One of the joys of doing a house exchange is to explore the house and in the process of exploration, I discovered Claude's booze cupboard. It puts mine to shame and it is filled with all sorts of exotic stuff that I may have heard of but have never tasted. There is also a bunch of stuff I have never seen or heard of before. In our 'welcome to our house' document, we invite our exchange families to try stuff from our cupboard and the French family has kindly done the same. I will keep updating this blog over the next few weeks so if you enjoy it, come back to it periodically. It will be fun.
Wednesday August 3 - So the first bottle we tried a small portion of was Pineau des Charentes. The producer was Favre et fils. It basically is a mix of grape juice and cognac and gives a flavour reminiscent of port, but more fruity. When we first tasted it, Marianne thought she tasted cherries. Basically, good port of the vintage or tawny variety is better, but the Pineau is interesting.
7 out of 10
Thursday August 4 - Next up is a bottle of Lejay red fruit liqueur. It basically tastes of raspberries and it's just 16% alcohol. Pleasant but not as complex as the Pineau. The website shows a range of fruit based liqueurs.
5 out of 10
Friday August 5 -After a walk in the rain (with umbrella), we came home to a cup of coffee and a small portion of Crema alla Mandorla (vin aromatise aux amandes). It's made by Frazitta. Amande translates to almonds and I was reminded of the taste of the almond essence that goes into my mother's fruit cake. It's not quite as complex as the Pineau, but better than the Lejay.
6 out of 10
Saturday, August 6 - Marianne poked around in the cupboard and came out with Suktinis Midaus Nektaras (Mead Nectar). The web site is in Lithuanian but you can translate it. Her first comment on tasting this liqueur was that our exchange hosts must have taken the cap off, tried it and stuck it in the back of the cupboard. The bottle was virtually full. I tried it and my first thought was that my lips were tingling.
The ingredients list is as follows: ethyl alcohol, half-finished mead product, liquid extract, blueberry, black and red current juice, water, honey mead distillate, acidity regulator (citric acid). As I mentioned before, it's made in Lithuania and it's named after a folk dance. If you go to the web site you will see it also contains carnation flowers, buds of poplar, oak acorns, juniper berries and many other valuable plants.
Now that is a list to inspire confidence! I'm particularly relieved to know that there are valuable plants included. Nothing cheap and nasty here in the way of plants.
So what does it actually taste like. First, it takes your breath away because it is 50% alcohol (100% US). You can smell the honey and the flavour of honey comes through in the taste. And yes, your lips do tingle after you drink it. It's quite a weird experience. Further more, since tasting it, I have not gone blind. Well at least not so far.
31 out of 10 (you lose all reason after this stuff)
Sunday, August 7 - Since she was so successful the night before, I asked Marianne to delve into the cupboard once more and out she came with Shrubb de Noel by Domaine de Severin. It's actually rum based and made in Guadeloupe. The ingredients are white rum, sugar cane syrup, orange peel and what is called cafe elabore, what ever that is. You don't get too much rum taste and the flavours are not that intense. Basically it tastes like flavoured sugar water with a lot of alcohol (30%) which basically reflects the ingredients list.
5 out of 10.
Tuesday, August 8 - After missing a night, I dragged out a clear bottle of what appeared to be vodka. The label appears to be in Russian and is Bogka КрепостL. It's 45% alochol and tastes like vodka. Not being a fan of the stuff I can't tell you whether it is good or bad. It does have that intense smell that comes with vodka and to me it feels oily in the mouth.
5 out of 10 because I don't have a clue about this stuff
Wednesday, August 9 - White Diamonds Black - supposedly a superior rum from the West Indies at 37.5% alcohol. I'm not sure what it's superior to, but the most positive thing I can say about it is that it probably goes well in a mixed drink. If you want to drink rum neat, try Appleton's Rum.
4 out of 10
Sunday, August 14 - Genievre Claeyssens Wambrechies - the label says it is an eau-de-vie de grains. It's 49% alcohol and a clear liquid. The link for the distillery is here and for the stuff itself, here. It reminds me of gin but with more flavour. Wambrechies is a town just north of Lille in France close to the Belgian border. We tried it straight from the cupboard but it really should be drunk cold. Marianne did not like it but I thought it had plenty of flavour despite the high alcohol content.
7 out of 10 but I suspect it would rate more if it were cold and yes, it's much better cold.
Monday, August 15 - Assumption Day - Tariquet Folle Blanche - this is an Armagnac, actually a Bas Armagnac and bottled in 2004. If anybody asked me where I would like to live in France, the Armagnac region would immediately spring to mind. It's south east of Bordeaux and just beautiful. If you have a choice in going to the Armagnac region or the Cognac region to visit, pick Armagnac. Trust me.
Back to the drink itself. Armagnac is a brandy, somewhat similar to Cognac except it is only distilled once whereas Cognac is distilled twice. For some reason or other, the flavour of Armagnac is reminiscent of prunes and they make a wonderful combination. My favourite Armagnac is Larressingle and it comes from a tiny village of the same name.
My favourite cognac is Pierre Ferrand and I usually get a bottle of this stuff every year for my birthday. Oddly enough, I don't think I deserve it on a regular basis, but I do think I deserve it on my birthday. I make the bottle last a year. It's magical stuff and I much prefer it to the usual big names of Martel, Couvoisier, Hennessey etc.
So back to Tariquet. I would say it's quite passable drinking but a bit too much vanilla on the nose. Very smooth but Larressingle is better.
9 out of 10 by comparison with the other stuff in the cabinet.