Cosmic Disco Egg (hazier than the can I had last night)

Due to a fraught couple of days, the end of my Saturday shift had left me rather more in need of decompression than normal. Good people and good beer were at the top of my list, so it was a relief that I just had to drag my weary bones down the road to Deptford and find myself at Villages‘ Taproom, who were hosting what promised to be a delightful beer celebration.

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In my other professional life, I help manage a small craft beer bar in South East London (The Beer Shop London – no, I’m not sure SEO was at the front of their minds when setting up, either). I’ve been there on and off for years – the owners are great, the regulars are great and the ethos of ever-rotating beers and well-thought-out non-beers is something I’m proud to serve. As a bonus, just keeping on top of our offer acts as excellent research into what’s happening in beer.

We like to do a big knees-up a few times a year and, especially given the battering the last eighteen months of covid has given everyone, our annual August Bank Holiday do loomed large in the imagination. So, if you’re going to go big, where better to build it around than Belgium? You’ve got the history, the variety, the eccentricity and the quality, all rolled up into one delightful national package. Lots of back-and-forth ensued about which beers should be included, revisions based on the fact that, no, Westvleteren weren’t willing to send us a keg of 12, not even if we wore cassocks and fasted on a Friday. Anyhow, the upshot was, amongst an amazing haul of beers, we got our hands on a small number of some older vintages of the Straffe Hendrik Wild and Lee and Lauren (those lovely owners I mentioned) asked if I’d be interested in talking a select group through a vertical tasting?

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Midweek, mid-evening, mid-summer(ish): a delightful August day that somehow managed to escape the flash-flood conditions of the previous few weeks is an ideal moment to be reintroduced to pub life. And by pub life, I mean a launch event, but tomayto-tomahto.

Anyhow, courtesy of the good folk at Portobello Road Gin, we were sat upstairs at their flagship gin palace in the heart of West London sipping deep on a Dirty Tuxedo (a sort-of wet dirty Martini given depth by Fino sherry) and watching the world go by. I’ve spoken before about Portobello Road’s new savoury offering, and given I thought it was excellent, why wouldn’t I take up the offer to try it in its natural habitat?

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So, Portobello were originally going to have a launch do/general shindig for their Savoury Gin on the 21st June. As the general reopening of everything was postponed, so too was the launch do, though they very kindly sent me a bottle to have a try of. For reasons that are faintly inscrutable to me, I felt that it seemed appropriate to hold off giving my thoughts until general public socialising was once more on the horizon. So, now that we know what’s happening on the 19th July and this gin can be shared amongst friends as intended, my thoughts forthwith:

As previously established, Portobello know their way around a good gin, so I was very happy to find a bottle of their newest release on my doorstep. The notion for this release comes from the Victorian penchant for giving gins interesting and obscure names and colloquialisms, one the more florid of which was “King Theodore of Corsica”. Apparently this was more to do with the hold Theodore’s descent into a debtor’s prison had on the popular imagination than a deep appreciation of the Mediterranean island, but Portobello have run with the idea to bring us this bottle.

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Irish whiskey has been having a renaissance over the last few years, springing back from the dark days of retrenchment and consolidation that, by the 1970s, saw the entire industry working out of just two sites, both of which were owned by the same company. Things are rather healthier nowadays, but given the high costs and long lead times involved in setting up a distillery and being able to sell something that’s aged enough to qualify as a whiskey, a lot of the new operations are still using spirit sourced from the New Middleton or Old Bushmills distilleries whilst they get their feet under the table, so to speak.

It is in this environment that the recent Dingles’ announcement of a permanent core line made entirely from spirit distilled and aged themselves is so interesting – other distilleries have been doing great things with the spirit they’ve sourced, but this release means that Dingle are joining the still relatively small club of Irish whiskey makers whose bottles are filled with a spirit that’s really their’s.

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