Friday, 6 January 2012

2012 - The Year of Gluttony

I'm not one for New Year Resolutions. Every day of the year I resolve to 'do those things which I didn't do yesterday', 'try a little bit harder at that', and of course 'be a generally better person going forward...'. It's a constantly recurring theme in my life, and a major part of the strict Moral Code I endeavour to live by. The failure to achieve these resolutions on a regular and frequent basis is naturally cause for concern, but the trickle effect throughout the year helps to keeps me 'grounded' and 'generally hopeful' in a way that a big New Year Resolution failure probably wouldn't. I think I've said too much now, so on with the point of all this...

I've resolved to indulge myself more this year, mainly because a resolution as simple as this is relatively easy to achieve, and let's not forget that through indulgence lies happiness of a kind. For balance, I've also resolved to indulge Karen more this year too, which is of course entirely altruistic, and therefore carries none of the 'sinful baggage' of my first resolution. Clever eh! I've started early, spoiling Karen royally at Christmas with Chanel No.5, luxury Joules clothing, and Booja-Booja Chocolates. 'But what of yourself Mark?' I hear you ask... 'Don't forget your good self'' you cry. Well you'll be pleased to know I haven't.

Feast your eyes on these two beauties. Indulgence personified. I'm no stranger to the delights of Sampford Courtenay Cider. If nothing else, I'm a huge fan of their eminently re-usable swing-top bottles. The stuff inside is pretty good too, and by luck the Waitrose cider buyer seems to agree with me as this is where you'll find it. At the risk of becoming a full-on advert for Waitrose, have a look at this video, if only for a glimpse of the huge wooden 'Tuns' at Sampford Courtenay, which may or may not be in use but look fantastic nevertheless.

The seasonal offering is a Sloe & Elderberry Fruit Cider. The kind of mad concoction that could be little more than a sickly alco-pop in the wrong hands. The folk at Sampford Courtenay are a safe pair of hands where cider is concerned, and this is lovely, fruity, yet very grown-up stuff. The main point of interest for me is that it still has the tastes and aroma of cider. Rich, strong Devon cider, and really quite dry cider at that. Now it really shouldn't come as a surprise that a cider with other fruits added should actually taste of cider, but the fact is, most of these fruity concoctions seem to be made merely to disguise the cideriness, not enhance it. In the case of the bigger brands, it's all about making your cider as accessible to as wide a demographic as possible, and there's no better way of making your cider accessible than by making it taste like Ribena. We're absolutely not in Ribena territory here.

Did I mention it was Dry? Now that's a real surprise, not least because it's described on the Waitrose shelf as being Sweet. It's a full-bodied, chunky, dryish Devon Cider, carefully overlayed with a subtle berry sweetness, and a fair bit of mouth drying tannin which could originate from just about any of the primary ingredients. If you're looking for an easy-drinking alco-pop, look elsewhere, this is butch, grown-up stuff, at a grown-up price it must be said. If £4.99 a bottle seems a little pricey to you, just think of the lovely bottle you get free, and being a seasonal offering, hope as I do that a special offer is just around the corner.

Talking of special offers, there's really nothing  more special (or indeed underhand) than offering a generous free tasting of something absolutely delicious on one of the last shopping days of Christmas. This is how I found myself in possession of a bottle of Zeni Acquavite di Williams, for which the people at Ben's Wine Shop in Oakham can be thanked, or indeed blamed. They obviously know a weak-willed man when they see one.

What can I say about this bottle? In a word, Lush. In four words, Really Very Lush Indeed. You can read the company blurb and details of this spirit here, keep scrolling past the grapey stuff, it's near the end. It's a smooth little devil for sure, spirity, but not at all firey, with a long-long, juicy Williams Pear finish. This takes me all the way back to skiing holidays in Austria, without the troublesome bother of trying to ski that is. It's a versatile spirit, good in a Hip Flask, equally at home straight from the fridge with a slice of Smoked Salmon. It's lovely, indulgent, and a great start to my year of immoderation.

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