Most readers of this magazine will undoubtedly possess a decent understanding of why whisk(e)y distillers mature their spirit in oak casks and how this necessary step imparts a great deal of the flavour and maturity that defines the brown spirit category.
Many will also be familiar with the concept of marrying, whereby whisky producers may choose to allow liquid from different casks to integrate for a period of time (usually while resting in an inert vat) as part of the blending process before bottling. Why bother marrying at all? The industry view is that by allowing the liquid from different casks in a recipe to integrate, the resultant product will be more balanced, rounded and consistent. This is because the differing ABVs and flavour characteristics of each cask’s spirit are able to achieve an equilibrium across the entire batch, which will often be mixed or ‘roused’ to further promote integration. What’s perhaps not so well known, however, is that these same techniques — ageing and marrying — can be utilised to great effect in the creation of cocktails.
Bramble Bar in Edinburgh were early adopters of cask maturation of cocktails, a technique once utilised during the ‘Golden Age’ of bartending that is now being rediscovered. The bar’s first experiments with wood ageing led to a partnership with Glenmorangie’s Dr Bill Lumsden, who produced four different casks for them to experiment with. The hypothesis was that different woods and toasting levels would offer differing characteristics and nuances to the final cocktail. The Bramble team settled on using wood from Oloroso sherry butts to produce a number of 15-litre casks in which its Affinity cocktail is aged for up to five months.
Similarly, the Bramble team began to experiment with marrying cocktails. Much like the vats using for marrying whiskies, the steel bottles used to marry the cocktails are inactive and the process is instead utilised to integrate the different flavours, gravities and ABVs of each of the cocktails' ingredients to “bind together flavour compounds and unlock the complexities of the liquids, while at the same time balance the flavours”.
Both the Affinity and the Bottled Brooklyn can be ordered from Bramble online with worldwide shipping at:
www.mothershipscotland.com.The WhiskiesBuffalo Trace
Kentucky Straight Bourbon
A spicy offering with lashings of vanilla, distilled from a mash bill of corn, rye and malted barley.Glenmorangie
The Original 10 Years Old
Arguably one of the world’s most famous single malt expressions, it offers notes of lemon, apple, and orange on the nose, with creamy vanilla and peach on the palate. Longrow
Peated Campbeltown Single Malt
A NAS release from Springbank Distillery, the Longrow is a heavily peated spirit that was first produced in 1973 with the intention of producing an ‘Islay style’ single malt. Glen Scotia
Added to the distillery's range following a change
in ownership of parent company Loch Lomond Group. Finished in first-fill Bourbon barrels and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.
16A Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JEwww.bramblebar.co.uk
@BrambleBarThe AffinityIngredients 25ml Glenmorangie 10 Years Old
25ml Byrr Grand Quinquina
25ml Noilly Prat Extra Dry
Mix equal measures of the three ingredients and age in an oak barrel for up to five months to taste. Wood influence will be extreme with fresh wood and decrease the more the cask is used, so check flavour development at regular intervals. When deemed ready, stir a 75ml measure with ice, strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.
A Maraschino cherry and a lemon twist.
The Bottled Brooklyn
45ml Buffalo Trace
15ml Noilly Prat Original Dry
12.5ml Picon Amer
7ml Luxardo Maraschino
Stir together the desired batch size and then bottle in steel. Store in a cool, dark place and allow to ingredients to marry for a minimum of two months. When ready to serve, pour a 75ml measure over ice, stir to chill and strain into a chilled coup.
A Maraschino cherry.
40ml Glen Scotia
20ml Heering Cherry Liqueur
7.5ml Green Chartreuse
Stir together the desired batch size and then bottle in steel. Store in a cool, dark place and allow to ingredients to marry for a minimum of two months. When ready to serve, pour a 75ml measure over ice, stir to chill and strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass.
Express the oil from lemon zest and discard.
Noilly Prat Original Dry (18% ABV)
A famous vermouth created by blending aged, dry white wines with botanicals including chamomile, gentian and nutmeg.
Byrrh Grand Quinquina (18% ABV)
A venerable old aperitif made by infusing a Muscat wine base with bitter orange, cocoa, and cinchona (quinine) barks.
Created in 1837 by a French cavalry sergeant serving in Algeria, this bittersweet aperitif is infused with cinchona (quinine) barks and has a distinctive flavour of orange and gentian root.
Luxardo Maraschino (32% ABV)
This liqueur is produced by steeping the flesh, stones, leaves and stems of sour Marasca cherries in alcohol for two years, while held in larch-wood casks.
The resulting liquid is distilled (solids and all) and the heart cut is then aged for a further two years in Finnish Ash casks. Sugar is added to this spirit and it is cut with water to bring it to bottling strength.
Heering Cherry Liqueur (24%ABV)
A well-known and flavoursome cherry brandy with a recipe dating back to 1818. It was a key ingredient in the original ‘Singapore Sling’ cocktail created at the Raffles Hotel in 1915.
Green Chartreuse (55% ABV)
This famous liqueur is crafted by monks at a distillery in Voiron, France, and is made to an adapted 16th-century recipe for an ‘Elixir of Long Life’. Green Chartreuse is known for its potent herbal favour and lurid (but entirely natural) green colour.