• Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whisky. We’re blending with beer

    Have you noticed there now seems to be a day for everything? For example, June 30 is ‘International Asteroid Day’, September 2 is ‘World Coconut Day’ and December 5 is ‘World Soil Day’. Marketeers are particularly keen on World Days when they can tie them in with products they’re promoting, so with ‘World Whisky Day’ looming on May 19 we have inevitably received offers of whisky in exchange for social media activity.

    Of these, one marketing scheme stood out: Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey is big on paring whiskey* with beer and were looking for people to try their blended whiskey with a selection of beers and write about the experience. We like whiskey. We like beer. And we like experimenting, so after a quick exchange of addresses a gift box was quickly sent in our direction.

    Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey

    Tullamore D.E.W. Original describes itself as ‘ the original triple distilled, triple blend whiskey’. It’s produced as a blend of pot still, malt and grain whiskies and is triple matured. The distillery dates back to 1829 and the famous whiskey is named after its creator, Daniel E Williams, who stamped his initials on his distilled booze.

    Tullamore produce a range of whiskies including an ‘XO rum cask finish’ and an intriguing sounding ‘cider cask finish’, but it’s the original we’re using for our tasting experiments, a whiskey that is matured in three casks: traditional refill, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry

    Tasting notes

    On its own, Tullamore D.E.W. has a light, sweet aroma with a fresh citric fruitiness that develops on the palette. The sweetness is in the taste, too, within some toffee flavours, while spicy oak notes build towards the finish along with a gentle rush of alcohol. Now on to the beer.

    We were sent three bottles – Staropramen’s Czech lager, an Innis & Gunn stout that had been aged in Tullamore D.E.W. barrels and a German Weissbier from Erdinger. Of the three it was the latter that intrigued me most, being a pairing I would never consider, so I flipped the bottle open and began the experiment.

    Like all good weissbiers, Erdinger has a good balance of banana and clove flavours along with the crisp wheat base. After a few slugs I returned to my whiskey tumbler and sipped… it seemed strangely warmer and softer than before, calming and comforting, subduing the alcohol and rounding off the spicy oak flavours, which also lingered longer. I liked the effect. Dipping to-and-fro the two drinks was a fun experience… the beer seemed more mature and alive; the whiskey grew in flavour.

    One beer and a few servings of whiskey was all I could manage to hit my World Whisky Day deadline, but I’m looking forward to repeating the taste test with the other two beers. And I’m sure some of my own favourite brews will be served in similar fashion before too long.

    Fascinating fact

    Did you know that pairing a drop of whiskey with a pint of beer actually has a name? it’s known as a ‘boilermaker’ and was made popular by Irish drinkers who emigrated to America.

    Tullamore D.E.W. is available from the Whisky Exchange

    bottle of original blend Tullamore

    *Being an Irish drink we’re now talking about whiskey with an ‘e’



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  • Booths ale crate review: beers from Northern Britain

    Last year we put together a piece on the best booze-based hampers for the i-Paper. Top of the pile was Northern retailer Booths ‘Gentleman’s Hamper’, a wicker wonder of booze and snacks* that gives me more fond memories than anything else I consumed over the festive period (although my trifle featuring Opies kirsch-soaked cherries was mightily impressive too).

    A few weeks ago Booths emailed me to highlight their new range of products and suggested our readers might be interested in their Northern Ale Crate, a wooden ale-carrier, with a bottle opener fixed to one side and loaded with six fine beers. “I’m sure our readers would be very interested” I replied. “Send one down and we’ll do the rest.”

    Living in the South West we don’t often get to sample many of the great ales from the North. Plenty of new stuff from the fashionable craft ale producers finds its way south, but in order to enjoy the more traditional beers on offer we either have to travel or rely on the likes of Booths to get hold of them.

    The beers duly arrived in time for the weekend, so I set myself the arduous task of tasting them so that our readers might also discover their beery magnificence. Here they are…

    Eden Gold, 4.2%

    Our pals from Penrith brew many good beers which we’ve enjoyed over the past few years, but this was my first swig of their golden ale. It’s the epitome of a summer beer – highly gluggable, light and refreshing with a straw-tinged breeze drifting through it. Lovely stuff

    Rudgate, Jorvik, 4.6%

    This was the only beer that also featured in my festive hamper and it was welcomed back to my fridge with open arms. Described as a ‘Flaxen Blonde Ale’ it’s a flavoursome brew, with a floral aroma and soft fruit flavours all wrapped up in a slippery smooth malty body.

    Bowland, Pheasant Plucker, 4.5%

    Booths plucked an amber ale from Clitheroe’s Bowland Brewery for their crate and it’s a very English kind of ale. The hops reminded me of blackcurrant leaf – fruity and a little bit herby – with a dab of citrus to freshen it up. It has a bready malt with a touch of sweetness and moderate bitterness. A very decent drop.

    Weetwood, Cheshire Cat, 4%

    This light and easy drinking ale will put a big grin on your face. It’s a biscuity kind of brew with a smidgeon of sweet syrup and a dry finish. My notes describe it as a ‘sunset beer’ – it starts of bright and sunny and gradually becomes a duskier over the course of drinking.

    Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch, 4.4%

    The Burnley based brewery magiced up my favourite beer from this selection. It’s a hazy golden pint with a load of flavour in it: there are citrussy notes which freshen the aroma and flavour, and a lovely soft smooth peachiness which is pepped up with bitter fruit and spicy yeast. Superb brewing!

    Ilkley Pale Ale, 4.2%

    I’m a big fan of Ilkley brewery and have enjoyed plenty of their beers, but the only other time I got my hands on their pale ale I gave it to my dad. It’s clear and light with subtle citrus and pine flavours and is much drier than the other beers in the pack, finishing with a gentle grassy bitterness that encourages repeat guzzling.

    Get hold of a Booths Ale Crate here

    *The Gentleman’s Gift Hamper is still available with a different beer selection from the one we tried. Yes, I am tempted to get another…

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  • A brush with Basil: an undercover growing guide

    Is winter finally over? Can we, at long last, venture out into the garden and get on with sowing and growing all the things we need for spring and summer? Among the many tasks that need sorting out is prepping my herb bed for the year. The sage has gone a bit straggly and might need replacing; the marjoram has self seeded everywhere, apart from where I actually want it; cooking with my current thyme plant risks getting thick woody twigs stuck between my teeth; and I have the less hardy herbs such as coriander and chervil to sow.

    But one herb that won’t be joining them in the herb bed is basil. While this most Meditteranean of herby flavours can just about grow outside, it really craves some sheltered warmth. A windowsill will do, but give it some space in your greenhouse or polytunnel and you’ll reap the benefits.

    There are a few different varieties you can sow – from the common Sweet Basil to the purple leaved Dark Opal and the bushy Greek Basil. After a foray into purple territory last year (not as productive and with tougher leaves) I’ll be sticking with the familiar variety Sweet Genovese for this summer’s pickings.

    I’ll sow my seeds in the constant warmth of the house before transferring the plants to the greenhouse when they have four or five sets of proper leaves. The plants will go straight into the ground, with their roots bedded into good few scoops of compost. Once established they’re easy to look after. Although they need a good drink, particularly undercover when it gets hot and dry, overwatering is more of a danger to their health than underwatering, so make sure the compost has a chance to dry out before rehydrating.

    Frequent picking will help keep the plants producing more leaves and any buds that form will be swiftly pinched out. They’ll be growing alongside my tomatoes, so the greenhouse will have a summery fragrance to it whenever I wander inside, and the two items will be best served alongside each other, straight from picking with nothing more than a pinch of salt.


    This is a collaborative post


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