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A Brandy beckons…

Just over a year ago now we put something incredibly special into barrels to slowly work some magic and mature into our very first Brandy. It’s an interesting story as to how this project came about… being, as you’d expect, conceived in typical ‘Motley Cru’ fashion. It was the summer of 2020 which we’ll all remember for one reason or another but as it turned out, amongst all the issues, it was an incredibly good summer in the vineyard, so good in fact that our Solaris grapes, in particular, ripened exceptionally quickly - much faster than the year before.

As a result of this, when we were ready to harvest, it turned out that our Solaris grapes were already exceedingly high in alcohol potential. They were sat pretty at a whopping 16% alcohol, now I know what you’re thinking… brilliant, why wouldn’t you make a bottle of wine with that? Well, it’s just a tad too strong for the sort of wines we’d want to make, although I’m sure we could have had a good crack at them. Nevertheless, we were stuck with overripe grapes, what should we do with them?

Being a huge fan of brandy, my Dad thought that we should have a go at making one of our own, I’m more of a whisky man myself but how could I pass up an opportunity like this? So that’s exactly what we did, we distilled a large volume of our Solaris wine along with a blend of some of our other grapes to create our base. Now if you thought 16% ABV was strong… try the 63% that our brandy came in at after it had finished distilling. From there we learnt all about how to age the spirit in barrels, once again this was an adventure as we’d never done anything like this before so it was back to school for the Motley Cru, learning how to prepare the barrels for ageing, how to cut our Brandy with water to lower the %ABV to suitable ageing strength which would also directly impact our end flavour profile, honestly it was the most maths I’ve used since school!

Today, just over a year from when we first filled those barrels, I thought it would be a good idea to see how our brandy was getting on - any excuse to taste them, honestly.

We currently have 3 expressions of our Brandy ageing in different barrels, an ex-bourbon barrel, an ex-whisky barrel and a sherry cask. For the good cause of knowledge, I guess it’s up to me to get tasting… what a chore. I’m by no means an expert in this matter, I want to make that abundantly clear. This is very much a journey of learning for me and I call it how I see at it this moment in time, one of the things I love so much about this project, is that what I’m tasting is always changing, and continually evolving and that’s incredibly exciting! So here’s what I’m currently getting with each one and hopefully, this whets your appetite and piques your interest in this ongoing adventure.

Expression 1, Bourbon Barrel:

Upon first impression, It’s beautifully warming, a year has certainly done it good, rounding out a lot of its rougher edges. It’s got lovely subtle notes of vanilla starting to creep in, wrapped with lingerings of light citrus and spice and let’s not forget that telltale gentle oak flavour. It’s got a certain crispness as well. All in all, this is turning into something delightful, with a few more years I think we could have something special on our hands.

Expression 2, Sherry Cask:

Distinctly different from the Bourbon Barrel, this one oozes with notes of buttered raisins, caramel and sweet figs. My only quarrel was that we don’t have enough of it. When we first came to filling the barrels, we filled this one last and there wasn’t enough of it to completely fill the sherry cask. This one may end up being one just for us to enjoy but there’s plenty more planned for this particular cask, don't worry!

Expression 3, Whisky barrel:

Closer in line with the Bourbon barrel but with a warm toastiness to it this time as a result of the extra charring in the barrel. It’s also got a sweet peppery spice to it to compliment the fruit combined with just a hint of salt brine.

A year on then and it’s clear to me that something magical is in the works, with just a little patience - something I’m not well known for, we’ll have our very own, delicious, English Brandy and I for one cannot wait for the end result!

Until next time, cheers!

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