February 2018's Selection - Cocchi Grappa Bianca
 

February sees us travel to the Piedmont region of north-west Italy, home of this fantastic grappa from Cocchi (pronounced “cocky”). This white, unaged beverage is produced from 100 percent locally grown barbera grapes.

The Cocchi brand has existed since 1891 when a pastry chef called Giulio Cocchi started producing sparkling and aromatized wines in the town of Asti. The legend goes that he only arrived in Asti after accidentally getting off the train from Florence to Turin one stop early. He stayed after falling in love with, and eventually marrying, the daughter of a local barkeeper. The establishment, now known as Bar Cocchi, can still be found in Piazza Alfieri in the centre of Asti. 

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Grappa shares some DNA with brandy but, like much of the best Italian cooking, grappa is a product of frugality. It’s base material is the detritus remaining after grapes have been pressed to produce wine. This leftover skin, pulp, seeds and stems is collectively known as pomace.

In the UK grappa can have an unfair reputation as rough-edged firewater. We’ve probably all been handed a complimentary glass of cheap spirit following a meal in the sort of Italian restaurant that hasn’t changed since 1971. We hope this premium Cocchi grappa goes some way to improving that perception. Salute! 

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Andrew Rummer
January 2018's Selection - Kilkerran Single Malt
 

For January we’ve selected a single malt from the newest distillery in one of the oldest whisky-producing areas of Scotland. Kilkerran's 12 Year Old Single Malt was produced at J&A Mitchell & Co.’s Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown, which only reopened in 2004 after a hiatus of nearly 80 years.

Kilkerran 12 Year Old

 The Kilkerran 12 is a mix of spirit aged in barrels that used to hold bourbon and sherry -- 70% ex-bourbon and 30% ex-sherry. All water used in production, from steeping the barley to diluting the whisky before bottling, comes from the local Crosshill Loch.

While most Scottish distilleries are controlled by giant multinationals such as Diageo or Pernod Ricard, J&A Mitchell is a family-owned company. It also operates the larger Springbank distillery, just over the road from Glengyle in Campbeltown. Mitchell’s Glengyle facility produces whisky under the Kilkerran brand because it no longer owns the trademark to the Glengyle name. The brand comes from the Anglicisation of Campbeltown’s Gaelic moniker, Kinlochkilkerran.

The original Glengyle distillery produced whisky from 1872 to 1925, before Prohibition in the U.S. and an economic downturn forced its closure. Hedley Wright, chairman of J&A Mitchell, is the great-great nephew of William Mitchell, founder of the first Glengyle distillery. 

 
December 2017's Selection - Frapin VS Cognac
 
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This month we’ve selected a bottle of Frapin Cognac for our lucky subscribers. This French brandy is produced from grapes grown in Frapin's 240 hectares of vineyards in Grande Champagne, an area considered to be Cognac’s top appellation.

Brandy production, like Scotch whisky, is all about blending a large number of batches of differing age and character into a product of quality and consistency. This Frapin VS should taste much like one produced 20 years ago. That requires a wide variety of flavours that the blender can use as a palette. Because Frapin’s raw material – the grapes – all comes from one estate, they get creative with the ageing process to help create that variety. Cellar master Patrice Piveteau splits his cellars into two levels of humidity to accentuate differences during barrel ageing. See an interview with him below. 

The family-owned Frapin company can trace its origins all the way back to the 13th century. The current owner, Jean-Pierre Cointreau, is a direct descendent of the founder. The 16th century writer François Rebelais was the son of ­Catherine Frapin, inspiring the quill-pen imagery in Frapin’s branding.

 
Andrew Rummer
November 2017's Selection - San Cosme Mezcal
 
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To counter the November blues we’ve headed back to the Americas in search of a fine, exotic spirit to share with you. Our chosen drink is San Cosme Mezcal, all the way from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Founded by four friends in 2011, San Cosme takes its name from the patron saint of doctors and pharmacists, based on folklore about the drink’s healing properties. Mexicans have a saying which translates as “For every ill, mezcal, and for every good as well”. Sounds good to us!

San Cosme is produced on an old hacienda estate in Santiago de Matatlán -- the self-professed world capital of mezcal -- and everything from agave plant cultivation to bottling and sealing occurs here. It is a truly artisanal product, capturing Oaxacan craft and tradition in a bottle. 

San Cosme Mezcal Sipping Liquor
 
Andrew Rummermezcal
October 2017's Selection - Kuro Gin
 
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What could be more pleasant on a cosy autumnal evening than a glass of aromatic, Japanese-inspired gin mixed with a fine tonic? Introducing Kuro London Dry Gin, Sipping Liquor's October selection. 

Following a snowboarding trip to the Hakuba region of Japan, British founder Craig Fell and his business partner John Thompson wanted to create a distinctive London dry gin that captures the essence of the Japanese Alps. After many iterations they achieved this by adding to the base recipe an earthy selection of botanicals (natural flavouring ingredients) not usually associated with gin: silver birch bark, bamboo and spruce needles.

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Curbing the usual sweetness found in modern, citrus-focussed gins these ingredients create a very smooth, fresh, aromatic note which expects a lot of the palate but very much rewards it.

The name Kuro means “black” in Japanese and was inspired by the colour of the bamboo activated charcoal used in production. 

Our members also found in October's box two bottles of Double Dutch Pomegranate & Basil Tonic Water which superbly complements this unique gin. 

 
September 2017's Selection - Bimber Oak Aged Vodka
 
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Our mission to bring the world’s finest spirits to your doorstep has led us ­closer to home this month: the Park Royal neighbourhood of West London. 

The Bimber Distillery was founded in 2015 by Dariusz Płażewski, a ­London-dwelling Pole who had already set up a successful construction and home renovation ­business. Dariusz learnt to distill at a young age using small equipment with his friends in the woods of Poland. This history inspired the name ­Bimber, which means moonshine in Polish. The distillery, whose ­eagle-head logo is a flipped version of the one on the Polish flag, bottled its first ­vodka in early 2016. 

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Bimber’s Oak Aged Vodka is inspired by a traditional Polish vodka variation called starka. For at least 400 years, people in Poland and Lithuania have been taking rye-grain vodka, ageing it in oak barrels and infusing it with the leaves of fruit trees. Like whisky, rum or brandy, the spirit darkens over time as it draws colour and flavour from the oak.

Dariusz wanted to put a modern spin on starka. Bimber takes a wheat ­vodka and matures it in old Woodford Reserve bourbon casks for six months. While ageing, the spirit is also infused with cinnamon, vanilla and dried cloves, the sorts of ingredients more usually found in a spiced rum.

 
Andrew Rummervodka, bimber, london