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Tasting Notes

Tasting Notes are Bullshit. Your palate knows you better than anyone could. This is a pretty sensationalist title but what difference between that and companies shouting at you that their whiskey is the smoothest, their gin that can inspire moments of tropical havens or their vodka tasting like an iceberg. What good are these errant thoughts of marketing companies designed to play on wishful thinking or ideal living when you are stuck with the palate that you are born with and have trained to like certain things through simple repetition and experience.

The truth is that tasting notes are a necessary evil to give people an idea of what they are getting themselves into but the heavy skew towards disruptive flavour notes and memory based recollection has led ultimately to the alienation of many people who would otherwise investigate the burgeoning category of ‘craft’ spirits or drinks, in general. All of us can recall a time at a bar overhearing some person attempt to melt either a first date or a bartender’s ear about their vast ability to detect minute impressions and notes held so secretly by their New Zealand Savvy B, hated that person and looked down on your flavourless beer and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. I promise. Let’s look a little closer at how your body generally perceives flavours and then tie that back to why tasting notes exist in the first place as a means to guide rather than overcomplicate the whole process of having a drink with friends. Let’s discuss taste first. 

TASTE

What is generally categorized as “taste” is basically a bundle of different sensations: it is not only the qualities of taste perceived by the tongue, but also the smell, texture and temperature of a meal/drink that are important. The “colouring” of a taste happens through the nose. Only after taste is combined with smell is a food’s flavour produced. If the sense of smell is impaired, by a stuffy nose for instance, perception of taste is usually dulled as well. Try eating or drinking something you are extremely familiar with whilst holding your nose and a lot of the enjoyment is going to be diminished.

Like taste, our sense of smell is also closely linked to our emotions. This is because both senses are connected to the involuntary nervous system. That is why a bad taste or odour can bring about vomiting or nausea. And flavours that are appetizing increase the production of saliva and gastric juices, making them truly mouth watering. Mouth watering maybe but not sexy definitely. People who have an aversion to the smell of Parmesan Cheese often can’t explain it but it’s potentially because it shares many of the same properties as vomit/baby sick and the recollection of such traumatic events veers your brain away from wanting more of it. I mean, I get it.

Now that we are on board with the idea of emotion, experience and flavours you have come into contact with in the past adjusting how you perceive liquid in a glass or food on a plate; we can at least understand why brands often lead with these grandiose experiences of sipping cocktails on beaches in the sun or guffawing your way through pints of the black stuff in quiet pubs with your nearest and dearest. It’s a not so subtle attempt to arouse desire in your proverbial loins. Ooooh.

At a base level what is it we taste then:

Based on the information that is transported from the tongue to the brain, there are thought to be at least five basic qualities of taste. The basic tastes are:

Sweet

What we perceive as sweetness is usually caused by sugar and its derivatives such as fructose or lactose. But other types of substances can also activate the sensory cells that respond to sweetness. These include, for example, some protein building blocks like amino acids, and also alcohols in fruit juices or alcoholic drinks. Caraway is an interesting botanical that is found in Stillgarden Social Gin. Once distilled it imparts an inherent sweetness into spirit even though sugar does not make it through the distillation process.

Sour

It is mostly acidic solutions like lemon juice or organic acids that taste sour. This sensation is caused by hydrogen ions split off by an acid dissolved in a watery solution. Fermentation can also often have a souring effect, think Sauerkraut or yogurt (Lactic Acid). As you can see the world of alcohol creation is pretty romantic in its terminology.

Salty

Food containing table salt is mainly what we taste or recognise as salty. The chemical basis of this taste is salt crystal, which consists of sodium and chloride. Mineral salts like the salts of potassium or magnesium can also cause a sensation of saltiness.

Bitter

Bitter taste is brought about by many fundamentally different substances. In total there are about 35 different proteins in the sensory cells that respond to bitter substances. From an evolutionary standpoint, this can be explained by the many different bitter species of plants, some of which were poisonous. Recognizing which ones were indeed poisonous was a matter of survival. The evolution of the food and drink world has taken an odd turn in that people now hunt out this feeling at often obscene levels massively Hoppy IPAs or Insane Hot Sauces with Scoville’s in the millions are prime examples. 

