Celebrating Savoury Spirits
Posted by Spirits Kiosk on 1 Feb 2023
This month we’re celebrating savoury flavour profiles and the spirits that capture a sense of it in each and every drop.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be showcasing how to make savoury drinks at home. We’ll be hero’ing some of our favourite cocktails like the Dirty Martini, the Bloody Mary, as well as explore how to tilt a Manhattan into a savoury direction (and even swap whisky out for rum). Lastly, we’ll discuss why Spiced Margaritas are so popular and set you up with an incredible recipe.
But if you don’t want to try new cocktail recipes and like the drinks you already make at home - how can you bring a savoury touch into your cocktail cabinet in a way that will fit right into how you already use your spirits?
Take Gin for example. You can turn classic juniper forward profiles more savoury through using a herbal garnish. But you could also find a bottle that includes all those herbaceous, salty, umami-like notes already and serve with a slice as usual.
The obvious contender for this is Audemus Umami Gin, which is made from hand-picked capers, parmesan cheese, juniper and bergamot (amongst other botanicals).
If it sounds mad, it’s because it is but try it with the likes of Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and you’ll see that it works well and is both an umami-flavoured-gin as well as something you can use in a few ways. It’s not a “speciality” product that has to be used in niche cocktail recipes.
Another is Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin which is textural and bright. It brings a sense of savoury by using three types of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and an olive leaf tea into the distillation itself.
The end profile is Mediterranean in nature and the savoury notes are as clear as you'd expect for a gin with so many herbal botanicals, but the clever thing about it is the citrus (both peel and myrtle) that livens up the profile.
It’s accessible. It brings in savoury without you feeling like you’ve drenched your tongue in olive oil and is as comfortable in a G&T as it is a Negroni.
Similar in their ability to bring a salty touch to drinks yet remain on the respectable side of Contemporary Gin, are the loosely grouped Coastal Gins.
For starters, there is the resinous juniper and wisps of smoke that tells you that your nose has landed on Tappers Darkside. If you have a taste you’ll find that Darkside has a savoury, leafy and herbaceous profile that finishes with long, dry piney flavours.
There’s Hendrick’s Neptunia and Greenwich Gin in this group too – each with their own interpretation of the coastline imbued by using seaweed in various ways.
If seaweed used as a botanical sounds like a slice of tastiness you need to have - the gin that has the most saline and seaweed edge to it is An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin. There’s a real umami hit going on in there. It remains a spirit that doesn’t stray too far from the idea of juniper driven gin in that it’s piny with a great slice of citrus cutting through the middle, but the multiple varieties of seaweed each add complexity and different nuances.
Of course – you can take this spirited voyage to the sea one step further if you are prepared to ditch the juniper.
Manly Spirits’ Marine Vodka has been distilled with foraged marine botanicals such as beach cast kelp and sea parsley which contribute to savoury, saline notes and gentle umami flavours.
The aroma is akin to having a splash of sea water in the glass or inhaling the air at the end of a dock. The sea kelp adds to the finish and before long you’ll be daydreaming of serving it alongside some oysters…
Meanwhile, leaning into the peat is always a good way for malt lovers to explore the idea of umami or saline. Take Ardbeg’s Wee Beastie for example. Open the cap and it fumes away with sea spray, smoked malt and damp bonfire wood that all greet the nose with little effort to seek them out. To taste, citrus and dried fruit join the distillery's usual peat and dry wood smoke profile but the finish is long and returns to that saline touch once more.
Another wonderfully smoky Single Malt Scotch Whisky that balances sweet and floral aromas with the richness and warmth of sea salt and smoke is Ledaig 18 yr. The nose is filled with rich, sherried smokiness, seaweed and light creosote peat while to taste, it has herbal smoky flavours, peppery orange peel and a slightly brackish finish.
Time to but the salt down? We thought so too! Savoury isn’t just about brine and umami.
It can also be reached with careful peppery heat and a little spiciness. For whisky fans, a great way to go in that direction is via the likes of Rye Whisky.
If you are getting started, try a slightly more subtle expression within the category, Knob Creek Rye; it brings spiciness which is bold and rich, but balanced by undertones of vanilla and oak.
Alternatively, if you are a whisky fan, why not swap in favour of Mezcal. It may seem like an odd choice at first but you'd be amazed at how well mezcal goes in classic whisky cocktails.
Old Fashioned's, Boulevardier's, Sour's are all great drinks when made with whisky or mezcal alike.
Overall, agave spirits offer up easy pickings for those looking for herbaceous and sometimes vegetal bouquets of flavour.
If you are looking for quality, Corte Vetusto’s Tobala should be high on the agenda but our vote is to open a bottle of La Venenosa Raicilla.
It’s a Raicilla made from agave angustifolia that’s been harvested after seven years. The agave is roasted in an earthen oven and it is then distilled on stills made from clay pots.
You can expect a vegetal nose packed with agave flavour to leads you into a sweet palate with nuance and complexity.
Both raw and smoky cooked agave notes rise above peppery undertones on the nose, while to taste the earthy aroma subsides to reveal candied fruit, sugar syrup and floral touches.
You really get a sense of the agave used, it’s clear that the clay pot stills have influenced the flavour - not only is this enjoyably savoury, it’ll really expand your agave repertoire too.
If Mezcal or Raicilla isn’t to your taste but like to sip on neat spirits (say, accessible malt whisky) and want something familiar but more herbal - try serving up Suave Lunar instead.
There's sweet vanilla beans, buttermilk and salted caramel that’s help guide you in with familiar notes (so will the dominant notes of vanilla to taste). But the agave does push through, and the cooked herbal tones take it to a different destination.
Rum lovers, fear not – distilleries that bring in a savoury feeling into their bottles are also commonplace too. Rum Agricole is where many can be found - especially Trois Riviere’s Cuvee L’Ocean. It’s a unique, saline rum with surprising minerality and more than a little saltiness on the finish.
Similar to Rhum Agricole - if you look towards Haiti you’ll find something interestingly aromatic in Clairin Casimir. That pungent nose is distinctly filled with rich fruit and herbs such as tarragon, mint and banana skins. It’s funky Clairin to say the least and makes for a unique Daiquiri that delights savoury seeking drinkers each time we serve it.
Last but not least is the world of Aperitifs. Arguably, for the herbaceous savoury-loving drinker it has the most to offer.
You can go all in and sip a digestif like the bittersweet, herbal and very intense Fernet Branca.
Or you could make classic cocktails more bitter by choosing Punt E Mes as the vermouth rather than something fruity.
Alternatively, pick something herbal like Dolin Rouge and pair it with a sprig to garnish and accentuate that side of its profile. The options to chase savoury profiles are endless here!
We you enjoy the savoury theme to our February content!
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