Our new columnist, David Marsland, brings his second well-respected drinks tasting notes to the pages of MM.
A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to indulge my senses into a rather diverse new spirit – Kamm & Sons (or as it was previously known, Kammerlings). Hosted at the appropriate venue of Epernay, Manchester, Alex Kammerling showed an air of enthusiasm behind his creation as we delved into his findings, his reasons behind his venture, and of course some cocktails thrown in for good measure!
So to start us off, Alex told us all the history of alcohol and its first uses for medicinal purposes. Alcohol was heavily used as a botanical medicine and created the category vermouth. Vermouth is a combination of fortified wine and dry ingredients such as aromatic herbs, roots and bark.
The antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties of all these plants have been used since there was life on this planet, but the consumption of vermouth was widely believed to have begun in ancient Greece around 400 BC, where the extra dry ingredients were added to the wine for two main reasons – one was to mask the foul odors and flavours that wine produced at the time, and the other was to make it a medicinal drink to help treat stomach disorders, internal parasites etc. This coined the expression ‘Lets drink to health’.
‘The father of Western medicine’ Hippocrates was one of the first people to treat illness as something that was caused naturally and not as a result of superstition, and paved the way for the use of alcohol as an ailment. His legacy still upholds today as each new physician or healthcare professional requires to swear against the Hippocrates Oath.
The Chinese invented the art of distillation around 200BC which alchemists then brought over to Western Europe between 1300 and 1700, to experiment on aqua vitae, or the ‘water of life’.
This distillation of a new spirit was seen as a status in society compared to the usual tipple of wine or beer. Angostura bitters, a new version of vermouth, was first compounded in Venezuela in 1824 by a German physician, Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, as a cure for sea sickness and stomach problems.
The difference between vermouth and bitters is that bitters don’t have the use of fortified wine, and the main ingredients found include cascarilla, cassia, gentian and orange peel. Bitters themselves are not distilled like vermouth, but infused by a process named Tincture which involves putting herbs in a jar and a spirit of 40% pure ethanol is added.
The jar is then left to stand for two to three weeks, shaken occasionally, in order to maximise the concentration of the solution.
During the prohibition era, bitters were not banned as doctors protested that the alcohol used was strictly for medicinal purposes. The early 1900′s saw the wave of drug companies that killed off the use of bitters as the ailment to natural remedies. They were also keen to dispel herbal medicine as old fashioned or hippie-ish.
So with a brief history lesson, Alex then explained his reasons behind Kamm & Sons, telling us how he first had the idea whilst working for Martin Millers where he helped create their Westbourne Strength gin.
His great-grandfather was also an inspiration. His career was a practitioner in medicine which lends it hand to the medicinal shaped bottle that now houses Kamm & Sons. Alex started off with 100 botanicals, carefully blending, mixing and creating different aromas and flavours for over five years until the right recipe was found. He infused them all with alcohol for three to four weeks, filtered them, then tested them, adding sugar or watering down to see if it changed the floral, taste or sweetness of the outcome.
Eventually, four types of ginseng root (Red Korean, White Panax, American and Siberian) were chosen, with 41 other botanicals, including Ginko Biloba, Echinacea, and Goji berries, as well as fresh grapefruit and orange peel.
Alex uses the traditional gin distillation method, where a small pot still houses all of the botanicals. The resulting alcohol vapour is added to an herbal infusion that contains manuka honey, gentian and wormwood, and then blended with annatto seeds to give it its burnt orange colour (Kamm & Sons is sold in a brown bottle as the anatto seed colouring will go clear if in sunlight). Water and a small amount of sugar reduces the ABV to 33%.
Kamm & Sons were offered around, so I give to you below my tasting notes –
Kamm & Sons – 33%
A soft ginseng aroma on the nose creates a sweetness that blends with citrus, floral flowers and fresh bark. The palate enjoys a fruity, fresh, and only a slight bitterness and spice which . Sweetness from the honey is noticeable, and creates a long, slightly dry finish.
Alex finished off his experience with the creation of some Kamm & Sons cocktails. Below are a selection of cocktails that include Kamm & Sons, all easy to create at home, or ask your local barman to craft together for you. Enjoy!
If you fancy incorporating Kammerlings into your own cocktails, you can find a whole host of cocktail recipes on the Drinks Enthusiast blog, ready for you to try at home.
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