Savoury

The “umami” taste, which is somewhat similar to the taste of a meat broth, is usually caused by glutamic acid or aspartic acid. These two amino acids are part of many different proteins found in food, and also in some plants. Ripe tomatoes, meat and cheese all contain a lot of glutamic acid. Asparagus, for example, contains aspartic acid. Chinese cuisine uses glutamate, the glutamic acid salt, as flavour enhancers. This is done to make the savoury taste of foods more intense. This is basically the reason that once you pop you can’t stop with Pringles: MSG. If you like truffle cheese chips try throwing some MSG on top of them and prepare yourself for an uninterrupted trip to flavour town.

 

Tasting Notes

 

God love you if you have read this far and I suppose you’re going to want a summation of what it all means to you. The premise of all of this is that the weight people put in tasting notes being what they SHOULD find is a beyond broken ideal, sure you might find orange peel or juniper in that gin but the first rains of spring are going to be really hard to decipher if you’ve grown up in Dubai. In essence, it’s fine to explore food/drinks and not be in line with the perception of so called experts’ tasting notes as long as the product resonates with you. Knowing a little more about how all these factors influence your ability to dissect flavour might help you have a little more faith in yourself when you like a Gin for reasons your friends can’t understand — it’s because none of us experience life the same way.

 

All the best,

 

Al

 

Interesting stuff:

Taste benefited early humans by indicating which foods were safe for consumption. Sweetness signalled foods with calories for energy, while sourness could indicate the presence of vitamin C; bitter foods were potentially poisonous, whereas salty foods contain important minerals and other nutrients.

Boss Lady

Happy International Women’s Day to all of the women warriors out there! Whether it be a friend, a sister, a mother, a colleague or a mentor, show them how much you value their support and admire their hustle. Today, we’re highlighting five strong and talented Boss Ladies who inspire us. Get to know the lovely ladies we work with daily.

Federica Meli – Bucket of Cheese

Boss LadiesBucket of Cheese was founded by Federica Meli in 2020. A wonderful product of lockdown that we are so lucky to have in our Dublin 8 neighbourhood. Originally from Italy, Federica has been living in Ireland for the past 20 years. She describes food like a religion and in Federica’s eyes food is love and it brings people together. We can agree that there’s nothing better than a table full of food surrounded with family and friends! After working in hospitality for 20 years, with lots of grit and passion, she decided to start her own business and Bucket of Cheese was born. 

 

Federica supplies cheese, cured meats, tiramisu and all the goodness that goes with it for any occasion. She makes fresh hummus and chutney using the delicious ingredients growing in her garden while also supporting local farmers and businesses. She’s even mastered a tiramisu, Stillgarden style with the help of our Spent-spresso Martini! The charcuterie board boxes are a real crowd pleaser at our Distilling Academy Sessions and are now available online for a lovely at home treat. ​We are always in awe of Federica’s spirit of adventure when it comes to her food and her commitment to sustainable practices and our community is inspiring. Bucket of Cheese will bring a little taste of Italy straight to your door. Try all of Federica’s locally sourced, artisan products, and homemade recipes here. There’s something for everyone!

Helena Vukovic – The Flourless Baker 

Flourless BakerHailing from the beautiful country of Croatia, Helena first moved to Ireland 5 years ago. Helena was never a big baker but being Coeliac, she always found it challenging to find nice treats that she could have. Now, she brings tasty and flavoursome gluten free desserts to Dublin and beyond!  

During lockdown Helena took it upon herself to start experimenting with some Gluten Free dessert recipes so she could finally indulge her sweet tooth “almost” guilt free. This sparked an inner natural talent and from there Helena continued baking and developing recipes so she could share.  From this The Flourless Baker was born. Helena continues to amaze us with her creativity and drive. All of her Gluten Free goodies are handmade in D8 and we just can’t get enough, especially of the Stillgarden O’MARO Fudge

Helena now has a permanent stall in the Herbert Park Market every Sunday from 11am to 4pm where you can also get your hands on all of her delicious flourless treats when it reopens. We are also selling a 4 pack of sweet treats from the Flourless Baker to add onto our gift boxes options this March. If you are looking for a variety of Gluten Free treats that are also Vegan friendly, we can assure you The Flourless Baker will not disappoint. You can find delicious recipes here. 

