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Friday 2 October 2015

Kyrö Spirits at Opium - Beer & Cheese with Comté - London Cocktail Week Preview - Balcony Booze

Today on the blog, booze and cheese from France to Finland via my balcony plus a look at upcoming London Cocktail Week.

Wednesday 23rd September - I went along to the UK launch of Kyrö Distillery Company at Opium in Chinatown. That’s Kyrö, not Cairo, folks - watch your pronunciation!

Kyrö Distillery Company started distilling rye-based whisky and gin in 2014 in a beautiful old dairy in Isokyrö, Finland.

Former stand-up Mikko (”Two Ks, One Beard” - not to be confused with Mikka or Miko) told us that they hope to be the best known rye distillery by 2022, and they’re off to a flying start with four fantastic products.

Let’s start with the Napue rye gin, named after a fairly disastrous battle for the Finnish back in 1714. It’s a 46.3% beast with 12 dry botanicals plus 4 special extras - meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves. These are added in distillate form in order to guarantee consistency from the unpredictable foraged botanicals. 

It makes a great G&T - they recently won Best Gin & Tonic at the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) after an exhaustive blind-tasting process. It also stands up well in a Tom Collins and a Negroni - my kind of gin.

Then there’s the Koskue - a 42.6% barrel-aged gin that’s more suited to sipping and an Old Fashioned. Meadowsweet is dominant again here.

Juuri (meaning “origin”, or a starter dough for bread) is a 46.3% unaged, new-make whisky, but don’t let that put you off. It’s full of flavour (I got honey on toast mostly) and is best treated like Grappa or Pisco. Sours all the way then.

Finally there’s Verso (or “sprout”) - a 46.5% whisky, aged in white American oak for 4 months in small casks. Expect more honey and rye notes with some oak and sweetness on the nose.

They’ve certainly come a long way since Googling “How to make gin” a couple of years ago. I expect we shall be seeing a lot more of Mikka, Mikko, Miko and co. at Kyrö Distillery Company in the future. For now, pick some of their classy bottles up at The Whisky Exchange or order online at Master of Malt.

Rye Rye!

Tuesday 22nd September -  Now for some photos and words on an evening of beer and cheese matching with Comté Cheese at La Cave à Fromage in South Kensington, hosted by “curd nerd” Patrick McGuigan.

Comté is a protected cheese from the Jura mountains in East France. Cows produce milk in idyllic conditions - each one must have a minimum of 2.5 acres of pastureland to graze in the warmer months, and they eat local hay in winter, leading eventually to two distinct styles of cheese.

Photo provided by Comté PR

3000 or so small farms supply raw milk (unpasteurised) for around 170 small dairies. Here, the fruitières must craft the milk into cheese within 24 hours. They create curds with rennet, cut them into smaller pieces, and bring them up to 55°C. They are then poured into moulds, and the liquid whey is drained and left out. A few hours later, you have cheese!

Photo provided by Comté PR

However, there’s still a long way to go with Comté, as the cheese is then sent off to affineurs, masters of cheese maturation. They keep the Comté in affinage cellars at varying temperatures from 4 months up to 24 months, using all of their senses (and occasionally little hammers) to ensure that each cheese realises its potential, X-Factor style. A rind is also created here by regularly rubbing the wheel with salt.

Photo provided by Comté PR

After ageing, each wheel (about 80lbs & 3ft in diameter) is graded out of 20. 15-20 gets a green “Extra” label for being rather superior. 12-14 gets a brown label, and usually has some small defect e.g. a crack. Anything below 12 sadly cannot be called Comté and will most likely end up as cooking cheese.


Now on to the beer & cheese matching. After a few glasses of Wild Beer Co’s celebratory Ninkasi (fittingly made on a cheese farm next to Westcombe Dairy), we tucked in to five pairings with a variety of brews and a mix of summer and winter Comté cheeses (all supplied by The French Comté).

1. Harbour Brewing Co. Pilsner with 10 Month Summer Comté

2. Thornbridge Chiron American Pale Ale with 12 Month Winter Comté

3. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Cwtch Amber Ale with 18 Month Summer Comté

4. Siren Craft Brew Liquid Mistress Red IPA with 24 Month Summer Comté

5. Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout with 24 Month Summer Comté

Harbour’s Pilsner was crisp and clean, almost palate cleansing, making you go back for more of the 10 Month Summer Comté. Thornbridge’s Chiron was a touch fruitier, going well with the nutty, less floral 12 Month Winter Comté. The beers got more serious as the cheeses got older and more complex, and Siren’s punchy 6.8% Liquid Mistress was the perfect foil for a 24 Month Summer Comté. We finished off fittingly with a Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout, which has lactose added to prevent the yeast from fermenting, leading to a sweet, creamy beer.

