Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jenny Gardener of Vanquish Brand Management visits St Nicholas Abbey

Vanquish were very proud to have St Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Rum from Barbados join the Vanquish Brand Management portfolio. The Rum fitted our profile perfectly - rare, artisanal and authentic as well as great liquid and stunning packaging.

We have since seeded SNA (St Nicholas Abbey) into many top venues throughout London (Paramount, Zuma, Movida, Artesian, Mahiki, Tramp.....:) and gained many, many more fans along the way.
RumFest 2010 was the first time I'd seen the Warren's since... well.... ages!

It was while chatting to Robert A. Burr at this year's RumFest that I was made aware of the Rum and Beer festival in Barbados in November.... It occurred to me then that I should perhaps take myself on holiday to Barbados, The Rum and Beer Festival and most importantly - St Nicholas Abbey....

My first sighting of Barbados, this is the highly desirable West Coast.
To find out more about the island please visit:

One of the first things I did was go on a boat trip from the capital Bridgetown up round the West coast to moor off Sandy Lane beach - awesome. I was staying in the district of St Peter in the apartment of Andrew and Karene - they made me feel very welcome and the invitation to join them on this boat trip introduced me to lots of the locals, who are all rum ambassadors!

Everyone goes off the side and into the water!

After training and talking to so many people about St Nicholas Abbey and it's rum it was incredible to finally visit in person. I went on the tour which explains the history of the Abbey and the people who owned it and I even picked up a few new anecdotes along the way.

The film they show is quite incredible, dating back to 1935 the footage is consequently extremely rare. It was made by the previous owner Charles J.P. Cave when he took his family from England all the way to the Abbey filming the whole trip on a recently acquired cine camera.
When you are next planning a holiday think about Barbados and a visit to St Nicholas Abbey, I can honestly recommend it! Check their website for more information and history:

Anna has done a really amazing job in the gardens.

The grounds of SNA

The tropical jungle just beyond the grounds of SNA

The Still - "Annabelle"

It was a real pleasure to see the still not only up close and personal but actually distilling! It had been a long struggle for Larry to get the still licensed but perseverance and Larry's indomitable spirit eventually paid off. On the day of the Wine, Food and Rum Festival lunch at the Abbey "Annabelle" was fired up! She worked very hard turning St Nicholas Abbey's very own produced sugar cane "honey" (the juice is extracted using an original steam mill, the water is then evaporated off and the juice becomes concentrated) into fine rum! Of course, it will be a while before it's ready but the best things in life are worth waiting for.....

Now you may be a bit confused if you were paying attention earlier.... Didn't I say it was the Rum and Beer Festival I was off to visit not the Food, Wine and Rum Festival....? True, all true - it was very confusing for everyone! There were indeed two festivals on the same weekend - what a double whammy! In fact it was a Rum, Beer, Food, Wine, Rum Fest!

Every aspect of producing the Rum at St Nicholas Abbey is hand crafted.

Theses are the hand embossed leather caps that fit into the mahogany tops of the Rum bottles.

This is the bottling line..... tiny production indeed!

Kathy in the bottling room, after hand filling the bottles she engraves the date and number onto each bottle.

The Abbey is now a big tourist attraction for visitors to the island and what better souvenir than a bottle of St Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Rum engraved with a personal message! Above is Michael engraving a couple of bottles for me.... If you take the empty bottle back they will refil for a reduced price.... what perfect recycling.

Cherry Tree Hill Reserve

The Warren family is keen to preserve the national heritage of St Nicholas Abbey and the plantation. The historic site of Cherry Tree Hill, which has been growing Mahogany for generations, is consequently assured a future for generations to come under their guardianship.

East Coast view from Cherry Tree Hill
The East Coast is very different from the glamour of the West Coast - it's rugged and wild and as you can see quite mountainous.

Foursquare Distillery
I'd heard lots of things about Foursquare Distillery - Disney World and twinkle town were common descriptions and they were not wrong. Fairy lights adorn the outside of buildings and while there's an obvious sophistication in the high tech eqipment, it's underpinned by a mischevious sense of fun. We were invited to a secret party and distillery tour with Richard Seale himself, which was a real honour. Above is some of the range of Rum that Richard makes and if you're wondering why St Nicholas Abbey Rum is there - where have you been!?
Follow Simon Warren at the Abbey on Twitter @snAbbeyrum
Follow Jenny Gardener in the UK on Twitter @StNichAbbeyRUM
Join the group on Facebook - St Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Barbados Rum (UK)
Join the page on Facebook - St Nicholas Abbey (Barbados)

Monday, 20 December 2010

La Maison Fontaine, Ed's Christmas Party, the new Shunt and Jimmy Wales.

On Sunday 19th December Ed Saperia hosted one of his amazing Acid Jam parties, "You won't survive outside, not on your own" was held at the new Shunt on Bermondsey Street to celebrate the holidays and raise money for Wikipedia.