Claire Buckley – Buck & Hound

Buck & Hound

Claire Buckley is the Boss Lady behind The Creative and Earnest Agency, Buck & Hound. Buck & Hound is a creative and hard-working PR, social, design and events consultancy based in Dublin. Claire is dedicated and enthusiastic in all she does and believes without passion, nothing truly ground-breaking can be accomplished.

“Being a woman in charge or ‘Boss Lady’, whatever your industry, comes with a certain level of responsibility. You have the unique privilege of defining a working culture by leading from within and by example. I have always been a firm advocate of the Kindness Economy,” says Claire. 

So how did Claire get here? After freelancing part time and working from her home office, her client base quickly grew. Claire expanded her team, from what had started out as just herself and her trusty pooch, Stella by her side. Buck & Hound was born in 2016 as a result, with one goal in mind: To create a nurturing and exciting environment that produces work for incredible clients that share her values. Claire and her dynamic team are such a joy to work with. Their commitment and expertise is unrivalled which makes for the perfect partnership. 

Emma Devlin – Rascals Brewing

Rascals BreweryRascals Brewing Company was founded in 2014 by Boss Lady Emma Devlin and her husband Cathal O’Donoghue. They were living and working in New Zealand when they developed a passion for the booming Kiwi craft beer industry. Their entrepreneurial spirit led them back to Dublin where they decided to open a craft brewery of their own. Emma worked in environmental science before she made the move to join Cathal in running the Rascals Brewing Company and we’re sure glad she did! 

They have since opened their headquarters in Inchicore, now our next-door neighbours and home to their pizza restaurant, on site off licence, taproom and brewery. If you’re looking to broaden your tastes, we recommend you try Rascals’ twist on traditional beer styles. You’ll be surprised what amazing options you’ll find in their off licence from Chardonnay Saisons to Milkshake Stouts. Next time you’re visiting be sure to check out our neighbours and enjoy Rascals pizza and beer you won’t find anywhere else but Inchicore. View their full range here.

Viki Baird – Stillgarden Distillery  

Stillgarden Boss LadiesViki Baird is Stillgarden’s one and only Boss Lady, known for her hustle, vitality and dynamic character. We even named a gin in her honour! Boss Lady gin is just as spirited and peachy as she is, created to celebrate all of the strong, victorious women out there like her. Viki motivates her team daily and without her courage and bravery she would not be where she is today. 

After years of experience in different industries in multiple roles, Viki knew she was ready to do something completely unique. With her new found adventurous spirit, thanks to her husband Pat, and strong determination the duo started the Stillgarden project in August of 2019 and haven’t looked back since. Viki feels fortunate to have built a great team to bring the project to fruition and looks forward to building on their success in the bright future ahead. Try our socially sourced spirits made by and for curious individuals at Dublin’s Independent Experimental Distillery we know and love as Stillgarden Distillery.

Join us in celebrating women everywhere today, and every day this International Women’s Day. To help support women everywhere even further, €2 from every Boss Lady bottle and €3 from every Boss Lady Gift Box sold will be donated to Women’s Aid. Shop Boss Lady gin here.

Groans and moans have been heard drifting from the Stillgarden community garden this month.

Not from the undead, but from yours truly, as I get the place prepped for winter. We were lucky enough a lot of hedging gifted to us by a member of the Social Botanists group. The hedging, along with the kind offer of some bark chips from a local hall, has the place looking shipshape and weed free. Hooray!