I was more than a bit cheesed out by then end, and I’ll tell you about the dreams another time, but it was a very enjoyable exercise. Beer & cheese are fine bedfellows, and Comté is an approachable, subtle cheese with a fascinating, artisan production process. Get some for yourself and see!

Patrick’s final words of wisdom: If you keep your cheese in the fridge, put it in a paper bag in the vegetable draw so that the cold air flow doesn’t dry it out before you get to enjoy it!

Patrick McGuigan -

The Comté was supplied by

Right, time to get serious. Next week (October 5th-11th) is London Cocktail Week. For seven days, London goes cocktail crazy, with popup bars, boozy events, masterclasses, tastings, guest bartenders, collaborations, and most importantly, £5 drinks, all over the city.

What you need to do:

1. Cancel all your plans for the week, and send your boss a bottle of [insert vice here].

2. Start making new cocktail-based plans for the week - check out my top tips below.

3. Buy a wristband for £10 here to take part in all the fun and to be eligible for £5 cocktails at 275+ participating bars.

4. Stock up on Ohayo in preparation for hangovers (or pick some up in the LCW Village during the week)

5. Once the week is under way, pick up your wristbands and guidebooks at one of the two main London Cocktail Week 2015 hubs, or one of three new "micro hubs":

- Soho - World Class London Cocktail Week Hub - 51 Poland Street, London, W1F 7LZ
- Spitalfields - The London Cocktail Week Village - Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EW
- Micro Hubs - East London Liquor Co., Portobello Star, Ladies & Gentlemen

6. Spend all your Christmas money. You were only going to buy booze and socks anyway.

Matt The Tips:

There's so much to choose from that it's all a little bit daunting, especially to a first timer. If you are feeling keen, trawl through the LCW events page, and plan some self-guided cocktail bar tours here. There are plenty of free events which you will have access to with a wristband.

Here's what I'm looking forward to, vaguely in date order:

The London Cocktail Week Village - Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EW

Old Spitalfields Market will be transformed in to a bustling drinks market full of bars, brands and booze. You can come here to pick up your wristband before heading out on a bar crawl, but you might never make it outside! Chivas Whisky Blending sessionsBar Termini masterclasses and Soda Stream x Mr.Lyan pop-ups await. Upstairs you'll find The House of Angostura, a pop-up house party overlooking the cocktail village.

The World Class London Cocktail Week Hub - 51 Poland Street, W1F 7LZ

Last year, the central hub was in Seven Dials, but it's made the big move to Soho for 2015 and joined forces with World Class. You will enter speakeasy-style through a record shop to find all sorts if temporary treats and bars from the likes of Tanqueray, Ketel One and Haig Club with plenty of opportunities to make your own cocktails.

The Dead Parrot Presents "The Flying Circus" - 5th-11th Oct, Midday-11pm, 2 Ely's Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury St, E1 6QR

It's always worth popping in to one of Monkey Shoulder's crazy creations. This year, the team from The Dead Parrot bar in Sussex have created a bar themed on The Flying Circus in the Old Truman Brewery. What's not to love?

The Happiness Sessions - 5th-10th Oct, 3.30pm / 4.45pm, £20, Happiness Forgets, 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU

For one hour (and £20), you will be looked after by the world-renowned team at Happiness Forgets in an intimate group, drinking specially created Fords Gin cocktails and tasting spirits from The 86 Company. Book ahead for sessions starting at either 3.30pm or 4.45pm via

Buffalo Bourbon Empire - 5th-10th Oct, 5pm-late, 1 Kingsland Road, E2 8AA

Buffalo Trace Bourbon always put on a good show in London Cocktail Week, and this year they have a pop-up bar in Shoreditch from 5pm til late, from 5th-10th October. There are several free events & masterclasses there during the week including a chance to sample this year's Antique Collection - more details here. Book now to secure your spot!

Auchentoshan & Ales Workshop - 5th-9th Oct, 5.30pm-9.30pm, Translate Cafe Bar , 12-14 Kingsland Road, E2 8DA 

From 5.30pm-9.30pm Monday-Friday, LCW wristband wearers can drop in for free workshops with Glasgow-based Auchentoshan whisky. Guests will learn about the distilling process, make their own cocktails, and pair Auchentoshan whiskies with beers provided by Clapton Craft. You also might get to take home your own bespoke cocktail kit. All for free? Yes please. Email to book.

The Art of the Old Fashioned - 6th-10th Oct, 6pm-11pm, 347 Old Street, EC1V 9LP

Woodford Reserve Bourbon have created a pop-up bar in Shoreditch for LCW celebrating the Old Fashioned. Top bartenders including Jack McGarry of Dead Rabbit NYC and Marion Beke of Nightjar have contributed to a menu full of unique takes on the Old Fashioned, each priced at £5 for wristband wearers.

