Covid-19 had not only stopped tastings for the last 3 months or so but Bodegas who had new products to launch onto the market have been unable to do so with the usual flourish we are used to. One or two have managed an on-line tasting for selected journalists and bloggers and others have just quietly put them into the market without a fanfare.
Vegamar, the Calles based bodega found themselves in this category but now things have opened up VÍ Vid took the opportunity to meet up with Pere Mercado, their Director of Product Development.
We have known Pere since he was Director of the ‘Premium Bobal’ Association and the launch of their first wine in March 2011 and our paths have crossed in the Government Training Centre (CdT), where he is a professor of hostelry, and at many tastings as he is a former winner of the Nariz D’Oro, (Spain’s premier prize for professional Sumillers.) Since his move to Vegamar they have introduced the excellent Gin range with a London Dry and Valencia City which launched in the Umbracle in June 2017 and later the ‘Rum Boca’ with its pure cane sugar and its origin in the Dominican Republic.
Prior to a working lunch we opened the new Vermut Rouge ¡Oh La La! Reserva which was released just before lock-down started. From a base of red wine stored in ‘tinas’ (large format, very old barrels) in which it spends more than 12 months the principal botanicals used are wormwood, pepper, artemisa, gentian and orange peel although there are many more.
On the nose it is a very traditional Valencian Vermut, ( by which we mean not a trendy ‘new style’ light vermut) with all the above elements emerging, plus ginger, cardomum and undernotes of spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and all-spice etc. In the mouth it has good depth and body and a long bitter aftertaste and is a very satisfying aperitif!
Pere had told us some time ago that he was creating a new whisky to add to Vegamar´s spirit portfolio and finally we were able to meet up over lunch and taste the fruits of his research and creativity!
‘Mill Room’ has been three years in the making with Pere visiting distilleries all over Scotland, tasting ‘cask strength’ (75% ABV) lowland, highland and Islay whiskies of different ages and styles and from differing barrel types (Jerez neutral , Brandy and American oak ) because his first principle was that the new product should have that Scottish essence about it. But Pere is also a fan of Japanese ‘whiskies’ noted more for their fruity notes and has extensively experimented to produce a whisky which combines these two elements.
Eventually he settled on a whisky co-operative in the Trossachs (Loch Lomond) with nine separate whiskies from the North and South Highlands and six separate single Islay malts. These were purchased, brought to Spain to a distillery South of Valencia, and experiments started in blending differing proportions of each until the plan he had in his head began to take shape.
Gradually the granitic notes of the Highland whiskies, the malty notes of the lowlands and the smoky notes of the Islays and then the fruits emerged in the right balance.
‘Mill Room’ (40ºABV) is the whisky that he has created from this marathon process. In colour it has the appearance of Onion Skin with Coppery notes in the glass. Add a drop of water (just a drop) to reduce the heat of the alcohol and it becomes bright with just a little gold flashing at you.
On the nose its complexities emerge slowly as the whisky warms gradually in your hand. Starting with minerality, smoke and peat. Then balsamic notes and with them the white fruits, dried apricots, then dried roses, withered flowers and finally mountain scrub with bay leaves.
We tasted it first neat then with the splash of water and with the latter the herby notes emerge more markedly with eucalyptus and the bay more prominent, before finally, and with good time in the glass the seaweed notes, salts and smoke and tarry notes come back to complete and balance the whisky.
We tasted a Caol Ila 1994 as a reference for comparison . This pure Islay single malt is pale in colour, with all the complex salty, seaweed and tarry, smoky notes but it has none of the additional herbs and fruits and floral notes the different woods had brought to the ‘Mill Room.’But it is an exemplar for Islay malts.
‘Mill Room’ is truly an excellent, very elegant, well-balanced whisky which brings those Islay characteristics to be shared with the fruit and woody notes the other elements of the blend apply and should satisfy all Whisky lovers tastes. ‘Mill Room’ retails at 22€ for a 70cl bottle from Vegamar outlets.
Our thanks to Pere for coming and explaining his project and sharing his time with VÍ Vid.