 

 

As it is approaching Samhain, my favourite time of the year. I’ve decorated the garden with all manner of scary editions, hopefully they will keep the crows away from our strawberries. Our Social Gin went on general sale last week, and the staff at the Distillery are extremely proud to have it hit the shelves. Produced in conjunction with our Social Botanist group. Sourcing ingredients directly from the garden, chosen by our Social Botanists, and sampled to create a drink that they, and hopefully you, will enjoy.

Community Sourced Social Gin

When it comes to a scary Garden, it’s a wonder that I even dare venture into it. It’s a potential horror story waiting to happen when the moon is full, what with the amount of lethal poisonous plants, the horrific insects and possible hedge clipper accidents that could befall me. In reality there is very little to be afraid of in our little oasis in Inchicore other than getting a nettle sting.

Here are a few plants that actually are a bit freaky!

‘Bleeding Tooth(Hydnellum peckii)

This beneficial fungus actually “bleeds” bright red juices when it’s young. It grows throughout North America but can be found all over the world.

‘Black Bat Flower’ (Tacca chantrieri)
This nearly pitch-black plant definitely has one of the more chilling appearances. There aren’t many plants that have ears and whiskers, but the bat flower ….does.

‘Doll’s Eyes(Actaea pachypoda)
This eastern North America perennial, also called white baneberry, has berries that look (too much) like “eyes”, or an alien from a 1950s sci-fi movie. Walking through a forest full of these wouldn’t exactly be a welcoming sight on a fall evening.

 Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The Venus Flytrap is probably the best known insect eating plant in the world. In fact, this carnivorous plant’s features are so unique and distinct, they’ve even starred in some horror movies…and it’s my favourite spooky plant!

So until next time, don’t walk through the old graveyard, don’t go into the attic, and most importantly, prune well to reduce competing branches that may reduce yield and block sunlight.

To find out more about who are Social Botanists are or to become a Stillgarden Social Botanist check out the Instagram Page

Keep rockin

Neal

Viki Being a Bosslady

Hi I’m Viki Baird and I am the Bosslady of Stillgarden Distillery. Let me tell you how I got here!

Viki Being a Bosslady

My career has certainly been varied to say the least. Being a Bosslady is not easy. After college I went straight into retail management, this taught me how to motivate the people and to encourage them to their strengths.

After spending eight wonderful years in retail I decided a change was needed. I wanted an adventure so I packed my bags, crossed the pond and landed in Dublin. Why Dublin? Well I had always spent a good bit of time travelling back and forth visiting friends and there was always that charm that drew me in. It always felt like home. 

When I look back I can certainly see I kept my options open  I knew management was for me but I was interested in lots of avenues. I started off in a historical research company, then worked on the newsdesk of The Irish Times, after that I took on the role as General Manager of an energy company. This role certainly lent itself to my more adventurous side as it required lots of international travel, which maybe in hindsight gave me courage to take on more thrilling challenges later on in my life (and maybe a little bit of encouragement from my now husband Pat).  

Soon thereafter I started running a clinic with a large team. Together with my experience in different industries donning multiple roles I knew I was ready. Just as you think you know where your life is going, there is always something around the corner that can just change it, for me that was Pat.

In 2011, I met Pat O’Brien (who is co-founder of Stillgarden Distillery). He was a keen outdoor adventurer. At first, I was completely flabbergasted by larger than life appetite for adventure. Soon I went from high heels to high hills, he pushed me to face my fears. He even managed to get me rock climbing.

For many years we had discussed the idea of doing something completely unique to a distillery space. So after our honeymoon in 2019 we knew that was the right time to take the leap.

With my new found adventurous spirit and Pats determination we started the Stillgarden project in August of last year. However throughout the year we weren’t short of obstacles, even having to learn to adapt through a pandemic. We still managed to launch our first product, the Distillers Edition Gin in April. Then finally opened the doors with much delight in July.

We’re both amazed by what we have achieved to date. We’ve been very fortunate to have built a great team to bring the project to fruition. The future looks bright and we are really looking forward to it. It will be hard work, we know that but we feel we have really created something fun and special linking Science, Community and Nature.