Oriole Pop-Up with The 86 Co. Spirits & Gin Mare - 6th-7th Oct, 8pm-10pm, £20, Bear Gallery, 8A Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3NT

The Nightjar team will be previewing 4 drinks from their hotly anticipated Oriole bar at a pop-up space in Shoreditch for two nights only. £20 all in. Oriole will launch in Smithfield Market on 20th November.

Bar Termini Masterclasses - 8th-10th Oct, 2pm, Bar Termini Stand, Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square, London , E1 6EW

Time your lunch break correctly and you can go along to some fabulous free masterclasses at 2pm at the Bar Termini stand in Old Spitalfields Market towards the end of the week. Just turn up on the day and join in to learn more about coffee cocktails, Italian aperitivo culture, or the increasingly popular Amaro category.

Ocho Tequila Vintage Tasting with Tomas Estes - 8th Oct, 4pm-6pm, Bear Gallery, 8A Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3NT

Living legend Tomas Estes (Tequila Ambassador for Europe and brand owner of Ocho Tequila) is holding a tasting session taking you through the Ocho Tequila vintages for free on Thursday afternoon. Book ahead or beg for a place if they are all gone.

Courvoisier : The Toast of Paris -  8th Oct, 6.30pm-10.30pm. £10, Looking Glass Cocktail Club, 49 Hackney Road, London, E2 7NX

Courvoisier are taking over at Looking Glass Cocktail Club for one night only, transporting guests back to Paris' Golden Age. There will be live music, cocktail demonstrations, entertainment, prizes and more. The £10 ticket includes one cocktail. Book yours here.

Last Great Malts at Mussel Men - 9th Oct, 5pm-midnight, 584 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AH 

Brand amassador Jamie Mac will be introducing Dalstonites & LCW travellers to the awesome Last Great Malts range of whiskies (Aberfeldy, Aultmore, The Deveron, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla) that I had the pleasure of tasting from the source last year. Take my advice and book an £18 ticket for the masterclass at 6pm on 9th October, or go along for £5 cocktails throughout the evening. Get a dram of Craigellachie 19yo if you can.

24 Hour Bar Build - 10th Oct, 6.30pm-late, £35, N&C Showrooms, 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6PG

This sounds awesome. 24 of the world's best bartenders are splitting in to 4 teams representing New York, London, Paris and Singapore. Their mission is to conceive, design and build a cocktail bar & menu in 24 hours inspired by either Patrón Tequila, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Grey Goose Vodka or Bacardi Rum. The bars will open for one night only on Saturday 10th October from 6.30pm, and a £35 ticket (snap one up here) gets you access and 5 tokens for cocktails. Additional tokens for food and booze can be purchased at the venue.  The winners will be announced at 10pm.

London Cocktail Week Wrap Party - 11th Oct, midday-midnight, East London Liquor Company, Unit GF1, Bow Wharf, 221 Grove Road, London, E3 5SN

Finish off the week in style at East London Liquor Company with oysters and bloody cocktails all day long. LCW wristband wearers can get their first G&T on the house. See you there.

On Trade - If you are lucky enough to own an on-trade wristband, and be largely free during the day time, then there are events galore for you. Imbibe have made a fine round-up here, and there's a dedicated page on the LCW website here. Your main issue will be deciding which World's 50 Best Bars after-party to go to - Trick Dog & Callooh Callay or Glass After Dark? Both?

I'd like to finish with a new Matt The List segment - Balcony Booze.

I discovered last week that drinks look pretty great on my edgy, urban, industrial, unkempt balcony, so I've started taking snapping some beers, cocktails, and the occasional bottle that gets sent my way to share with you all.

Balcony Booze #1 - This week we have one of my favourite British beers, The Wild Beer Co.'s Modus Operandi - a glorious, tart, 7% old ale, oak aged for 90 days with wild yeast. Go and pick some up at your nearest #craftbeerwanker shop and thank me later. Try Beer Boutique, Hop Burns & Black or We Brought Beer for starters.

We also have the first in a series of Mr Black cocktails. Mr Black is a cold press coffee liqueur from Australia that was kindly sent my way, and I'll be showcasing it in a few cocktails this month. First up is the Black Negroni, a drink developed by Mr Black head distiller, Phillip Moore. You need:

1 part Mr Black // 1 Part Gin // 1/2 Part Campari // 1/3 Part Sweet Vermouth.

Stir with plenty of ice in a mixing glass, and strain into a rocks glass. Top with a citrus twist. I used Cocchi di Torino for my sweet vermouth, and Portland Dry Gin 33 from New Deal Distillery in Portland, Oregon. I've made several more since.

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