Another Joven today, this time from the Santa Ana Del Rio.
It doesn’t promise much on the nose, the tequila like agave notes, with a mild smokiness but also an off-putting musty cellar note, alongside phenolic TCP and alcohol fumes.
There’s a bit more going on in the flavour, fruity with a whack of iodine and smoke. Its quite light in body. Daisy says it reminds her of formaldehyde and preservatives like in a regional museum plus old leather furniture. Steve rather liked it, reminding him of a peated Islay whisky, but it was too medicinal for Daisy.
Verdict: Whilst its assertive character may make for a good cocktail ingredient, it may just be Steve drinking them…
Day five sees a change of pace with he first aged or anejo expression, from Los Danzantes in Oxaca. This particular one has had 16 months in oak barrels.
The wood ageing has given it a lovely pale golden hue and its pretty viscous with the legs of the spirit clinging resolutely to the sides of the glass. There’s an earthy damp wood aroma, lightly vegetal with an underlying sage herbality. In the mouth its pretty perfumed with oaky vanilins, perhaps overpoweringly so & quite a light smokiness. It finishes quite heavy, with sticky sherry-like umami oxidation notes.
Its fairly tough going as straight drink due to the level of wood character, but this means it should hold its own in a cocktail. I like the sound of this cocktail for example, but we decided to try a Mezcal Old Fashioned, substituting Agave Syrup for the sugar with orange bitters instead of Angostora. This worked quite well, but I think the dilution effect of the ice helped to be honest.
Verdict probably not a contender for cocktails as it doesn’t have the versatility of a joven and we wouldn’t want to drink it unmixed.
An intriguingly named one here, though apparently Doba-Yej is a colloquial name or subspecies of Espadin agave. This is the 2013 edition.
This one is a lot more interesting on the nose with a fresh ginger root and licorice character and quite sweet too which leads Daisy to think of vanilla but also weirdly a note reminiscent of Chinese writing ink. Steve thinks he can detect cucumber but he might just be being weird as usual.
Taste wise there’s the usual agave syrup sweetness with a honeyed after taste and quite a boozy maraschino like cherry note.
Verdict: Its quite an assertive joven which we both quite enjoyed; so its another contender for our purchase. (though its apparently sold out; so maybe not😦 …still samples left if anyone likes the sound of it however!)
Day three and Joven number 3; Alipun San Baltazar. Another espadin joven from small producers. A difference here seems to be fermentation in pine VATs, lets see if that gives any flavour difference.
Steve reckons there’s earthy molasses and pear skin on the nose whilst Daisy picked up toffee and vanilla, alongside a medicinal whisky like smokiness. Adding water doesn’t do much for the aroma, making it seem more chemical/ plasticky.
Taste wise there’s a lot of smoke action, quite phenolic like a high PPM peaty whisky with a sweet and ashen finish. Daisy picked up some woody notes which could come from fermentation vessels. Contrary to aroma a touch of water brings out a peppermint note which is rather pleasant.
Verdict: This would make a good cocktail mixer but a little brash to be truly enjoyable by itself
Back again with day number the second of this very adult advent. Today’s door revealed the mellifluously named QuiQuiRiQui, from the San Juan Del Rio region. This is a mountainous area, producing agaves within a different microclimate or terroir and therefore a different taste. Its an unaged (joven) expression and is made entirely of the commonly used Espadin species of agave. Double distilling in a copper pot still also contributes to its flavour.
Enough of the technical stuff; how is it to drink?!
There’s a volatile punchy floral perfumed aroma with undercurrents of mace and fresh cut grass. Fairly dry and woody, with an ashen paper note to taste, with a peppery spicey finish. Its 48% ABV gives it the impression of sweetness on the tongue and adding water brings out more of a smoky star anise note. Daisy found it to be quite sweet with an alcoholic warmth, which would probably lend it the ability to mix well in drinks.
Verdict: This one has enough of interest that it would certainly be a contender for mixology purposes, especially given its reasonable price tag. The bottle design looks pretty groovy too.
I’m hoping to blog each day of December* with the contents of my Advent mezcalendar which the lovely Daisy bought me for my birthday. I’d long wanted to try this smoky cousin of tequila since I read about Carrie’s trips to Oxaca in the excellent Perzine You Don’t Get There From Here. We finally came across it in cocktails in Paris this Spring and since then we’ve been trying it at every opportunity. The great thing about these calendars is that you’re able to try a number of different mezcals without having to pay bar prices or fork out for a whole bottle at home. We’re quite new to the flavours in these but expect to find characters similar to Islay whiskys and tequila – please bear with us! Hopeful by the end of this we’ll have settled on a joven to buy for home mixology and perhaps a reposado or anejo for drinking neat.
