It is Halloween. Rather than skipping through the streets helping children acquire diabetes, I am locked up in my flat with all the lights off, ignoring knocks on the door and drinking weird spirits. The first part of that sentence is expected – I’ve been scared of trick or treaters ever since my university flatmates stole my strawberry Milky Ways to feed to some while I hid in my room (I’m still not entirely sure why, but dress kids up as skeletons, and I’m hiding). However, the weird spirits bit needs some explanation.
All hail the sausage king
Stamp-loving meat-molester Oliver Klimek is a whisky veteran. His blog Dramming is long gone, and these days he spends his time more on homemade charcuterie (which he posts on Twitter, along with tasty food and boozes), but he still taunts the drinks world with the same level of glee as always.
A few weeks back, he asked if anyone would want to volunteer for a Halloween tasting of interesting spirits. He was careful to point out, that they would not necessarily be enjoyable things. As someone who is intrigued by his occasional post of a new bottle added to his dusties shelf and a lover of weird spirits, I jumped into the fray.
The last time I joined in one of his blind tastings, it was a competition, and I did pretty well, although I can’t remember where I ended up in the rankings, and the Dramming.com post has disappeared with the rest of the site. I do, however, remember that Josh ‘The Coopered Tot‘ Feldman won. This time, it wasn’t to be a competition, just merely a fun test of our senses. And of course, I’m not concerned with how many Josh and I get right. Certainly not…
Things. In sample bottles.
Here’s what I had to taste – five anonymous clear liquids.
A: On the nose this was very melony – watermelon to the point of it smelling like watermelon sweets rather than real watermelon. With that came a bit of honeydew/galia melon richness, and not much of the veggieness of watermelon. On the palate it was sweet, sticky and melony. I reckon: Watermelon liqueur
B: Palinka-like nose with a touch of anise-y spice. Funky fruit notes build as it sits in the glass: peach, nectarine and white plums. On the palate it has herbal touches as well as plummy eau-de-vie. This might be me decided something on the nose and following it no matter what, but I reckon: Plum palinka
C: A very anonymous and spirity nose: no particular raw ingredients suggested. Banana touches appear as it warms up, but only very faint. On the palate, it’s musty, dusty and hollow. Cardboard notes develop with time. I reckon: Vodka that’s been in the bottle a while
D: Very dry and spicy on the nose – Turmeric and caraway? That continues into the palate. It tastes a bit like a health food shop where there are bins full of spices to buy by the scoop, and staff who are judging your purchases. I reckon: A dusty bottle of aquavit
E: Quite an expressive one to finish off with. It was really familiar, but I couldn’t work it out. Firstly I got pickle juice and cooked root veg on the nose – very reminiscent of my horseradish vodka (warning: link is to a video of me in 2010) after I’d left it in the bottle for a few months. Lots of parsnips and turnip. On the palate that continued, and I started running through earthy root veg: swede, parsnip, turnip…BEETROOT. It’s so obvious that I am slightly embarrassed I didn’t get it immediately. I need to eat more beetroot – I’ve never cooked it myself… I reckon: Beetroot Eau-de-Vie
…and how did I do?
A: “Niemand Likör” from a gin distillery in Hannover – “A refreshing blend of cucumber, chamomile and grapefruit enriched with bergamote, almond and parsley”.
I should have gone with my gut and focused on the cucumbery side of things – there wasn’t much veggieness, but cucumber definitely fits.
B: 1980s’ Josef Pflügler “Feiner Topinambur” – Jerusalem artichoke spirit.
I’ve still not tried a Jerusalem artichoke. This has not inspired me to look further.
C: Dolomiti “Zirben” – Pine eau de vie.
Oli said this was not as over-the-top a version as many, which ties up to the fact that this didn’t taste of much.
D: Penninger Bärwurz – the national drink of the Bavarian Forest
This makes sense, after the fact – it reminds me of the herbal bitters I used to get occasionally buy at the checkout at the supermarket in Vienna. They were booze, I was a teenager, they were horrible.
E: “Považský repák” – Sugar beet eau de vie from Slovakia