Katsuobushi, 56% ABV
The centerpiece: a delicate, floral spirit made from fermented tuna. Because why not? Katsuobushi is a traditional Japanese product that is used as the basis of the dashi broth. It starts with lightly simmered tuna fillets which are smoked for up to six hours at a time, day on – day off, for up to a month. The smoked fish is then sun dried using – and those with a delicate stomach may want to look away now – a specific mould culture which ferments it. After this, the fish alternates between further sun-drying and humidity-controlled rooms for four months until the fillets have reduced to around 20% of their original weight and are so hard that they have to be shaved on a wood plane before they can be used for stock.
Williams saw the umami rich and smoky flavour as a perfect whisky profile, and the Empirical distillate is rested for a shot period in Cognac casks to give it the necessary touch of sweetness and body, as well as allowing some of the fishiness to mellow. The resulting product maintains a strong savoury taste with the natural comparison being a combination of fish stock and Laphroaig.
F*ck Trump and His Stupid F*cking Wall, 20% ABV
This delightfully named distillate is a habanero spirit that uses around a kilo of peppers per bottle. Despite this, and the inescapable habanero nose, the taste is soft and sweet and most reminds me of melted green Wine Gums. This is rather a disconcerting experience given that a kilo of habaneros sounds pretty painful. Fortunately, the capsaicin is too heavy to make it through the distillation process, so there is no burn. At all.
Named for “what is important in Mexico at the moment”, all profits are being sent to RAICES, Texas, a refugee and immigration charity.
So where can you taste these exotic products? A select few are stocked at experimental London bars such as Clove Club, Lyan Cub and Scout. Products are also sold in very small batches and at irregular intervals. These sales are usually announced via the brand’s Instagram feed (keep an eye out on Fridays) and sold via www.empiricalspirits.co. Prices are from £43 a bottle, and batches are of no more than around 300 bottles, so if you want one, be quick!
Fan of trying out new spirits and drinks? Don't miss Alex's recent pieces on Woltz's Rose Petal Vodka and Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto! Get your shakers and mixing glasses out...