Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Esker Gin Tasting at Cognito Deli

Delving in a few gins, or being around gin in some shape or form seems to be a regular occurrence for me at the moment. Whether it's writing gin articles at work, creating new gin of the month features for the blog, or just going out and enjoy a tipple or two I can't seem to get away from the stuff. Nor am I trying to.

A few weeks ago myself and food bloggers Lost in Food (Michelle and Lesley) headed along to Cognito Deli for an Esker Gin tasting. After sampling half of the food menu before the event, we were looking forward to finding out more about this intriguing Aberdeenshire gin. Prior to the event kicking off we managed to squeeze a few gins in, Lussa gin, a newbie to the Scottish gin scene, Isle of Harris gin and Stirling gin too.

Coupled with a lemon slice, Lussa tasted divine. It was super refreshing and much more appealing than I had originally anticipated. Isle of Harris gin is always a strong choice, and with a nice big wedge of grapefruit it was a firm favourite. The Stirling gin with basil leaves in it was nice, but my palette prefers a more sweeter gin/garnish combination, so this was just a tad too savoury for me.
The event was anticipated to kick off at 7pm, however, with everyone ordering drinks as soon as they arrived and catching up, things didn't really get started until 7.30pm and we'd been enjoying our gins way too much to even notice the time. Everyone seemed in high spirits and with that Lynne and Steven Duthie took to the floor.

First up we were presented with an Esker Gin on the rocks. It wasn't until the gin started turning opaque that everyone questioned the couple on what was happening to the gin. It was really interesting to find out they has questioned just that so many months ago, and realised it was due to the silver birch sap used in their gin. When partnered with ice, it begins to turn the gin a cloudy, opaque colour which I would never have realised had they not said.
The brainchild of husband and wife team, Steven and Lynne Duthie, Esker Spirits was established in October 2015 after the gin loving pair had been experimenting with botanicals for fun and had managed to create their own gin. The botanicals in Esker Gin were carefully selected, focusing on the outstanding larder the duo had at their fingertips in Deeside, Aberdeenshire. After months of testing out different botanicals they eventually perfected the gin's recipe to something the couple were pleased with.

Both working in the oil and gas industry, the duo initially had no intentions on turning their passion of making gin into a business, however, as the markets changed, Plan B, turned into Plan A and the rest is history...

Turning to the branding and the name of the gin, the duo talked us through the process behind it.

"Esker is the ridge formed by the movement of a glacier, and where we live in Deeside our house looks out over an esker and we thought it worked really well.

"The branding very much focuses on the Deeside area, incorporating mountains, rivers, silver birch, juniper berries, tartan, castles and many more Scottish influences. The electric blue with its geometric line designs stands out from the crowd, and the clear bottle also shows off how pure the gin is." said, Lynne Duthie.
Steven Duthie, said: "There are over a dozen botanicals in the gin including pink peppercorn, cassia, silver birch sap, heather flowers, milk thistle and rosehip to name a few. We're the only gin in Scotland to use silver birch sap as a botanical and our jumper is sourced sustainably from Northern Italy. The reason we don't use Deeside juniper in our gin is purely down to its quality, as sadly, it isn't the best and it isn't readily available in abundance so we didn't want to damage the local ecosystem either.

"The silver birch trees are a main feature of Deeside and we are very lucky to be able to use the trees from the Kincardine Estate to get our birch sap. The trees can only be tapped once a year in Spring, so this will be the second year we will be tapping the trees, they haven't been tapped since last Spring. All of the botanicals have been chosen carefully and we're really proud of our product."

Handed an Esker gin and tonic partnered with a twist of orange zest, the couple went on to explain their distillation process.

Steve, continued: "We use a 100L copper still was flame fired on a naked flame. Some of the botanicals are in the pot for about 24 hours, and others are distilled in the vapour pan, it really just depends what each individual botanical needs."

Announcing their exciting news of moving into their first distillery in Deeside in the next few weeks, it is clear that the Esker brand has grown into something both Steven and Lynne could never have imagined it to. And, it's the only gin to be distilled in Aberdeenshire.