Some of the fun included; a mulled wine hot tub, mulled wine (not the same source you'll be relieved to know), barbecue, great live bands, jamming room stuffed full of instruments, edible installations, hay bails, comedy, pegs (you had to be there), Christmas trees everywhere, hot cider, La Maison Fontaine Absinthe Bar and The Machine!

We were very pleased indeed to be invited to host a La Maison Fontaine Absinthe Bar and even more pleased to be given the upstairs of The Machine. If you have not yet been to the Shunt warehouse on Bermondsey Street, check it out! We all highly recommend it:

The Machine refers to a bespoke theatre set for the production of The Shunt Company show "Money" (I haven't seen the play yet but it's high on my 'to do' list - if they bring it back...) it's a massive construction on three floors - some of which are see through. We were on the top floor and could see down into the jamming room on the second floor - awesome!

We decked the bar out with lights, a fountain and La Maison Fontaine, providing revellers with the choice of a classic serve or a Pontarlier Mule - all the proceeds are going to Wikipedia, naturally!

The thing that made it really special for me was the people. Everyone I met was really genuine, friendly, open minded and agreeable - they were all just so bloody nice! So a big shout of thanks has to go out to Ed, all the Shunt team - Nigel, Will, Andrea, Daniel, Dan and the rest..., Madaleine, Nicola, Caroline, Manfred, Daryl, Clayton and Alex for helping! With a very special thanks to Jimmy Wales - he turned up to the party where others had failed due to the snow and happily partied with us all evening, he also posed for a squillion photographs.... what a gent!

Did I mention the edible installation? This is it - a huge edible snow scene with Christmas trees, yule logs, marshmallows, candy floss..... At several points there were also bubbling vats of dry ice billowing out white vapour - incredible!
for more info please visit:

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

La Maison Fontaine Infusion Competition - Extended Deadline!

This was a tasting we did recently in Gerry's. Yet again the infusion proved to be a major success! In fact, given the interest in general, we've decided to extend the La Maison Fontaine Infusion Competition deadline to the end of April 2011.
Given how much bar tenders are loving the La Maison Fontaine fountains we will also include a few amongst the prizes.....

The only rule is to use La Maison Fontaine with your infusion. Once you are happy with your infusion let us know and we'll check it out before the deadline..
To find out more in general about the Competition please go to this earlier update:

Get in touch if you'd like La Maison Fontaine in your bar.....

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Giles @ Shochu makes a last couple of drinks...

I'm always sorry to hear of a favourite bartender leaving a favourite bar but that's progress for you! On Friday 29th October 2010 Giles Cowen will be leaving the Shochu bar at Roka for good. Needless to say I hot tailed it down there last night to catch up with Giles and share some La Maison Fontaine Absinthe with him before he left. It's always interesting to have a conversation with bartenders about Absinthe, so many myths to explode! Absinthe should never be set on fire, it doesn't make you mad, it's not hallucinogenic and there's a scientific reason for the high alcohol strength....etc....etc.

Although Giles is not a massive fan of anise he was very pleasantly surprised by the smoothness and complexity of La Maison Fontaine, inspired he made a drink:

Purple Rain

25cl La Maison Fontaine
25cl Gin
15cl Cherry Brandy
10cl fresh lemon juice
5-10cl sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Lemon zest as garnish.

This was really very easy to drink and now Giles was warmed up he ventured onto something very different indeed.

Snow Fairy

25cl La Maison Fontaine
25cl fresh cream
15cl Cartron white chocolate liqueur
5-10cl almond syrup
5cl sugar syrup
Fresh mint leaves

Bruise the fresh mint with the sugar then add all the other ingredients and shake the hell out of it. Fine strain into a chilled martini glass and add a mint garnish.

I'm not a massive fan of creamy cocktails but this was very well balanced and reminiscent of mint chocolate ice cream. A Snow Fairy is the sort of drink where you look at the ingredients and think maybe it shouldn't work - but it does!


Sunday, 24 October 2010

St Nicholas Abbey 12 Year Old Rum, RumFest, The Golden Rum Barrel Awards and the New SNA Estate Rum.

RumFest 2010 was on 16th and 17th October and as always we were swamped at the St Nicholas Abbey stand! We rolled out The Barrel again and many fans, old and new, were very pleased to try the now 12 year old rum. Many came back again this year, not only to try the rum but to also get presents engraved for various loved ones throughout the year! "This one's for my boyfriend's 30th in April" said one very happy rum reveller, "it's for my dad's Christmas" said another. Anna did a really great job of managing to fit some 'small essays' on the back of the bottle for some other well prepared people!

It was the launch of St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old and Tatu got bottle no. 4 to take back to Australia, it will be the only one in the whole country, rare indeed! This year also saw the first ever Golden Rum Barrel Awards. Rum aficionado's from across the globe were asked to nominate their top 5 rums in each of the categories. St Nicholas Abbey was very proud to be nominated TWICE! Best Premium Rum up to 12 years and Best Rum Package. Particulary pleasing given St Nicholas Abbey is not yet available in the U.S. Just to be nominated was a real honour for all of the rums in the line up.

