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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

October 20, 2013


Malternatives, two aged aquavits

Our first tasting notes for aged aquavit, and maybe our last, we’ll see. By definition, aquavit is fairly neutral spirit (grains or potatoes) that’s flavoured with caraway and/or dill, which may then be redistilled and then aromatised with other herbs and/or spices. As I understand it, it can be aged in wood or not. Oh, by the way, I’ve been asked what I was considering as a ‘malternative’. Well, in my book it can be either any spirit that’s aged in wood (brandies, rums, tequilas anejo, calvados or any other aged eau-de-vie such as, indeed, matured aquavit) or unaged spirit that shares obvious ‘organoleptical’ similarities with whisky, such as good white mescals or gentians. Capiche? But let’s try these aquavits if you please…

Dreiling Aqua Vitae (38,3%, OB, Kreuzritter, aquavit, Germany, +/-2013)

Dreiling Aqua Vitae (38,3%, OB, Kreuzritter, aquavit, Germany, +/-2013) This is distilled from grains (wheat, rye and spelt), infused with herbs and spices and then matured for eight years in oak. The proprietors claim that it's 'premium', but what isn't these days? Colour: gold. Nose: wah! It’s sweet, it’s liqueury and the caraway’s really huge. To me it smells like caraway liqueur. Not that I don’t enjoy caraway, but well… Other than that there’s quite some lemon as well as a little citronella, angelica and then more and more aniseed. Balance is found after five minutes, once the caraway’s getting a little more discreet. I don’t seem to find any ‘grains’ in there but it’s a fresh, clean, pleasant nose that may call for ice. Mouth: well, it’s fine stuff, you just have to like caraway indeed, because it’s quite dominant and it would not go away this time. There’s a little sugar too, various bitter herbs (drops of Campari), cinchona, bitter oranges. Yeah, I’m sure this would be quite good on ice and it would even hint at some mojito with a lot of crushed mint. Not much body, though. Finish: quite long and very herbal. Sweetish aftertaste. Comments: nah, this is no real malternative. It’s a loyal and honest drink, no doubt, but I feel it’s more sweet caraway liqueur than ‘aged spirit’. You just have to love that, I guess. As for the use of wheat, rye and spelt, that may have been a little superfluous in my humble opinion. SGP:770 – around 65 points?

Linie (41,5%, OB, Arcus, aquavit, Norway, +/-2013)

Linie (41,5%, OB, Arcus, aquavit, Norway, +/-2013) Two stars It seems that all batches always spend quite some months on ships and have to cross the Equator to deserve the name 'Linie' (line). It's a nice concept that we've already seen with cognac and even whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: this is ten times less expressive than the Dreiling, I may have had to have it as #1 but as it’s stronger in alcohol, I had thought I was right. Ahem. Having said that, the caraway/cumin is even bigger, proportionally, to the point where I do not get anything else, or not much. Maybe a little wood smoke? Juniper? A wee feeling of gravel as well? Mouth: we’re closer to the Dreiling, and I actually like this Norwegian better on the palate, it’s pretty cleaner and less sweet, even if it’s probably less complex. Once again, the caraway is loud but I’m sure you could get used to it ;-). Finish: quite long, with more lemongrass this time. Quite some aniseed in the aftertaste and should you have the memory span of a goldfish, you would think you just had a pastis or an ouzo. Comments: I’m sure this is very good on ice. I’ll try when I have time. Maybe. SGP:571 - around 70 points.

Right, those aquavits were quality drinks but I think I’ll stick with unflavoured spirits with my malternative tastings. Thanks for your understanding. But wait a minute! Don’t we Alsatians distil caraway too? In fact the Alsatians would distil just anything (we even make whisky) so why not caraway? It’s actually called ‘cumin’ here but it’s well caraway aka cumin from the fields (carum carvi). Caraway abounds in eastern France. To make some eau-de-vie, the plant's seeds are first macerated in neutral spirit (usually apple), the result being then redistilled, usually in Holsteins. It’s sold unaged but as always, the best makers will mature white eau-de-vie in demijohns for quite a few years. Let’s have two today, just for fun. They do not belong to our ‘malternatives’, we’re much too far from whisky. Both spirits will be pure ‘cumin’, without any other plants or fruits. Or grains for that matter.

Cumin (40%, OB, G. Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013)

Cumin (40%, OB, G. Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: white. Nose: caraway everywhere. Only caraway. This smells just like a large bag of caraway seeds, so it’s a very dry, very austere spirit. Maybe also a little freshly ground coffee? Mouth: much sweeter, this feels like some sugar had been added at some point. The caraway seeds are loud again, there’s a little dust, touches of bitter chocolate, a little lemongrass… I have to say it’s quite good once you got used to all this caraway. I guess this would go well with strong cheese such as Munster. Finish: rather long because of all this caraway. Lemony/zesty aftertaste. Comments: I think, after all, that is some very fine eau-de-vie. It grows on you. SGP:280 – no score

Cumin (43%, OB, René de Miscault, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) (50pt)

Cumin (43%, OB, René de Miscault, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) Picture, same label, only for kirsch instead of cumin. Colour: white. Nose: of course, caraway seeds everywhere again but this one is a little ‘wider’, a little less dry. Maybe there’s even a little fresh almond, touches of flowers (maybe roses?) but sadly, also a soapiness that sneaks in, which gives the whole a rather junipery side after a moment. Not too sure I like this. Mouth: sweeter and soapier than the Miclo, this is actually very extreme! Astringent and sugary at the same time, kind of acerbic… No, this is pretty excessive, not an easy one for sure, especially since the soapiness never stops growing. I feel I’ll soon start to blow bubbles out of my mouth… Finish: very long, very soapy. Comments: a kind of toothpaste? I enjoyed the nose but the palate is extremely difficult. More extreme than both Supernova and Octomore ;-). SGP:191 – no score

Oh hell, while we ‘re at it…

Schüttboden Kümmel (40%, OB, Thienelts, Germany, +/-2013)

Schüttboden Kümmel (40%, OB, Thienelts, Germany, +/-2013) one star and a half They call this 'Der Herren Likör' on the label, which means 'the men’s liqueur' or something like that. Good old teasers! Kümmel does mean 'liqueur flavoured with caraway' and it's very traditional in Germany. Colour: white. Nose: this is completely different again. Much lighter than the Alsatians, smokier as well, some sides aren’t too far from the Dreiling. There’s also a slight meatiness, around heavily smoked ham? It’s quite unique and not unpleasant at all. Much less ‘narrow’ than the pure cumin eaux-de-vie. I’m very curious about the palate… Mouth: woohoo, this is sweet! We’ll keep this short, this tastes like some limoncello with, indeed, a few caraway seeds. So more lemon than caraway. An easy liqueur, certainly not very manly if you ask me. Finish: quite long, with that smokiness again. We missed it in the arrival. Comments: no bad stuff for sure, more to my liking than pure limoncello. However, I think this should be taken on ice. We don’t score liqueurs – agreed, we shouldn’t even taste them. SGP:452 – no score







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