Drinks

Our selection of the new and the notable from the best British drinks producers.
Visit Drinks of the Month for this month's Variety Show

Harviestoun Ola Dubh


Dubbed Black Oil by its good friends, this is a joy. Harviestoun's already delicious Old Englne Oil Porter is aged in Highland Park 12 Year Old casks, a sojourn which adds numerous layers of complexity.

8%, from £4-6 slurp.co.uk, harviestoun.com, www.beersofeurope.co.uk, Beerritz.co.uk

Henneys Vintage 2011

Created by former-Bulmers cidermaker, Mike Henneys, Vintage 2011 is the cider that took the all-important pork round in the first Cider vs Wine Contest at The Thatchers' Arms earlier this year.

It was up against pretty stiff opposition in the shape of a rich, Portuguese red, Quinta Do Crasto 2010, and the dish, to be fair, also included a tangy sausage, tomato and mixed bean cassoulet.

Henney's Vintage 2011, Herefordshire; Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco; Henneys.co.uk; £2.09/50cl;

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Heavy, even oily, and powerfully peated, Lagavulin 16 Year Old is a whisky which attracts devoted followers. The robust palate and long woodsmoke finish makes it a great cold weather dram.

In the past, before single malts became widely popular, Lagavulin was an important part of the White Horse blend, but these days it is prized more for its own unique flavours.

43%/70cl, around £47, widely available.

Isle of Arran Robert Burns Malt

Arran Robert Burns Malt bottle

Distillers often invoke the name of Robert Burns. It's hardly surprising. We toast his memory in whisky every January 25th. Burns wrote about whisky, he worked for a time as an excise man, he was fond of a dram. I wonder what he would have made of this one, from the Isle Arran Distillery?

40%/70cl around £30 from Master of Malt, the Good Spirits Co, and other specialist retailers.

Hush Heath, Jake's Orchard Cider

Elegant and sprightly, Jake's Cider has light aromas of cooked and green apple, with a subtle herbal tinge, flavours which continue onto the palate.  

Named after the owner's son, Jake's Cider is crafted from Cox, Bramley and Egremont Russell apples from the Hush Heath Estate. 

£13.50, from New Forest Cider Shop, Borough Market; www.hushheath.com

Nutbourne Bacchus 2011

A wonderfully aromatic wine which illustrates beautifully what England's signature grape can achieve given the right handling and the right soils. 

Floral aromas mix with light lemon, moving to a palate with tart tropical fruit flavours alongside ripe Granny Smiths.

Wild Card Brewery, Jack of Clubs

An impressive debut from William at his Walthamstow-based Wild Card Brewery, this is truly a Ruby Ale, with a vibrant fruity nose. Hints of caramel and vibrant hops are nicely balanced on the malt-driven palate - there's a fair dose of crystal malts, both dark and light.

If this is a sign of things to come, bring it on. The beautifully designed bespoke playing cards add a suitably stylish flourish. 

Furleigh Estate Blanc de Blanc 2009

From the Jurassic coast and former UK Winemaker of the Year comes this white winner.

Apricots and ripe, ripe apples on the nose, perhaps with a light mandarin peel note, this is expressive and elegant. The palate has gentle stone fruits, yeasty notes, and a long finish.

 

Furleigh Estate Blanc de Blanc 2009, £25, Furleigh Estate website

 

Westons English Sparkling Pear Wine 808

 

Something special and something new from the fifth generation of the Much Marcle dynasty of cidermakers, a bottle fermented pear wine, with a virtually neverending sparkle.

Gentle on the nose, this has been produced from a unique (as far as I know) blend of Blakeney perry pears and Conference dessert pears. Light notes of caramel interweave the ripe pear flavours, with the underlying fizz giving the "wine" a gentle lift. Guy Lawrence son of MD Helen Thomas, has created this pear wine with Weston's master cidermaker Jonathan Blair.

Laithwaites Theale Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2007

With its sprightly mix of ripe orchard fruit and zesty, tart peach to finish, alongside a lick of citrus twang, Laithwaites have fashioned a lively sparkler form its weeny vineyard outside its HQ in Theale.

£22.99, Laithwaites shops & online