The first thing that strikes you when you get the Spirit of Broadside in the post is that its presentation has been seriously thought about. Unboxing this is akin to unboxing a new mobile phone. It seems that as much care and attention has been given to the first sight of the bottle of Adnam's spirit as has been given to any Apple product, if not more. After all, this bottle doesn't cost several hundred pounds.
The outer packaging is not just well presented, but well constructed. You immediately get the impression that great care has been taken over this, and that it is indeed a premium product that you've got here.
Spirit of Broadside is a 43% abv Bierbrand or Eau de vie de bière. Whisky starts out the same as beer, but instead of boiling it up with hops, you distil it. And rather than getting a good beer, you get a good whisky. With a Bierbrand though, the beer is fully brewed with hops, and then it's distilled.
Why brew it?
The battle of Sole Bay took place in 1672, a naval battle in the third Anglo-Dutch war. The naval battle lasted from early morning until late at night, with almost 4,000 men being lost. In 1972, to commemorate the battle three hundred years earlier, the Adnams brewery in Southwold, Suffolk produced a beer called Broadside. Brewed with pale malts and first gold hops, Broadside is a rich ruby red ale.
Over the years Adnams has gone from strength to strength, not just being known for its ales but also as a wine importer. Recently they have branched out and started producing their own spirits in their own custom-built distillery.
Adnams realised that with their flagship beer Broadside they had a very good base for a Bierbrand. The Spirit of Broadside represents a break from the standard range of spirits and celebrate 340 years since the battle of Sole Bay.
So what we have here isn't a whisky and can never be called a whisky, but is a whisky-style spirit. The 6.3% bottled version of the beer is distilled into a spirit before being matured in new European oak casks for a year. Again you can tell that a lot of thought and effort has gone into this spirit.
So what's it like?
Given the similarities it shares with the start of the whisky brewing process, it's no surprise that this does look very much like a whisky. It's a very pale golden colour, lighter than most whiskies that you'll see. More of a light mead colour, really very much a true golden colour.
On the nose you can pick up notes of currants and crème brulée; it's a lot sweeter on the nose than a scotch and really very pleasant. As it warms up gently in your hand the aromas get slightly sweeter and creamier, moving away from the initial "It's like whisky with…" and more into a spirit in its own right. After a few minutes the aromas are more towards caramel and butterscotch, definitely a smoother, sweeter smelling spirit than a whisky.
The taste is just as complex as the aroma. The sweetness is still present, making this more like a bourbon than a scotch. The oak cask maturation comes through very prominently, giving an almost cardboard/woody taste. At times it tastes a bit rough, burning all the way down to the stomach like a young bourbon. But at others it's so incredibly smooth that you get that wonderful slightly tingling tongue through to a lovely warm feeling all the way down.
It's very strange drinking this; if you take a larger sip you get the roughness but with smaller, gentle sips you get the smoothness. The sweetness does disappear, but the fruitiness stays throughout. Again, as it warms up the flavours change dramatically, getting drier and crisper.
Rather than just taking our own word for this, we took it out into Manchester, UK to get the opinions of staff from some of the busy city centre bars. The overall response to this drink was "Very impressed!" All our tasters needed an explanation of what a Bierbrand was and how it differed from a whisky, but all of them were very keen to try it. And when they did try it, they liked it. Everyone considered it a smooth and complex drink, with only one bar person picking up on the burn that you can get with a larger mouthful.
This is a very complex drink. There's far more depth and flavour to this than you'd expect, and it's very enjoyable. It's probably unfair to do a direct comparison with a whisky because although they share a similar start, and have similarities, they are noticeably different drinks. This is best drunk warm, and slowly, like a brandy. A lot of comparisons could be drawn with other spirits, the aroma of a good whisky, the warming of a good brandy, and the tingle of a good tequila.
To be able to compare it to whiskies we got some to taste it against. The first was Jack Daniels Single Barrel, and there was a definite difference. The nose of the Single Barrel was a lot more rounded, but was also slightly sweet, even if the taste was far drier than that of the Spirit of Broadside. The second we tried it against was a Benromach Organic Speyside single malt scotch. The nose on this one was far sharper than the bourbon, and far more like that of the Spirit of Broadside. On closer comparison the aroma of the Benromach was slightly rougher, but they were surprisingly similar in taste. For the last comparison we cracked open a new bottle of Isle of Jura's Superstition. This displayed a complete contrast on the nose to the Spirit of Broadside, what with this being a peat whisky. Whilst the taste wasn't similar it shared the tingling feeling on the tongue that we saw with the unwarmed Spirit of Broadside as well as being very warming as it was drunk.
So whilst Spirit of Broadside can't be classed as a whisky it shares some very similar traits. This is a good Eau de vie de bière. If you ever see it on sale, we thoroughly recommend trying it.