So behind the door on day one is perhaps the most widely known brand, Ilegal Mezcal Joven (unaged). This is the third largest selling mezcal in the world; so is quite widely available (as mezcals go!) We’ve had this in cocktails before but how does it fare as a neat spirit?
Daisy found it to have a slightly plasticky burning rubber aroma which reminded her of “new car smell”. This was even ore noticeable with added water. Taste wise its lightly smoky and fairly bitter, almost IPA-like.
Steve found to be quite gentle on the nose, with a low level of smoke and fruity coconut water/ agave notes. It certainly taste quite sweet with agave syrup and a touch of smoke, fairly brief in finishing but returning with a flourish of citus at the end. Adding water brought out some suggestions of cooling menthol.
Verdict: Neither of us were particularly keen on it; and for this reason it wouldn’t be a contender for our cocktail cabinet.
Readers of my (Steve’s) other blog will know that we’re both big cocktail fans and that I particularly enjoy whisky based ones. So when The Bar contacted me to see if I’d like to work with them again (previous post here) by featuring some recipes I was happy to do so. As with the previous post topic and content are solely up to me (provided I use recipes from their website!) and I am reimbursed for costs of ingredients. In this case I only claimed the two bottles of whisky (Bulleit Bourbon and Lagavulin 16 y/o) that I didn’t yet have. This time I was also offered payment in addition to expenses, consider that full disclosure!
Small print out of the way and on to the drinks. Its always nice to taste the base spirits alone first before mixing them up into a cocktail. Comparing them side by side in the glass there doesn’t appear to be much to differentiate them but lets see how the tastes work out.
My first sample is Bulleit Bourbon, this apparently has a highish proportion of rye in it & you can certainly taste the spiciness it contributes.On the nose there are green apple notes with oaky vanilins and a touch of varnish. Its pretty smooth in the mouth with more of that vanilla, some cinnamon and an unusual vegetal asparagus-like note. It finishes with chili-caramel and a slight earthiness. Adding water does nothing for it; drink this one straight! A good value bourbon I’d be keen to try the Bulleit rye too.
The Talisker 10 y/o is a firm favourite of mine (and hence my own bottle). Aromas of caramel, furniture polish and light and light wood ash. Toffee apples to the fore in flavour with light peaty top notes seguing in to honey with a slight TCP rinse and the suggestion of salty sea spray common with island whiskys & finishing with paper-ash. I like a splash of water in mine which thickens the mouthfeel and brings out more of that sweet malt note. For those who really like fruitiness with their smoke; try the Port Ruighe.
Another well regarded Scotch is Lagavulin 16. This presents a lot more fruitily on the nose, with plums and probably an earlier cut of lighter components than the Talisker. Alongside the plums are pears, fresh cut wig and golden syrup cake. Flavour wise there’s ash, iodine, beach-campfires and freshly tarred ropes. The flavour is smokey without being overly phenolic, biscuit notes in the middle with a dry and briney ashen finish. Again, adding water does nothing for it leaving a flavour reminiscent of a rain-washed-out BBQ.
Base spirits sampled; its time to move on to the headline drinks. As before I looked to include drinks that have been made in the real world, beginning with this competition winner from Luke Ashton, the Tiki inspired New Frontiers. Its always nice to be able to make a cocktail for which I already have the ingredients (the Ron Zacapa being featured in my last cocktails post)
The spicey bourbon works well with the rich and comforting Ron Zacapa though both myself and Daisy found it to be overly sweet with both vanilla liqueur and almond syrup. This was easily rectified by adding 50% more bourbon (i.e. 60ml instead of 40). The Bulleit works well here, but equally you could use a different bourbon and perhaps up the level of bitters. This would make for a good post lunch/ mid-afternoon palate enlivener and we both enjoyed it enough to make again.
The Lagavulin was used to make an Angus Collins. This is a riff on the traditional gin-based Tom Collins. We chose to make our own sweet and sour mix, which gives it an extra freshness and drank it as a sour rather than a fizz (i.e. omitted the soda water). This would make for a good aperitif though would be a bit of an acquired taste being both smokey and sharp. Whilst I liked it I’d perhaps be inclined to try with a mezcal instead of a headline whisky like lagavulin 16 and Daisy wasn’t a fan at all.
Last up for today’s post is the Malted Marigold. Some people are turned off by the idea of using egg whites in a cocktail but they really do add extra body and a pleasing foam head. Ours looks a little milkier than the one on the site, but still tasted good. The choice of rosemary as a garnish is an inspired choice as the savoury woodsy character really works well with the honey and smoke in Talisker. This one was again a hit with both of us.
Three quite different cocktails then; with plenty more to choose from on the site; so worth taking a look even if these don’t appeal. There’s a new section of Christmas recipes that may be especially relevant for this time of year!