & tasting €16
One of Ireland’s best-known names in the world of cocktails, Oisín Davis, together with Nick Strangeway, World Mixologist of the Year will present a cocktail demo and tasting with ingredients ‘foraged’ from the Big Shed. http://litfest.ie/events/cocktails-ingredients-foraged-big-shed
Please see the Litfest brochure for box office details and online at www.litfest.ie
or contact Colm@ballymaloe.ie for any additional information on the Litfest Drinks Theatre wine & drinks events .
Thanks to Colm McCan for the update.
Thanks to Colm McCan for the update.