Throughout the evening small canapés were served to guests, although I think the team had cut back on giving us much due to the amount of food they had seen us  previously inhale. The food is delicious, it couldn't be helped. Guests were treated to meat and cheese boards, a selection of handmade breads and numerous amuse bouche.

Overall it was an excellent evening, and a great opportunity to catch up with some inspiring gin distillers. It really goes to show you that you can turn a much-loved passion into a business. There was a strong sense of doing what you loved that evening, so I did just that, I ordered another gin.

   For Now...

Just Julia

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Cognito Deli: Aberdeen's latest foodie hot spot

I'm a bit of a creature of habit, especially when I find somewhere which ticks all the boxes. Funky interiors, a great food menu, a comfortable setting, friendly, knowledgeable staff and most importantly, an extensive gin list.

Opening a few months ago just down the road from the flat, I've frequented to Cognito Deli one too many times. If and when a loyalty card becomes available, I'll be first in line. What attracted me initially to Cognito Deli was it's stunning interior design, as well as its menu concept which is great if you're looking for foods to share. The added bonus of it's impressive gin selection is well, just that, a massive bonus.

Using locally sourced foods and making its own homemade breads in house, there's something to suit all tastes be that for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Whether you're a fan of the Instagrammable bruschetta's, the picture perfect meats and cheese boards, or the oh-so-gooey Cognito melting pot, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. Having visited a few times now, I'd like to say I'm quite familiar with the menu having tried various dishes.

With the gin trend growing increasingly popular, the eatery has cleverly jumped on the band wagon and has incorporated gin flights into their drinks menu. From Scottish gins, to gins hailing from around the world the knowledgeable team can guide you through the menu and find the perfect tipple for you.

All of the gin flights available include three gins and a premium tonic flavour of your choice. The Junior Jet Club costs £11 and the Mile High Club is priced at £14. Cognito Deli also has its Cognito's Choice, which is a 50ml serving of your favourite gin in a goblet glass with a premium tonic water flavour of your choosing. All of the gins are served with delicious garnishes to compliment the flavour.

Admittedly, I've tried multiple gins on the menu, always sampling a new one every time I'm there. Unless it's first thing in the morning for breakfast, I don't want the other locals talking about me. There's also a vast drinks menu available featuring everything including prosecco, wine (red/white/rosé), Scottish craft beers, beers, cider, other spirits and an array of soft drinks and hot drinks too.

Turning attention back to the food offering, must have dishes are without a doubt the melting cheese pot and the bruschetta's. Featuring a mix of the deli's cheeses, served melted fondue style with warm bread and focaccia, I can't even begin to describe how good this dish is. Another winner, the bruschetta is great I especially like the fresh tomato and basil with shaved serrano ham option. Big enough to share I'd get one of each and split it with someone else. If there's a big group of you grab a few different bruschetta's, a cheese board, a meat board and a melting pot. It's guaranteed to fill you up. They've also got a great selection of open sandwiches and their brunch menu is pretty envious too.

If it's just a cake and coffee you're looking for, then I've got good news. The tea's and coffee's come with the cutest (and most delicious) wee empire biscuit. I'd pay a visit just for one of those without a doubt. The eatery also boasts some great cakes which are perfect for a quick pick-me-up. Most of their desserts and cakes are from Highland Patisserie, and boy are they tasty.

As well as offering the perfect pit stop to refuel, or indulge in a new gin or two, the deli also has a great selection of local artisan food and drink products you can purchase to take home. From a wide selection of gin bottles, to locally sourced eggs, to sauces and condiments, it showcases a real taste of Scotland, allowing customers to pick up bits and bobs at their convenience. 
If you haven't already popped in to this awesome gem then you absolutely must. It's a pretty busy wee place so I'd recommend booking ahead to ensure you can get a seat. There are sometimes restrictions on how long you can reserve the table for, but give the staff a call I'm sure they will do everything they can to accommodate your needs. The team are awesome and boast great knowledge of the food and drink they have on offer.

  For Now...

Just Julia

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