A beautifully complex Guyana rum

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This spring, we’re turning the spotlight onto a handful of our Own Selection bottles that are perfect for seasonal sipping. In this short audio clip, George Turner – Manager of our Spirits Shop – tells us more about one of his favourite spirits: the 2009 Guyana Rum.

2009 El Dorado, Berry Bros. & Rudd Exclusive Cask, 13-Year-Old Guyana Rum

“I’ve always had a fondness for rum, ever since I was young and my grandfather used to whip up wild tales of pirates – often centred around a bottle of rum. So this was nostalgia in a glass, with lashings of sweet sticky banana, chocolate-covered dates, dark honeyed sugar, orange peel and candied ginger. An exquisite rum.”

The 2009 Guyana Rum is available to buy here

While you’re here: we’re always looking for new ways to improve our audio, so we’d love to hear your thoughts in this very quick survey

Category: Miscellaneous

The pleasures of sake

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Rory Eaton is the Wine and Beverage Director at Ynyshir, a celebrated destination restaurant with two Michelin stars, perched on the Welsh coast near Snowdonia. Sake has long been one of his favourite drinks, pairing exquisitely with a range of fine dishes. Here, he tells us why he loves sake and shares some recommendations on how to enjoy it.  

I first tried sake while working on a tiki bar in the cocktail scene. It wasn’t on my radar at the time, but sake’s star was already rising in the beverage world. It was served in (what I thought was) an odd wooden box – which is, in fact, the traditional masu cup. Rather inelegantly, I attempted to drink it from the side, and it ended up down my shirt. Drinking etiquette notwithstanding, I was intrigued. Those savoury notes of umami, delicate but generous; that clean mouthfeel, with a body akin to wine. I can’t say I loved the profile initially (like many first-time sake drinkers), but I was excited at the prospect of utilising these unique flavours.  

Nine years later, how things have changed – in large part, thanks to my tenure at Ynyshir restaurant on the Welsh coast. Access to increased quality shows sake in a whole new light. It is one of my most revered beverages, especially for food pairings that can’t be matched with wine.  

On a recent trip to Japan, I visited the atmospheric NinjaBar, located in an underground Tokyo crevice. It soon became impossible to see through all the empty cups that lined the table. At the other end of the spectrum entirely, we later visited the beautiful Mumyo restaurant in Nagano Prefecture. We drank locally from a phenomenal brewery named Masumi, whose sakes were elegantly served in handblown Kimura glassware. I could have sworn I was in heaven.  

What’s in a name?  

Before we delve any deeper, I think it’s important to state that sake has been adopted in the West as the name for rice wine. However, in Japan, the word “sake” relates to any alcoholic beverage. Its real name is “nihonshu”.  

The two main categories – Junmai and non-Junmai – both fall under the higher classification of “premium sake”. Premium sake accounts for only a quarter of all sake produced in Japan. The remaining 75% is known as Futsushu – considered the more “everyday” drinking stuff. It gets a bad rap in the West, often overshadowed by its premium counterpart. Nevertheless, back to the good stuff.  

Junmai literally translates to “pure rice”, brewed using only rice, water, yeast and koji. Comparatively, non-Junmai will contain a small amount of distilled alcohol. I must stress that a non-Junmai sake is in no way inferior to a Junmai; each bears its own specific characteristics. A skilled brewer will add brewer’s alcohol (known as jozo) to enhance unique textures, aromas and flavour profiles.  

The second most important classification is the polishing ratio. Sake undergoes a process in which the exterior of the rice grain is “milled” to attain the purer, starch-rich centre. The extent to which the grain is milled results in three main types: Daiginjo (50%), Ginjo (60%) and Honjozo (70%) – with the percentage indicating the amount of grain remaining after milling. Like most classifications, the former is merely the first step in the door and opens more intricacies as one delves further.  

One of the more common misconceptions is interpreting these percentages as the ABV, when in fact, it relates to the polishing ratios – merely indicating the remaining weight of the original rice grain used (for example, a Honjozo is made using 70% of the original rice grain). I find that many drinkers who are new to sake often mistake it for a spirit. It is far closer to a beer, and it’s never distilled.  

Enjoying sake  

Personally, I tend to lean towards Junmai sakes – especially Junmai Daiginjo. I find Junmai sakes to have a richer, fuller body (a preference that extends to my interest in white wines and Champagnes alike). Daiginjo sake is the pinnacle of elegance and purity, made from the most finely milled rice grains. The flavours are more easily defined and lend themselves perfectly to chilling. Expect detectable fruits, blossoms, aromatics, and precise umami. Ginjo sake, though refined, never reach the heights of Daiginjo, and are subsequently enjoyed for different reasons. They still lend themselves to chilling, though the flavour profiles become less defined. Junmai and Honjozo emphasise the flavours of the rice, more than any discernible fruits, and can be enjoyed at varying temperatures. But each category has its place, and none should be thought of as second-rate. Much like drinking a highly tannic wine without food may seem out of place, a Honjozo with blue-fin tuna is perhaps not the best match.  

