The air has chilled, the kids are back at school and the leaves are turning brown. This is the time of year when gardens and orchards are at their most bountiful. So for the October Blackwater Taster‘s box, we decided to celebrate the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness‘, with two autumnal specials.
Spiced Windfall Gin
As a child I remember my dad freaking out when the local kids jumped the back wall, swiping all the small sweet apples and leaving us with the bitter green ones. This time around though, I did the raiding, as the orchards of Waterford gave us cider apples, while in Tipperary we got the eaters.
Last autumn the cider apples (Dabinett) were fermented into a cider, which we distilled and put into American Apple Brandy barrels. This spirit (along with the usual neutral ethanol) gave us the base on which to built this windfall gin. Kieran, who designed it, wanted this gin to be warming, but a lot of the woodier spices (like cinnamon, green cardamon and especially clove) are bullies and can easily overpower a spirit. It took a month of test runs for him to get the balance right.
Finally the gin was brought to bottling strength with some of our oak-casked cider brandy and cut with water and freshly pressed apple juice.
The Nose: Autumn orchards and far-off wood smoke.
The Palate: The juniper and apples marry well, the spicing is strong but not over powering. Wood oils from the apple brandy bring the orchard to life.
The Finish: Spice and oak.
I first met Mr Blackcurrant himself, Des Jeffares at Bloom back in 2016. We had just launched our Wexford Strawberry Gin, so Irish soft-fruits were on my mind. We got chatting over a glass of his excellent blackcurrant drink and were determined to somehow work together.
Here we are, four years on, and at last we have collaborated on a project.
Like most Irish people, I came across Cassis while on holidays in France and then it was in the form of a Kir Royale. A drop of Cassis, topped up with chilled champagne is a divine drink to sip on while observing the world from the deck of a yacht at the Cannes Film Festival. Or in my case, a divine drink to gulp while observing the world through the tent flap in the pouring rain.
Cassis is quite simply a liqueur made from blackcurrants, sugar and alcohol. Simple, but very effective. And on his farm in Drinagh, Wexford, Des grows the best blackcurrants I have even tasted. Bursting with a summer’s worth of juice, these little gems just explode with finger-staining, lip smacking, bitter-sweetness. To capture the fruit at its freshest, Des made us wait until this year’s harvest had been collected, then we quickly got to work. Our Head Distiller John used an old Italian method of blending the fresh juice with orange zest and a hint of spice, enhancing rather then masking the blackcurrant. After over a month of maceration, John gently step sweetened the Cassis with alternate syrups made with white and demerara sugar. The result is quite beautiful to look at, and full of vitamin C!
Quite why Cassis not the national drink of Wexford is beyond me.
The Nose: Blackcurrant!
The Palate: Soft and mouth coating. A bitter-sweet blackcurrant bite with orange undernotes and a cinnamon warmth.
The Finish: Lip smacking, with a final rumble of clove.
Think of Cassis as adult diluting juice. For a Kir Royale, splash some Wexford Cassis in a glass and top up with chilled Champagne or Prosecco, you can also use soda water or a can of our Boyle’s pre-mixed G&T. To try it, or our signature cocktail which will go out with every October Blackwater Tasters box, shop here by 6th October, assuming it hasn’t all sold out by then (like last time). Enjoy our ode to autumn. #DrinkResponsibly