Interesting Spirits - Going above and beyond in the pursuit of flavour

Interesting Spirits - Going above and beyond in the pursuit of flavour

Posted by Emile Ward on 27 Sep 2022

I have a tricky relationship with the word Innovation. 

Truly innovative and unique spirits are hard to come by even though many brands will work hard to convince you otherwise. Innovation also comes in different formats: from new distillation equipment and techniques, to new flavour combinations and ingredients, to new packaging.

The very definition of innovation is broad and based on individual perception which complicates the matter even more. There are many brands doing innovative things in the pursuit of flavour, of excellence and an unrelenting search for quality. 

Here, I’ve compiled a list of a couple spirits that I think contain something a little unique about them. They are spirits that are made in a way that makes you think twice. They use processes that showcase both ingenuity and their dedication to extract the best possible flavours from the raw material. You can then decide whether that is a true innovation worth buying!

06 Vodka

Using a process they call ‘Active Wine Extraction’, Comte de Grasse Distillery extract the flavour molecules of Rosé wine from Provence in order to get a big dose of aromatic flavour components derived from grape skins.

The technique combines low temperature, low pressure extraction methods honed by modern perfumiers. The process condenses the molecules and concentrates the flavour, leaving the finest aromatic components and a pigment naturally derived from the grape skins.

They then blend these components into their Wheat Vodka to create 06 Rosé Vodka. The process isn’t unique per se as it is used by other distilleries but it’s innovative and difficult, as well as the first time it is used on Rosé and Vodka and combined to such great aplomb.

Kinahan Distillery Kasc Project

Kinahan Distillery have made waves in the industry by pushing the boundaries of whiskey maturation in new and interesting ways. Their pursuit of flavour really caught my attention when I first heard about it.

Their Kasc Project [B] whisky is a fantastic example of this where the distillery uses a ‘hybrid’ cask to mature their whisky. This hybrid cask consists of 5 different types of wood from Portuguese Oak, American Oak, French Oak, Hungarian Oak and Chestnut. Not only does the barrel look a bit odd but the spirit itself is a real mashup of flavour profiles working to create something unique.

Discarded Chardonnay

The entire Discarded Spirits range has always fascinated me and in my opinion, they are true trailblazers whose pursuit of flavour is something to be highly respected. “Discarded” is the name of the game and they take overlooked ingredients such as banana peels, surplus rum used to season barrels, thrown away grape stems and seeds or even leftover grape spirit from dealcoholisation process.

Both the way they combine the ingredients and the thought process behind it is unique. It also helps that Discarded Banana Peel Rum and Discarded Chardonnay Vodka are delicious. How can we re-use or up-cycle discarded ingredients into new, intriguing and sometimes superior spirits? For me, to be able to use these overlooked items to create something that’s delicious really captures the imagination of what’s possible.

The Lost Explorer Mezcal

Mezcal in general has always fascinated me for many reasons. First and foremost the painstaking, handcrafted and passed-down knowledge behind the production that really amazes me. Piñas, or agave hearts, are cooked over several days in dug out, conical earthen ovens lined with volcanic rock, soil and stones. They are then ground and macerated using a tahona wheel to break down the fibers and prepare them for fermentation. This fermentation occurs naturally with wild yeast in barrels then transported for double distillation in copper pot stills.

Going through this process is by far what makes Mezcal producers like The Lost Explorer so special to me. Each has their own little details, local quirks and traditions. Each is intent on making something spectacular and the effort that goes into it is immense.

Never Never Dark Juniper Amaro

Juniper has had its fair share of time in the limelight in recent years. I’m always stunned however that distilleries find new ways of using it. Never Never and their Black Juniper Amaro is one such example.

Heavily roasted juniper, which has a dark, bitter and earthy characteristic, is combined with basket juniper and fresh juniper along with other ingredients to create this unique Amaro. Their process, their vision for the end outcome means there is nothing quite like it on the market.

The Plum I Suppose by Empirical Spirits

You’ve most likely heard of Noma, one of the most famous restaurants in the world located in Copenhagen. Well, Empirical Spirits is the distillery answer to this restaurant’s concept, who are also located in Copenhagen.

They develop unique flavours and spirits using complicated and time-consuming distillation techniques. So many techniques are used in tandem, while so many ingredients are stretched to the boundary of what they can become. For example, their ‘Plum, I suppose’ uses plum kernels, distilled marigold and kombucha to create something rather different. It’s well worth taking a deep dive into the range but don’t expect to put these spirits in one category or another, that’s the point here, these spirits are all about flavour.