‘Armand’ with some hints for Christmas


Blackwoods 2012 Vintage Dry Gin

Wine buffs know all about vintages. Tell a group of people that you’ve just shelled out on a bottle of plonk and someone will ask “what year is it?” They’ll then go off on one, explaining if you’d searched one more website or been at one more auction, you could’ve got that vintage for a fraction of the price; or spent the same money on a vastly superior vintage; or that you should’ve waited 6 months for the Chinese to lose interest and the price to tumble. I know this because I’m usually that person.

Imagine how stumped I was, then, to discover that vintage gin is a thing these days – and that I had no idea about it. Rarely at a loss for words, I did a bit of digging. Blackwoods is made in the Shetland Isles, and uses some botanicals unique to that rugged environment. Because it is produced in such small batches, and the botanicals used to flavour it are variable in quantity and quantity, no two batches are the same. So much like a good Bordeaux, the taste should be recognisable if slightly different every year.

The bottle I most recently sampled opened with a wonderful citrussy nose, backed with just a little grass. This is a gin one can drink extremely cold without the aroma being dulled. That lovely lime dominated nose is carried through to the palate, which is crisp and develops a slightly herbal flavour towards the finish. For the retail price, it’s an absolute steal, and puts many of its price point competitors to shame. It also has a big brother, which weighs in at a hefty 60% ABV. I’ve not tried that yet; but a bottle might be on order.


Around £22 per 70cl bottle at Sainsbury’s and The Whisky Exchange


Taittinger Brut Reserve NV

On the twelfth day of Christmass, my true love gave to me… a case of Talbot 2003.

If only Armand had such a wonderful partner. Christmas is coming – the High Street told me, Nine weeks ago. At this time of year, it’s always good to remember the importance of family; and then how much you need to drink to cope with their imminent arrival. I’d thought about some lovely Christmas Claret for this month’s edition; but Armand père is a fan of Burgundy with his turkey, despite the thick head he wakes up with on St Stephen’s Day. Given the fact that I want a good present this year, I thought I’d be on safer ground with some lovely champagne to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord.

“Tatties” fights for my bubble affections with Pol Roger and Krug. I’ll never be James Bond enough to drink Bollinger, or posh enough to drink Billecart-Salmon, and Dom Pérignon is ever so 2005 (despite that being a very good year). And as far as non-vintage fizz goes, Taittinger Brut Reserve takes some beating. A high proportion of Chardonnay and the ageing before release add up to a much more balanced champagne than one might expect at the price.

On the nose it has that lovely toasty note which marks out great champagne, without overpowering the delicate peach fruit. The palate is balanced, with honey and a light mousse that dances over the tongue; and the finish is a lot lengthier than one might expect. Bang for your buck, and a sign of good taste? Merry Christmas!


Available at around £35 per bottle