Beech Leaf Gin

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, so I picked a load of freshly budded beech leaves and put them in a glass jar with a litre of gin dregs.

It must be seven or eight years since I last made noyau, but I was inspired to have another go by @_littlebrowndog, a fellow member of the whisky world who is also responsible for the fascinating #projectPEAT.

The discarded scraps of bud. Very fiddly.
In the past I've not managed to catch the leaves at quite the earliest stage, but this time I was able to select the freshly budded leaves, many of which still had the wispy pink bud covering. This made preparing the leaves rather fiddly, but they were so soft (and importantly, not at all waxy) that the process of extracting flavour is sure to be much faster.

The gin dregs were selected from about forty different gins on the simple basis of whether on not I consider them to be any good. So the bland, the odd, and those with any off notes were rejected. It does mean that there are rather a lot of botanicals competing with the fagus silvestris, but it's so long since I've made noyau that everthing about the process is once again experimental.

I'll update this blog post in a wee while (a few days, a few weeks? Not sure yet) once I reckon the gin is sufficiently green (although I seem to remember it's more of a yellow than green).
Freshly picked leaves
Leaves, jar, but no gin.


My Big Book of Grapes

A few years back I received the wonderful gift of Wine Grapes : A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, including their Origins and Flavours, by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and José Vouillamoz.

It came in very handy last night on tasting this Lyrarakis Psarades Dafni 2015. It was by far the most unusual wine I have tasted in the last I don't know how many months. Just look at my tasting note:

Nose: Vermouth, bay leaves, herbs. slightly sherried. A green, nutty note.

Palate: Dry, mid- bodied, mid acidity, mid alcohol. Herbal, green, bay leaves. Very very distinctive, unusual, delicious.

No kidding, this wine tasted remarkably like Noilly Prat. It was delicious.

So anyway, turning to Wine Grapes I learned that Dafni is a variety from the Greek island of Kríti (aka Crete), which had all but disappeared by the end of the 1980s. Fortunately, Lyrarakis, the producers of this lovely wine, continued to cultivate it, and is now back up to around 15 hectares. It seems that it needs to be intensively pruned for low yields in order to give these lovely flavours, which is perhaps why it fell out of favour.

I'm so glad it survived. I don't suppose I'd want to drink it all the time, but for a food-friendly change of style it's just about perfect.

If you don't yet have a copy of Wine Grapes, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's worth it for the pedigree charts alone. Here's a not very good picture of the entry for Dafni:


Tasting Note: If Savoury Frangipane Were A Thing

To be honest, I only wrote this tasting note because I wanted to use the title. That aside, I'm enjoying a great glass of wine.

Vajra is an absolutely top notch producer of wines in Piemonte, Italy. This bottle is from an estate that Vajra bought towards the end of the 2000s. It's Luigi Baudana Dragon 2015, a fantastic blend of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Riesling and 5% Nascetta (whatever the heck that is).

My tasting note:

Nose:  Complex, nutty, and herbal, with a suggestion of something phenolic (or terpenes?) possibly analogous to the petrol note in Riesling. If savoury frangipane were a thing, this is how it would smell.

Palate: Complex, rounded, and delicious. The acidity is somewhere between lemon juice and grapefruit pith. Green notes are less in evidence than on the nose. There's something of the phat of a brazil nut. A very clean refreshing finish. Nothing of the individual grape varieties, but that is absolutely not a criticism.

Conclusion: This is superb wine, and awfully cheap for what it offers. Also, it has a dragon on the label.


Dom Pérignon

One of the many benefits of working in the booze industry is the quality of the drinks on a staff night out. Our latest expedition began by setting a fairly high bar, with a mini Dom Pom vertical, of the 2006, 1999, and 1982.

(It's interesting to note, by the way, that Dom Pérignon these days doesn't mention Moët et Chandon on the label - perhaps they feel it makes the brand seem more exclusive?)

The 2006, in its first plénitude, was big and bold: fresh icing sugar, sharp floral aromas, but also with a touch of mushroom. The palate was soft, sherbety, with lemon notes and a beautiful rounded flowery character. The finish was noticeably drier than on the other two wines.

The 1999—not a stellar year, but, by my calculation and triangulation based on what the DP website says, in its second plénitude—wasn't any better (in the hedonic sense) than the 2006. Indeed, I think I enjoyed it a notch less. But the flavours were quite different. The nose was both spicy and mineral laden. After a while a floral component rather like that in the 2006 appeared. The palate was intensely mineralic, tangy and grapefruity. It was also richly floral—roses I think—with the richness extending to ripe fruit.

The 34 year old wine, almost but not quite flat and a deep, deep gold, was something else. Well into its third plénitude, this was a glorious glass of fizz. The nose had some of the floral elements present in the 2006 and 1999, but ah!, the rest of it. Runny honey on toast, sweet roasted almonds, buttery caramel, and a shining warmth. Liquid sunshine indeed. The palate showed the slightest spritz, and a fair bit of oxidation (good oxidation, like Madeira), despite which there was still a very decent level of acidity. The flavours were all sorts of fruit: juicy and fresh berries, raisins, figs, lemons. Just delightful.

The Dom Pérignon 1982 wasn't the oldest wine we tasted tonight, but for me it was far and away the finest. I'm usually more of a Billecart fanboy, but if all DP was this good...