IN THE SPIRIT: FEATURING JAMIE OAKES
I was born and raised in NH. After traveling and college outside of New England, I was living in Philadelphia. There I met Steve Grasse, founder of Tamworth Distilling, who offered me the unique opportunity to move back to the area I grew up and pursue distilling with local ingredients. That was over five years ago.
Our Beet Root and the Lady Lychee is our favorite combination thus far. The beet, cranberry, apple pomace (pressing), and honey make our spirit tart and paired with the sweet lychee, its a beautiful combination. The rich beet color is backed up with the smooth base/earthy component that beets are known for. The sweetness of the beet is underscored by the tartness of NH cranberries and pressed apple pomace. The apples have had the juice removed (for cider, much like our Applejack base), which leaves just the fruity characteristics in the bottle. The light amount of tarragon ties the two major components together for a full experience of savory and sweet.
Everything! Personally, I enjoy whiskies and beer at home. Brewing and distilling history and tradition is a great place to start for any inspiration. Tradition has a really funny way of being grounded in something beyond superstition. So looking at how people were doing something and why can be really insightful when trying to come up with new approaches or spirits. Farmers are also an excellent source of inspiration. They usually have all these little gems tucked away, or know of heirloom/wild ingredients that can be a great jumping off point for spirits building.
Flatbread's in North Conway NH is my go-to bar. It offers a casual space and some great standard drinks with local and seasonal variation. All summer season long it is packed, so I generally spend more time there in the spring, fall and winter. The staff are old friends and warm people, so visitors can expect a family-like community and a warm welcome.
Proof (ABV) is huge! Most spirits sit around 80 proof (40% ABV). This, generally speaking, is the lowest common denominator of alcohol a product can have. Often that can be an economically motivated ABV, not flavor motivated. This means 60% of that bottle is water. It should be darn good water (but that's another topic). Alcohol and flavor have a funny relationship, and as soon as you add more and more water things can get lost. It's more complex than just a dilution problem. There are more reactions at play that will actually release a bunch of good flavors and aromas. This interaction will essentially get rid of them before you have a change to enjoy them. If you can get a whiskey at higher than 90 proof, grab it! You can add your own ice cube or water and at least get the chance to experience all the flavors and aromas before they give up the goods to the air and are gone forever!
We would love to pair our Von Humboldt's Tamarind Cordial with one of the AJC juice next! This is one of our most beloved spirits. Just mentioned in Playboy as one of "the strangest spirits in the US". The Tamarind is sweet and boozy on the nose, with notes of Amaretto, cherry syrup, and dark sugar. Viscous mouthfeel similar to that of honey syrup, but with a clean finish. Hits the palate with bright, tart citrus notes like cranberry and tangerine, and then deepens to earthier, roasted flavors like stone fruits, candied pecans, dried fruits, baked apple, and sugarplum. With all the rich flavors, it'll be a lot of fun to play around with pairing it with a juice from the American Juice Company. You can purchase Tamarind here