I’ve long been an admirer of Compass Box whisky who were one of the first blenders to create and package sophisticated modern ‘artisan’ whiskies as they like to describe them.
This is one of their latest expressions which pays homage to one of their early releases Eleuthera which they no longer make. The name refers to a short story by the American writer O. Henry about two guys who try to recreate a blend of spirits with supernatural properties - which seems particularly appropriate for Hallowe’en night.
It’s a blend of two Highland single malts Clynelish and Allt-a-Bhainne and Caol Ila from Islay - and manages to be both scented and floral and peaty. At the risk of stereotyping I’d say it was a very feminine whisky. At any rate I love it.
Apart from sipping it on its own it would be great with smoked salmon or maybe a crumbly cheese like Caerphilly. Not cheap, I’m afraid at £77.54 (Master of Malt) and £78.95 at The Whisky Exchange but a terrific present for any whisky-lover.
* One of the ingenious touches is that there are three different labels which I suppose encourages collectors to buy all three. Clever.
The mere idea of sprout juice may be enough to send the sprout-haters among you running for cover but I have to say I think Marks & Spencer is onto a winner here.
It’s a well-timed seasonal addition to a range of juices which provide an easy way of knocking off your five fruit and vegetables a day without the hassle of having to juice them yourself. (Not that that’s particularly arduous but the cleaning up afterwards is a pain.)
It tastes more appley than sprouty but there is a touch of green about it which which would make it delicious with fresh crunchy salads or cold cuts - just the ticket with the Boxing Day leftovers if you've overdone it the day before. According to the M & S team green juices are going to be huge in 2015 - they also have an apple, asparagus and lemon juice and a kale juice blended with pineapple, mango and passionfruit which really isn't too scary at all.
The other juice I liked was the apple, beetroot and blackcurrant juice where again the veggie component made it taste drier and more savoury than a typical fruit juice. Apparently it's a bit of a Marmite juice - you either love it or hate it but as a beet lover I was quite a fan. I can imagine it going really well with a goats cheese salad.
The juices cost £2.20 for 750ml but are currently on a 3 for £5 offer.
I’ve lost track of the number of times my wine of the week has been a pinot noir but hell, I’ve been in Burgundy this week so what else could I recommend?
Actually I could have suggested a Chablis given that’s the part of burgundy I’ve been exploring but I would have found it impossible to single out just one wine.
This Irancy however is made by a Chablis producer Simmonet-Febvre so there is a Chablis connection. It’s a really delicious bright crunchy red from a lesser known appellation - more full-bodied and fruity than most inexpensive burgundy though without, I suspect, quite the ageing potential. Like a cross between a cru Beaujolais and a light Loire red. The extra oomph and colour comes, I would guess, from the added 5% César.
It costs £14 from Marks & Spencer and should be in store next week. I’d definitely look out for it and take advantage of any of those 25% off deals M & S might be offering. Looking ahead to Christmas (gulp!) it would be the perfect wine for the turkey leftovers or a turkey sandwich but in the meantime with charcuturie, simple grills or chilled with seared tuna. It’s one of those happy wines that really brings a smile to your face.
Incidentally Irancy is one of the prettiest villages in Burgundy. If you’re visiting Chablis take a detour south-west and see it nestled (can’t believe I’m using that word) in the middle of the surrounding slopes.
I’ve a soft spot for the Faugères wine region which is just up the road from our house in the Languedoc. It’s a beautiful wild hilly area on the foothills of the coastal range which produces some lovely warm spicy reds.
This is a good example at an unsually keen price - normally £8.49 but on offer at Waitrose at £6.79 until October 28th. For those who like to know these things it’s a blend of Carignan (35%), Grenache (35%) Syrah (25%) and Mourvèdre but because it’s made from old vines it’s got real intensity and character despite the fact that it’s unoaked. (Often an advantage as it keeps the cost down)
It would be great with autumn food - everything from sausage and mash to a Sunday roast or - thinking ahead a couple of weeks - a bonfire night bash. A really good buy.
The idea of making wine in London from grapes grown in France and Italy sounds a bit of a crazy one but London Cru’s first vintage is an impressive debut.
The 'urban winery', which is backed by the entrepreneurial wine merchant Cliff Roberson, operates out of a former gin distillery in Earl's Court. This year they’ve released four wines from grapes harvested last year including a full-bodied Roussillon chardonnay, a bright, zesty young Syrah from the same region, a Cabernet Sauvignon made by Mas Coutelou in Puimisson the next door village to our house in Languedoc and a Barbera.
What I like about these wines in general is that they’re not overworked or overextracted. It would have been easy to make a simple crowd-pleaser but they’re quite daringly fresh-tasting and modest in alcohol - almost verging on natural wine.
Of the four I like the Barbera (Red Wine 2) least - it’s a little weedy for the price - and the syrah (Red Wine 1) best. It’s a lovely wine - vivid and life-affirming, the sort to gulp down with some spicy sausages, charcuterie or confit duck and chips. At 12.5% it’s not by any means a blockbuster.
The Chardonnay (White Wine 1) which I at first took for grenache gris is also appealing - smooth and full but not too heavy. A good foil for roast chicken or a veal chop. The Cabernet (Red Wine 3) I think you’d find a little light if you were a cab fan - I don’t feel it's Jeff Coutelou’s favourite grape. (Go for his 7 rue de la Pompe instead)
At £15 each these wines are not cheap but given the overheads I suspect they’re not being sold at a massive profit either. They seem to have a few sampler cases of each of the 4 bottles left which is a good way to taste all the wines although there’s no price advantage in it. It would make a great present for any Londoner, particularly one who lives in SW6, but I’d get in quick. I suspect there won’t be much, if any, left in the run-up to Christmas.
* You can also book tickets for tours of the winery during November