Showing posts with label Pernod Ricard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pernod Ricard. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Discovering Plymouth – the City and the Gin

It was an early start to the day as we needed to get on a train and head to Plymouth. Pernod Ricard had made it easy for us to pack just what we needed by giving us each our own stylish overnight bags with our names engraved in the leather tags.

Just about everyone who knows me understands that I do not like train rides, but I made it through this one by doing some work and reading.  We were also in first class so there were drinks and snacks offered throughout the ride (translate: wine to calm me). The four hours went by a little quicker than I expected. I even enjoyed looking at some of the English countryside.

Sean Harrison, Master Distiller and Distillery Manager for Plymouth Gin, met us and we went straight upstairs at the distillery where they had their own brasserie. Everyone raved about the fish and chips, a specialty of the restaurant.

After lunch we went on a tour through town which culminated in the spot that the Mayflower took off for what would eventually be the United States. It was rather surreal listening to Sean Harrison tell us the story as a strong shower came through. Though it was windy and there was even a bit of hail in the monsoon like rain, he kept talking about that time in the 15th century, accustomed to the wet and wild weather!

We walked back to the distillery through this English fishing village wishing we had more time to explore, but there was gin to be sampled and studied. Sean was a wealth of knowledge and he we learned all about the production of Plymouth and the seven ingredients used in its making – juniper, coriander, cardamom, lemon peel, orange peel, oris root and angelica root.

The tasting room was filled with gins from all over the world and we examined about just how different gin could be. Then, to prove the point, we were each allowed to make our own gin – using whatever combination of ingredients we wanted. The only requirement was the juniper, which gives the spirit the distinction of being gin. After we had sampled, five other gins, with more floral and citrus notes, we could pick up the buttery taste of Plymouth from its particular wheat grain.

I relished the chance to make my perfect spirit without citrus. It had lots of juniper and equal parts of nutmeg and cinnamon. I also added just a touch of oris root. Sean showed us how it goes through the distillation process with small distillers and I have to admit my gin came out quite good. (I got to bring some home and a friend confirmed that it was tasty.)

We had cocktails in the lounge before leaving the distillery. I ordered a Sloegasm, a simple, but refreshing mixture of champagne and sloe gin. We didn’t stay long, though, because we had to check in to St.Elizabeth’s House, an attractive and comfortable inn, and get ready for dinner.

Each room at the inn was unique. Mine looked pretty basic until I went into the bathroom. It was larger than the room itself, with two small bathtubs centered on the left and a shower in the corner.

After cocktails at the bar, we had dinner in the banquet room at St. Elizabeth’s.  The filet mignon topped with foie gras was good, but the potatoes au gratin were worth raving about. I also had a second crème brulee for the day, which is never something to complain about.  A few of the other writers stayed downstairs for a drink, but I was done after a long day and took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep before our second day in Plymouth.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Heading to England with Beefeater and Plymouth

I have traveled to many places in the world checking out wine and spirits, but when the invitation to go to England with Beefeater and Plymouth came, I was more excited than you can imagine. Gin is my go to spirit and the thought of spending a week drinking it as part of the job was a good one.

I’ve worked with Pernod Ricard on a number of trips, including Jacob’s Creek in Australia and Perrier Jouët in Paris. They always do things top notch and this trip was no different. They sent a limo to take me to the airport for the short flight to Chicago, where I was flying British Airways. Since I had a business class ticket and had a few hours, I went straight to the BA lounge. I hadn’t had lunch so I was hoping to catch a snack. I found a lot more in a large buffet with many choices. I settled on a little spinach lasagna, which was excellent, and a small, fudgy brownie.

When it was time to board, I saw my first airplane “pod.” It was a bit odd at first and took a while for me to adjust, but once I figured it out I was very comfortable with a draw to keep things I was using close, a foot rest that moved and enough positions to go from sitting to lying flat to make anyone comfortable. I also had a privacy screen between myself and the seat next to me.

The service on British Airways was excellent. They took care of whatever I wanted. I started with a Kir Royale before dinner, where I enjoyed the peppers with crumbled gorgonzola, asparagus and truffled cream. The main course was a wonderful manicotti stuffed with roasted butternut squash in a lemongrass sauce, and I finished with an elderflower cheesecake on a graham cracker crust with fresh raspberries. The only problem was that was served with the salad instead of after the entrée, so it was a bit warm by the time I ate it. With my meal I had a glass of Sancerre 2010 Domaine Bardine from the Loire Valley. It was 100% sauvignon blanc and full of citrus, but a bit grassy like the fantastic New Zealand ones.

I watched a few movies before a fell asleep for a short while. It almost seemed as if the flight wasn’t long enough since I had just settled in for two hours. For breakfast, I passed on the warm bacon roll with ketchup and just had a yummy smoothie made from guanabana, raspberry, cantaloupe and wheat germ.

Our arrival at London’s Heathrow was in fact early, but it took a full hour to get through customs. My car from Beefeater was waiting and Meghan Kelleher (from Beefeater and Plymouth’s public relations agency, Access PR) met me in the lobby of the Dukes Hotel and encouraged me to rest up and order something from room service for breakfast.

I slept for a few hours, enjoyed a cheese omelet, and decided to take advantage of the hotel’s perfect location (between Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus) to explore a bit. The streets were a bit crowded from a marathon and I couldn’t get near the palace so I headed in the other direction and walked up and down Piccadilly window shopping.

I was back at the room around 5:00 and dressed for dinner. I met the group downstairs at the Dukes bar and had my first Beefeater 24 gin and tonic in London. We had a lot of fun getting to know each other as we headed in vans to Ox Brasserie. The views from the restaurant were just incredible in this all glass venue on top of the tower. I had another g&t before the meal. During dinner we drank a very good Domaine Rougine Vin de Pays from Languedoc Roussillon (where I’m heading in November).

The meal was by far the best I’ve ever had in London: Grilled English Asparagus on dried cured ham with Ragstone cheese, vanilla oil, roasted hazelnut and toasted brioche (a great mix of different flavors); Jasper Roast Lamb with parsley fregola, feta, hazelnut yoghurt and honey lavosh (perfect with the yogurt); Roasted Pumpkin Parmesan Salad; and a Chocolate Trio of a bitter chocolate tart, milk chocolate honey nougatine parfait and buttered pears.

I finished off with some Jasmine tea before we left. My head hit the pillow and I was out by midnight, dreaming of the gin drinks I would have at the Beefeater distillery the next day.