After an extended hiatus, itâ€™s good to be back! Even though I havenâ€™t had the opportunity to post lately, Iâ€™ve been trying plenty of new things and taking copious notes, so I have plenty of whisk(e)y reviews lined up for the coming weeks. But for now,Â in the immortal words of Monty Pythonâ€™s Flying Circusâ€¦ â€œAnd now for something completely different.â€
Camp Robber is a new product from Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile, a recently-founded distillery located in New Hampshireâ€™s White Mountains. Although only around a year old, Tamworth has been making a name for itself with its line of unconventional gins, intriguingly oddball liqueurs, and peculiar organic vodkas (ever try a sweet potato, beet root, or chicory vodka? Me neither!), but itâ€™s now venturing into the world of whiskey.
When many young distilleries enter the market, they often start off with an un-aged whiskey to tide people over (and fill the coffers) before the mature stuff is ready. In Tamworthâ€™s case,Â although theyÂ do have a white whiskey on the market, theyâ€™re not content to do things by the book. If youâ€™re familiar with their founder, Steven Grasse, this probably isnâ€™t surprising. Steven is one of the brash bad asses of the industry, known for previously launching such unconventional venturesÂ as Sailor Jerryâ€™s Rum, Hendrickâ€™s Gin (one of my personal favorites), and the Art in the Age brand of organic liqueurs.
Turning his attention to whiskey, Steven and the folks at Tamworth Distilling intend to release a bourbon, but of course (having only been around for a year or so), itâ€™s not ready yet. Many young distilleries that plan to produce whiskey start off by sourcing aged spirit from other, larger distilleries (a practice I have no issue with, so long as theyâ€™re transparent about it!), but Tamworth are instead using their expertise at liqueur crafting to do something a bit different.
Their first aged whiskey-based product, Camp Robber, begins with a sixteen-month-old, high-rye bourbon made with organic corn and rye. To this, they add a blend of apple brandy, apple cider, and caramelized sugar to round out a full-bodied, moderately sweet apple liqueur. Despite containing literal caramel, this spirit isnâ€™t overly sweet (unlike many other apple â€œwhiskiesâ€ Iâ€™ve tried). Instead, the sweetness helps to round off some of the tartness from the apple and blunt any residual harshness from the young base spirit. Itâ€™s sweet, sure, but a liqueur is supposed to have some sweetness to it.
I first tried this neat in order to get a feel for it, and I and found the aromas and flavors to be enjoyable, with plenty of apple punch. Itâ€™s pleasantly sweet without a huge burst of cloying sugar.
Nose: Corn and apple! Corn meal, ripe apples, cinnamon and clove, burn sugar.
Taste: Lots of creamed corn, oatmeal, maple syrup, dried apple slices, cinnamon, nutmeg (lots of nutmeg), clove, burnt sugar, allspice. Tastes like an apple cobbler, without being nearly as sweet as one!
Chilled down in a tumbler with some ice, it gets even better. The cold helps to cut through a bit of the sweetness, allowing the apple and cinnamon to become more prominent. I also get a whole heck of a lot of creamy, corny goodness this way. On a whim, I added a twist of lemon zest, and the citrus oils brought out a crisp, grassy note that helped to make the liqueur just a bit more refreshing.
Still, despite being easy to drink neat or on the rocks, this is definitely a spirit thatâ€™s intended for mixing. I can see a lot of cocktail applications for Camp Robber, and I look forward to putting it to use in some tasty autumn drinks when the temperatures drop off in a few months.
Right now, though, itâ€™s brutally hot here, and I want something light and refreshing. When I first tried Camp Robber, my cocktail thoughts immediately shouted â€œginger!â€ (Hey, I love apple and ginger together. It may be one of my favorite combos), so I kept things simple.
In a rocks glass, I poured 2.5 ounces of Camp Robber and roughly 2 ounces of spicy ginger beer over ice, garnishing with a lemon twist. Not among my most â€œingeniousâ€ cocktail ideas, but on such a hot day, I donâ€™t want to spend a long time messing around behind the bar â€“ I want to get a cold, refreshing drink in my hand quickly.
This little highball absolutely fits the bill. The spicy ginger pairs incredibly well with the apple flavors, and the burnt sugar notes blend hold the sweet and spicy together exceedingly well. The creamy corn backbone of the spirit rounds everything out, making for a smooth and easy-to-drink cocktail. The lemon oils from the lemon cut through a bit of the sweetness, keeping your palate fresh for the next sip. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one aftâ€”hey, my glass is empty!
This is an interesting, fun product that I would certainly be equally happy to sip on a hot summer day or a crisp fall one. Iâ€™m quite excited to check out some of Tamworth Distilling & Mercantileâ€™s other wares, and Iâ€™m definitely eager to try their bourbon once itâ€™s ready.