Serving temperatures are always interesting. A Honjozo can often be enjoyed warm – which increases the perception of body and umami – though I must admit I rarely stray from chilled. Personally, I deal with sake and food pairings, rather than “everyday” drinking. Pairing sake offers many interesting flavour opportunities. I am privileged at Ynyshir to work with some of the finest global produce. We use a substantial amount of top-end Japanese produce:  sustainably farmed blue-fin tuna, hamachi fish, and A5 wagyu beef (A5 denoting the highest grade available). Generally, I tend to pair sake with dishes based on their sauces, seasoning, sweetness or acidity. However, a simple dish of the finest sashimi, for example, cries out for a highly polished, elegant sake.  

My choice pairing is a chilled Junmai Daiginjo from Fukuoka, with hamachi sashimi. The sake boasts an elegant minerality, with notes of pure red fruit and steamed rice. A daiginjo allows you to easily distinguish the variety of flavours, and the cool temperature brings freshness, with a palate-cleansing property – perfect for fish with high fat content. Another favourite is chicken yakitori, for which we must look towards a ginjo sake. The more robust body, with less nuance of flavour, is a perfect match for smoky, fat-induced dishes, often seasoned with tare soy sauce.  

I urge everyone to try sake at least once. Restaurants and bars can be a great place to ask for help and recommendations. I’m noticing more sommeliers using sake in beverage pairings, seeing them featured on extensive restaurant lists, with now even sake specific bars and shops popping up. It’s clear to see there’s an increasing appetite for sake. As we become an ever more global society, this enticing category should become a firm favourite for many drinkers.  

If you’re new to sake, our Discovery Case offers the perfect introduction, featuring three delicious expressions from top producers

Category: Miscellaneous

Fruity, spicy Pinot Noir for spring

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This spring, we’re turning the spotlight onto four of our Own Selection bottles that are perfect for seasonal sipping. In this short audio clip, we take a closer look at 2020 Pinot Noir from Greystone Wines in New Zealand.

2020 New Zealand Pinot Noir by Greystone Wines

“The relatively cool climate here has given us a wine that’s very perfumed and fresh, with great purity. It’s got this lovely soft, light, fruit character, but with good grip. Very elegant and smooth, it’s really delicious with a range of dishes, from red pepper pasta to baked salmon in a Chinese barbecue sauce.”

The 2020 New Zealand Pinot Noir is available to buy here

While you’re here: we’re always looking for new ways to improve our audio, so we’d love to hear your thoughts in this very quick survey

Category: Miscellaneous

No.3 magazine: Spring/Summer 2024

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We’re delighted to reveal the latest issue of our No.3 magazine, which explores the theme of “journeys”. In this edition, we embark on a variety of journeys, from charting the voyage of the Malbec grape across the globe, to the unknown adventure of artificial intelligence. 

What does the idea of a journey mean to you? Perhaps it conjures images of mud-caked hiking boots, rucksack packed with a Thermos and sandwiches. Or the first day embarking on a challenging new qualification, armed with a fresh notebook and sharpened pencils. Perhaps it’s the thrill of new technology, buoyed by the optimism that it will ultimately transform our lives for the better. Or it could simply be jumping on the train with a bottle of wine and a copy of No.3 magazine, on your way to a friend’s house for dinner.  

Our Spring/Summer 2024 issue is dedicated to the idea of the journey in its many guises. We follow the course of the Loire River, meeting the winemakers along this route. We venture into the snowcapped peaks of Mendoza, discovering how Malbec has taken root here, so far from its original home. And we wander through the vineyards of Hampshire and Kent, uncovering a story of growth among the vines. Back in London, we peer inside our new Spirits Shop at No.1 St James’s Street, uncovering the creative collaboration process that has brought it to life.  

But there are journeys of ideas to navigate too. The transformational rise of artificial intelligence; the evolution of wine language; the ever-changing nature of storytelling in the digital age. These are the complex journeys lurking beneath the surface of our everyday lives, rapidly changing the way we interact with wine. Finally, we conclude with a journey of the self: the steep ascent to achieving the prestigious Master of Wine accreditation. 

No.3 magazine was first published in autumn 1954. Today, almost 70 years on, we face new challenges – not least of them the rise of generative AI. Yet our publication remains a celebration of the human stories in the world of fine wines and spirits. And we are still driven by the same purpose: to entertain, inspire and delight, old and new readers alike. 

Delve into our digital magazine here or pick up a printed copy in our Basingstoke Shop, or our Wine Shop at 67 Pall Mall

Category: Miscellaneous