The Country Homes & Interiors Christmas show at Stonor Manor in Oxfordshire was a display of British artisanal products from gin to cheese. I was in particular fascinated by the variety of artisanal spirit makers that were offering tastings a the show.
The British have always been fans of gin and have quaffed their fair share of it over the years. These days hand made, small batch produced gins are being created all over the UK. This quiet revolution has been taking place across the globe but here in Britain the idea of sustainable, environmentally friendly farm to table foods has impacted the spirit field. The field to bottle revolution has changed up the spirit markets and folks are tasting gins infused with rhubarb, roses and other flavours. At the Country Home show there were several artisanal gin and vodka producers. I was am avowed non gin or vodka drinker, prior to tasting these products, but the quality and flavour have made me change my mind.
55 Above was established in 2014 with an eye to producing hand crafted vodka and gin in small batches. 55 Above states on their website
55 Above prides itself on using traditional copper still distilling methods, but in a modern setting. Our copper pot stills are the smallest commercial stills in the world with a unique high reflux column allowing us to hand produced in small batches – just a few hundred bottles at a time.
Our copper still is one of the most important elements in the purification process when producing our vodka as copper helps removes impurities from the core potato spirit. Once the impurities have been removed, we then separate the heads and the tails from the spirit and only use the very best part of each distillation run. At 200L we have a unique capacity of being able to separate the heads and tails extremely precisely from the desired heart of the spirit.
I tasted their Toffee Vodka and was absolutely blown away, never in my life have I drunk Vodka neat (well except for that time when I was 14 at the hockey rink and I ended up spitting it out – disgusting). This Toffee Vodka is a smooth, luxurious sipping spirit, it warms all the way down and leaves these incredibly delicious toffee notes lingering in your tastebuds and nose. Infused with natural flavours it has a creamy warm taste, superb!. I then attempted gin (gin is the reason I got married the first time – note it did not last). They have a lovely zesty orange gin that would be perfect for cocktails, they were also tasting a new Rhubarb Gin that was coolly refreshing and with a slight sweet tart aftertaste, that one I could drink on ice in the summer without fail.
Pinkster Gin came about when its founder discovered he could no longer tolerate beer or wine. He had always made sloe gin and other liquers and decided to attempt flavouring a gin. Turns out raspberry made the best flavoured gin and he began to distill and produce this bright pink gin. The the core spirit is distilled with five botanicals and then macerated with a further three botanicals, including fresh raspberries which are locally grown. Those berries don’t go to waste either they are infused into the gin and then sold as Boozy Berries. I can just imagine this gin sitting on a sunny porch somewhere, hell even on a cold day in winter this lovely gin will bring back visions of summer.
Rose Cottage Gin this is an organic gin distilling in the North East of England. Beautifully light and refreshing with some unusual combinations. Rosehip and Rhubarb, Elderflower are delicately infused with the flavours, more than tasty enough to convince this non drinker to change her mind.
Two of my favourite booths need to be mentioned (well two of my favourite in the food and drink categories). Let’s start with marshmallows Grown Up Marshmallows to be exact. Gourmet, fat free, gluten free and gloriously flavoured these marshmallows are nothing like those nasty packaged things. These lovely little pillows of joy include; Caramel and Salted Peanut, Lemon Meringue, Banoffee Buzz, Spearmint, Mango Mousse, Coconut, Luxury Chocolate Orange and of course Classic.
Above everything else I love cheese, all things cheese that’s the first booth I look for at a food show. I stumbled across this idea which I simply love. The Cheese Makers Choice kits for at home use, brilliant at around £25 a kit you can make 5 x 900 gram batches of cheese at home. No fuss no muss these are just brilliant. The Mediterranean Cheese Making Kit contains everything you need to make Feta and Halloumi. Italian Kit just choose from Mozarella, Ricotta or Mascarpone, and just a fresh, tangy chevre kit as well.
The British are brilliant producers of artisanal products and in creating superbly flavoured drinks to make at home cheese kits, the quality and imagination in these kinds of products is second to none.
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