Food
VALENCIAN ‘VERMUTS’ AND VALENCIAN WHISKY

This summer we have been able to review the new Vermouth and Whisky from a Bodega based in Calles, ‘Vegamar’ and the new Vermouth from ‘San Pedro Apostol’, the Bodega Cooperative in Godelleta.

Covid-19 had not only stopped tastings for the last 3 months or so but Bodegas who had new products to launch onto the market have been unable to do so with the usual flourish we are used to. One or two have managed an on-line tasting for selected journalists and bloggers. Others have just quietly put them into the market without a fanfare.

Vegamar, the Calles based bodega found themselves in this category but now things have opened up. VÍ Vid took the opportunity to meet up with Pere Mercado, their Director of Product Development.

We have known Pere since he was Director of the ‘Premium Bobal’ Association and the launch of their first wine in March 2011. Our paths have crossed in the Government Training Centre (CDT), where he is a Professor of Hostelry… and at many tastings as he is a former winner of the Nariz D’Oro, which is Spain’s premier prize for professional Sumillers.

Since his move to Vegamar they have introduced the excellent Gin range with a ‘London Dry’ and ‘Valencia City’, which launched in the Umbracle in June 2017 and later the ‘Rum Boca’ with its pure cane sugar and its origin in the Dominican Republic.

Prior to a working lunch, we opened the new Vermut Rouge ‘¡Oh La La!’ Reserva’, which was released just before lock-down started. From a base of red wine stored in ‘tinas’ (large format, very old barrels) in which it spends more than 12 months…the principal botanicals used are wormwood, pepper, artemisa, gentian and orange peel although there are many more.

On the nose, it is a very traditional Valencian Vermut (by which we mean not a trendy ‘new style’ light vermut) with all the above elements emerging, plus ginger, cardamom and undernotes of spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and all-spice etc. In the mouth, it has good depth and body and a long bitter aftertaste and is a very satisfying aperitif!

Pere had told us some time ago that he was creating a new whisky to add to Vegamar’s spirit portfolio. Finally, we were able to meet up over lunch and taste the fruits of his research and creativity!

‘Mill Room’ has been three years in the making with Pere visiting distilleries all over Scotland, tasting ‘cask strength’ (75% ABV) Lowland, Highland and Islay whiskies of different ages and styles and from differing barrel types (Jerez neutral, Brandy and American oak ). This is because his first principle was that the new product should have that Scottish essence about it. But Pere is also a fan of Japanese ‘whiskies’ noted more for their fruity notes. He has extensively experimented to produce a whisky, which combines these two elements.

Eventually, he settled on a whisky co-operative in the Trossachs (Loch Lomond) with nine separate whiskies from the North and South Highlands and six separate single Islay malts. These were purchased, brought to Spain to a distillery South of Valencia, and experiments started in blending differing proportions of each until the plan he had in his head began to take shape.

Gradually the granitic notes of the Highland whiskies, the malty notes of the Lowlands and the smoky notes of the Islays and then the fruits emerged in the right balance.

Mill Room’ (40ºABV) is the whisky that he has created from this marathon process. In colour, it has the appearance of Onion Skin with Coppery notes in the glass. Add a drop of water (just a drop) to reduce the heat of the alcohol and it becomes bright with just a little gold flashing at you.

On the nose, its complexities emerge slowly as the whisky warms gradually in your hand. Starting with minerality, smoke and peat. Then balsamic notes and with them the white fruits, dried apricots, then dried roses, withered flowers and finally mountain scrub with bay leaves.

We tasted it first neat then with the splash of water and with the latter the herby notes emerge more markedly with eucalyptus and the bay more prominent. Finally, and with good time in the glass the seaweed notes, salts and smoke and tarry notes come back to complete and balance the whisky.

We tasted a Caol Ila 1994 as a reference for comparison. This pure Islay single malt is pale in colour, with all the complex salty, seaweed and tarry, smoky notes but it has none of the additional herbs and fruits and floral notes the different woods had brought to the ‘Mill Room.’ But it is an exemplar for Islay malts.

‘Mill Room’ is truly an excellent, very elegant, well-balanced whisky which brings those Islay characteristics to be shared with the fruit and woody notes the other elements of the blend apply and should satisfy all tastes of whisky lovers. ‘Mill Room’ retails at 22€ for a 70cl bottle from Vegamar outlets.

A la Hora! The 12.30 pm call for a vermouth! Bodega San Pedro Apostol from Godelleta have just released their new artisan vermut ‘Como Pedro por su casa’. With a base wine from Muscat of Alexandria (the bodega only produces its products from this single variety) the vermut is amber in colour with brown coppery flashes, is clean and bright. Unusual in that it is not produced in barrel, the grape must is stopped from fermenting with alcohol, then steeped with herbs, spices and roots (botanicals).On the nose, the traditional local herbs (fennel, rosemary,) spices such as liquorice and cinnamon and orange peel all emerge on the nose. So far, so good!

In the mouth, what a balance and what a contrast! A well-structured vermut, sweet but dry with a very good acidity finishing with a bitterness from the roots all of which are proportionally correct. This has a long and satisfying finish and perfumed persistent after notes. Elegant!

The name signifies someone who is “very much at home” in an unusual environment. Pedro is going to be very much at home with VÍ Vid!

Article by Riki Wigley & Marian Darás

VÍ Vid is a project supporting the development of wine knowledge and gastronomy in the Valencian Community. We run wine clubs, give tastings of Valencian wines in English and support wine-makers and bodegas directly. We can be found in Instagram (Vivid8402), and through our blog VÍ Vid at https://vvidblog.wordpress.com, in Facebook, ( https://www.facebook.comVivideventos ) and in Twitter @vividvinos.

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