It’s fair to say that most of the Majestic family rather enjoy a good quality drink.  Wine, we adore. Beer, we’re fascinated by.  Spirits? We do.  And you know, we’ve done them a while.  Basics, really. The odd interesting or local bottle.  But mostly the basics.

But something changed, and for the better. It began last year with an infusion of brilliant whiskies and rums, a few really crazy vodkas and a gin that blew my mind with its piney beauty.

And you loved them.  We decided we’d add more.

Thing is, we all get trained to WSET Level 3 standard. That’s the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.  But though spirits are on the syllabus, they’re not a core element.  If they come up in the exam, they’re a few questions out of fifty in the multiple choice section.  For most of us, our spirits knowledge is hard-earned through going to tastings and trying as many as we can afford.

I cheated.  I was an avid cocktailian bartender before I joined Majestic.  Spirits are my love.

My old job - mixing drinks.

So when our Spirits-buyer Chris announced he was shaking up the range even more with a focus on craft and boutique spirits, I slyly inveigled myself into the tasting sessions.

Over two days, and 160 spirits later, we shortlisted, then reviewed, and finally picked out our favourites.  Gin with style. Vodka with actual character.  Forgotten whiskies that begged for rediscovery. Rums. Bourbons. And some utterly exceptional cognacs.  The best part? All fantastic.

There are two new vodkas joining the range this winter.  The first is our riposte to the Smirnoffs of this world.  A triple-distilled grain spirit that’s pure, clean, smooth and with a hint of maltiness. Red Griffin.  We wanted something great value that would taste great, mix well, and drink beautifully.  We got it.

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It’s filtered through English Oak Charcoal for a patriotic, homegrown sense of smoothness.

Now, vodka by definition can be made from anything you can ferment.  Sugar. Wheat. Barley. Corn. Potato starch. Milk.

Milk? Oh yes.

In a time when dairy farmers are squeezed hard by the supermarkets, one man finally had enough.  Jason Barber wanted to diversify the produce from his 250-strong dairy herd in Dorset.  He separated the curds and whey from his fresh whole milk.  The curds went to making truly exceptional cheeses – Barber’s 1833 and Black Cow Deluxe Cheddar.  The whey he fermented into a beer using a special yeast culture.  The beer he distilled into a high quality spirit, triple filtered for purity before bottling.

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Black Cow Vodka is smooth, as creamy as you’d expect, and utterly, utterly delicious.  It is also, paradoxically, lactose free.  That’s distillation for you.  For best results, seek out some Black Cow Cheddar and try them together.

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Alongside these are some excellent spirits added last winter. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is briefly oak-aged and so has a tinge of colour alongside woody notes and the merest hint of caramel. Blackwood’s Botanical Vodka is five-times distilled and then infused with hand-picked Shetland botanicals including Meadow Sweet, Sea Pink, Angelica and Marsh Marigold.

You can browse our range of spirits and craft spirits online here. Next up, gin!

Craft Spirits – The Cream of Vodkas

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