Funny how things change, develop and in some cases simply conform whilst others stubbornly cling to an original idea for better or for worse. But what happens when something with heritage and a reputation for consistant quality goes and does something completely out of the ordinary? Risky strategy for any business to adopt…but one such company has recently emerged to do just that and succeed.
Well, I say “emerged” but that does make Adnams sound like they are some new kid on the block, but far from it, as they have been brewing great beers in Southwold since 1872. Adnams lay claim to some 24 million pints of beer a year. Whilst still a family company, Adnams pride themselves in innovation which is of key value in the success and development in recent years and also key in the decision to create spirits alongside the famed beer.
I have been fortunate to try all of the above, but as my company name suggests, I want to stick to reviews on the oak aged spirits. Although both the gin and vodka produced at Adnams are being aged in wood, and both to very good effect I might add. The limoncello is first class, bursting with freshness and lemon sunshine. The whisky, whilst only 18 month old at the time of sampling, is interesting and worthy of a wait to full maturation to try again. It is of note, that with all the spirit produced at the distillery, they have chosen to age in brand new wood rather than first fill. This might not always be the case, but for now it seems that way.
The master distiller at Adnams, John McCarthy, was kind enough to show me round on my recent visit and sample a few of the new “experiments” such as an absinth which turns violet with water! You can’t help but think there is a bit of Willy Wonka magic happening amongst the shiny copper and stainless steel contraptions neatly crammed into the old brewery building.
First off, the eau de vie is a distilled beer, as is all whisky in essence, yet due to the fact that hops are added to ale, it can’t be called whisky (one too many ingredients). Eau de vie has strong links to whisky, for a start, it is where the word Whisky originates…eau de vie means “water of life”, and in the old Scots tongue, this translated to “uisge beatha“, which in time was anglicised to sound like whisk- bay (whisky).
Broadside is the beer they have selected to distill and it is brewed from pale ale malt and first gold hops and was created in 1972 to commemorate the tricentenary of the Battle of Sole Bay, fought against the Dutch Republic in 1672 off the Southwold coast. The beer itself is rich in flavours of malt and hops and bottled at 6.3% abv. It is useful to know that the bottled version is slightly different to the cask version, the former know as ‘Strong Original’ is true to the original recipe were as the cask edition is a different recipe and ABV. Both recipes do create a dark ruby beer with a deep fruity nose and palate which has is likened to Dundee cake and molasses. Hopefully, this character will remain through the distilling process and be apparent in the eau de vie. Once distilled, the new make spirit is transferred to heavy charred Russian oak casks and set to rest for 12 months in the cellars below the distillery.
Adnams Spirit of Broadside
Distilled 2011, bottled 2012
Humbugs and warm fig with light orange notes coming through. Quite a bit of fresh vanilla and youthful oak wrap around a malty new make nose but manages to maintain a lively feel on the otherwise heavy aroma.
The appearance of light charred wood smoke makes the spicy palate settle with nutmeg and generous cinnamon before lighter nut elements take hold and help dry out the mouth. Less fruit than the nose may have led us to believe, perhaps hidden in the adolescence of the spirit.
The light smoke play a major role on the finish accompanied by soft caramel and peppery spice.
All-round, an interesting spirit, and great to see something new from such an establish company who are clearly not shy at experimenting, but I would be interested to see how the product develops with a touch more age in those feisty new casks.