Six spirits trends to watch in 2022
Looking to premiumise your collection? Tequila has plenty of high-end brands to choose from: perfect for enthusiasts to explore. Gone are the days when tequila was seen as a shot drink or only used in Margaritas. Now, drinks makers are showing just how versatile agave spirits can be in a range of cocktails.
Agave expert Deano Moncrieffe of Hacha bar in east London has just opened a new specialist bar in south London, bringing tequila to the masses. Big-name Mexican brands such as El Tequileño (Blanco, Alc 38%, £18.25-£19.95 per 50cl at Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange) are springing up in the UK for the first time.
If you prefer something more smoky and vegetal than tequila, then mezcal is also having a moment – an exciting new addition to your repertoire.
Rum is a favourite sipping spirit for many, but its historic Haitian cousin clairin is set to make a name for itself in 2022.
Usually made in small shacks on an artisan level, using spontaneously fermented sugarcane juice, the production behind it is more or less similar to rum, but it has a distinct flavour profile and is making its mark as an emerging cool, clear spirit.
There aren’t many on the market yet, but the Spirit of Haiti single-estate range (@clairinthespiritofhaiti) released new expressions in the UK in 2021, including Clairin Sonson (53.2%, £52 WoodWinters) – and, no doubt, is set to release more. Grab a bottle and start exploring.
When it comes to drinking and dining, wine remains the most obvious choice as a partner for food. However, the phenomenon of table spirits (something far more commonplace in parts of Asia) is leading to some rather interesting new product development.
One such spirit is Fractal 3.0, from the maverick mind of Miko Abouaf at Audemus Spirits. Made by distilling Gewurztraminer wine, it comes in at 21% abv (a light spirit, see below) and was designed to be drunk with food.
‘F3 was inspired by the realms of sake or soju; it is a table spirit, meaning it was primarily made to accompany food,’ says Abouaf.
Restaurants are getting in on the action, too, with Birmingham’s Wilderness creating its own Table Gin (40%, £28 wearethewilderness.co.uk/shop), Table Vodka (40%, £28) and Table Caffeine (20%, £28). They do say sharing is caring.
Whisky in beer casks
Cask ageing and finishing has been enjoying some real innovation recently in whisky, with the likes of wine, tequila and most popularly Sherry casks being used to impart flavour and texture to whiskies.
But the marriage of whisky and beer casks is especially interesting. Perhaps the biggest release in 2021 was that from Lagavulin Islay Single Malt, which launched a Guinness cask-finish 11-year-old and set tongues wagging across the industry – and not just because it was its second release in association with Parks & Recreation star Nick Offerman (46%, £249.95, USA / Offerman 2nd Edition, Hard to Find Whiskies).
More recently, English whisky producer Spirit of Yorkshire– Yorkshire’s first ever single malt whisky – released its Filey Bay IPA Finish (46%, £60 spiritofyorkshire.com) using barrels from its sister brewing company Wold Top Brewery.
The company is already looking at doing the same with the casks used to hold its Marmalade Porter. Watch this space.
You’ve heard of no-abv, you’ve heard of low-abv, but have you heard of light-abv drinks? Probably not, because the category has only just been born. It describes spirits that sit between 10% and 30% abv. With a slew of releases – such as Indian-inspired Sollasa aperitif (20%, £28.95, 31 Dover / SPIRIT-ED, Master of Malt), Twenty Light Spirit (20%, £21.90 mothershipscotland.com) and Quarter (as in ‘quarter strength’, 12%, £27 quarterproof.com) – these offer an alternative to full-strength booze for people who are looking for moderation, but still want some punch.
‘We’d seen what was happening in other categories like beer, where producers started catering for this middle-ground consumer,’ explains Quarter co-founder Rohan Radhakrishnan.
‘We then started exploring what was happening in spirits, and found full strength was well catered for and the no/low space was blowing up at the time – we realised there was little in this middle-ground space.’
With word of future releases from both Twenty and Quarter, we can see this trend gaining increasing traction.
English and Scottish rum is officially a thing. Matugga, Scratch (Faithful, 42%, £35.95 Master of Malt), even Brewdog’s Five Hundred Cuts Spiced Rum (40%, £24 brewdog.com) and many more are making exceptional drinks this side of the Caribbean sea.
White Peak Distillery in Derbyshire was originally known for its whisky but turned its hand to rum, creating its very own Cask Aged Rum (45%, £33/50cl whitepeakdistillery.co.uk).
‘We wanted to take some of our skills and what we had learned producing whisky and apply them to another spirit,’ explains co-founder Max Vaughan.
Does he think the local element of English rum is part of its shine? ‘It’s an extension of consumer interest in craft spirits that has arguably been fuelled by the gin boom in recent years. Consumers increasingly care about where their food and drink purchases are made, how they are made and who is making them.’
Can they eclipse traditional rums? No – but it’s exciting to see a dark spirit other than whisky being made on British shores.