Viki Baird x

Distillers Edition
The Distillers Edition is the very first release from Stillgarden Distillery, and I am quite proud of that. This delightfully dry gin is distinct and unique, full of juniper yet progressive from the traditional.

Distillers Edition Gin

The gin has been in development in some way or another since late 2019. I have made somewhere between 35 and 40 iterations of it, and only a couple of iterations can be done in a day as your taste buds will get stunned fairly quickly from the high ABV. The general direction was to incorporate things we can grow or forage, but I also wanted a big whack of Juniper off it as well. I have rarely been accused of subtlety in my concoctions and this one is no different.

This gin is at 46% ABV, and it needs to be at that to keep the various oils dissolved and the gin clear. The oiliest components of a gin are the Juniper and the citrus, you’ve probably seen a bartender ‘flame’ an orange peel once or twice, which is (mostly) Limonene oil bursting into flames. In this case the essential oil budget is taken up in almost its entirety with Juniper, Lemon and Lime.Rowan Berries

Next up are the berries, in this case the Rosehips and Rowan, which are coincidentally both mildly dangerous to humans in their natural state. Rosehips, to me, taste like a mix between Rose petals and Rhubarb. You can make a jam from them but people rarely do as the seeds have tiny sharp hairs which will irritate the crap out of your throat or any other part of your body. Good thing we’re distilling them and leaving the seeds behind!

Rowan berries’ issue is that they have a very unpleasant acidity to them, but also a fantastic berry aroma. Luckily the undesirable Sorbic Acid in the berries boils at 228 °C, so the distilling process again saves the day!

The heat components of the gin are from Black Pepper and Cubeb peppercorns. The Black Pepper (the Phu Quoc variety), is hot and woody. It is quite similar to what you might have at home but far, far more aromatic. The aroma makes supermarket Black pepper seem like cardboard in comparison. The Cubebs, also a member of the Pepper family, don’t have anywhere near the same level of heat, instead they bring notes of Allspice and a little smokiness to the gin.

Eanna Burke

Gardening

A social project creating a vibrant community botanical garden right in Dublin city.

Hi all of you lovely people, gardeners and gin lovers alike. Neal here with your bi-weekly update of the community garden. I trust you are all doing well and enjoying this spell of (mostly) dry weather- it’s as if the sun doesn’t know what time of the year it is.

 

Neal in community garden

Mint, chili and spinach has been planted in the garden this week. Spinach won’t be used in the gin making process but to give us all a bit more muscle for the gardening work.

Tuesday saw us hosting a small gathering (under the recommended government guidelines),at our lovely new shiny Distillery. Our social botanists met at staggered times to plant up the fruits of their labours and enjoy a chilled Gin and tonic from our very first batch. The weather was beautiful, a perfect day to christen the garden and chat face to face.

The day was even more special for me as included on the guest list were the amazingly talented Marion and Róisín from Greenedge Dublin. Their knowledge and passion is infectious, and I learned more in our few hours together than you could possibly imagine. You can check out all of their greening projects around Dublin on Instagram @greenedgedublin)

The beds have been plumped up with compost, and the smell of herbs and the sway of the apple trees helped to ensure the backdrop to our meeting was perfect.

Plans are in motion for some new features to the all new super-duper botanical garden, think Mr. Miyagi’s garden in the Karate kid, but with lavender growing instead of bamboo. I fully intend to attempt a crane kick on said bridge, but certainly not after a few gin fizzes.

Speaking of gin, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of the Distillers Edition Gin. The first release that has been produced by Master  Distillers, Eanna Burke. A lovely gesture and it will be enjoyed this weekend, under hopefully glorious skies. Even more great news is that the Distillers Edition Gin is also available for collection or delivery!!!

Distillers edition gin

 

In rock based gardening news, my old mate Brian May of Queen had a horrendous accident when he tore his glutes while tending to his herbaceous borders. This is worthy of Spinal tap, but is in fact true, so please do be aware of ‘over-enthusiastic’ gardening. I have spoken to Brian in the past as he shares my love of foxes. He’s a lovely man indeed, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Until next time,

Stay safe and keep rockin.

Neal