Simon and Larry Warren with the award for Best Rum Package!


The brand new batch still with reflux column and condenser

Last year saw the new still installed at St Nicholas Abbey which was the first new distillery to open in Barbados for a very long time. Given the Abbey is surrounded by sugar cane and has one of the last remaining operational steam mills in the Caribbean, it makes sense to use fresh, sugar cane juice to make the rum with. While this is technically an agricole rum, Larry uses a hybrid pot-column still so he can cut the distillation at a high abv to loose a lot of the heavy, grassy esters common in agricole rum. Last year Larry brought a sample of the new rum to RumFest 2009 which by then had had 6 months in new Bourbon oak.

This year Larry brought the same barrel sample over again which is now 18 months old. We had a lot of fun geeking out and comparing and sharing them with other rum lovers at the show. Some absolutely loved the 6 month old with its fresh cane and assertiveness of youth, while most prefered the already more mellow, complex and rounded 18th month old. Both samples are in a very safe place in the Sip Or Mix offices and we're already looking to how they might compare with the 2.5 year old at next year's RumFest! Indeed, the rum is shaping up so nicely we could be looking at a very limit bottling of the 3 year old....

If you're planning to visit Barbados please visit St Nicholas Abbey, to find out more go to:

If you'd like to learn more about St Nicholas Abbey in the UK please email me at:

Friday, 22 October 2010

ArtSet, Frieze Art Fair and La Maison Fontaine Absinthe

The affection for Absinthe amongst the great artists of the 18th and early 19th centuries is well documented, not least in some of their art. It's not surprising then that La Maison Fontaine - a traditionally distilled, artisan Absinthe with a contemporary twist - would be involved in both reviving the interest in true Absinthe and hanging out with the up and coming ArtSet in the early 21st Century!

Monday the 11th October saw the launch of Frieze Art Fair week and ArtSet organised an event at The Haymarket Hotel with La Maison Fontaine as a guest for the guests. We had fountains ready for both The Fontaine of Youth and a perfect serve of iced water with or without sugar depending on the palate preference.

ArtSet is a contemporary arts membership circle that focuses on creating access and exposing members to the London art scene through private gallery openings, curator-led tours of museum exhibitions, artist talks, art film screenings and studio visits. ArtSet aims to educate its members and provide them with the necessary tools to view art works critically and thoughtfully within a comfortable, engaging and social setting. The fact that their inaugural event was held in the Pool Room of the Haymarket Hotel would be testament to that!

The video installations were by Nicole Cohen who was showing her work for the first time in London. Although traditionally trained in painting and drawing, today Cohen primarily uses the concept of collage and video to question the rules of social etiquette, performance anxiety and critically examine expected behaviour in private life. Both the works 'How to Make Your Windows Beautiful (2007) and Sunday Morning (2007) were completely absorbing as each moved the observer through a private human space with an incongruous landscape as a backdrop. This layering effect gives each piece a strangely haunting and 3d effect which I'd highly recommend a viewing of.

Nicole is an American born artist now based in Berlin and as well as being a very creative and innovative artist she's also a rather lovely lady!

Later in the evening I introduced her and the ArtSet crowd to La Maison Fontaine and guided them though the history and production of Absinthe, expelling many myths in the process. As always La Maison Fontaine was extremely well received with the Fontaine of Youth proving to be particularly popular.

It was a real pleasure to meet so many creative and receptive people and share both the truth about Absinthe and La Maison Fontaine!

If you'd like to find out more about ArtSet please email Fernanda at

If you'd like to find out more about the truth behind Absinthe and try La Maison Fontaine please email me at

Thursday, 23 September 2010

La Maison Fontaine Infusion Competition!

Boutique Bar Show was a major success for La Maison Fontaine Absinthe. The Fountains stopped people in their tracks and the Fontaine of Youth infusion generated a lot of interest from top people in the industry. Many had wished they had thought of it first but we're pleased to say it was created with La Maison Fontaine Absinthe specifically in mind with the help of Allan Gage. Due to the phenomenal interest generated at Boutique Bar Show we have decided to create a competition for the best infusion for La Maison Fontaine!
The best will be featured on the web site and of course there will be a great prize with the results announced in 2011. Get in touch if you'd like to participate and be at the forefront of this new wave of interest in artisinal Absinthe and contemporary perfect serves!
020 7529 4308
FACEBOOK - La Maison Fontaine Absinthe UK

The Fontaine of Youth

•1.5L Fountain with iced still mineral water
•1 lemon sliced
•Peel of 1 cucumber cut into strips
•6 mint sprigs
•Ice cubes
Fill the fountain with all ingredients and allow to stand for 15mins before serving. Traditional serve (35ml Fontaine) with or without sugar as preferred. Drip contents of the Fontaine fountain to taste, as slowly as possible.

Rui and Jemma behind the Vanquish Stand at Boutique Bar Show.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Angel Champagne

Fifteen years ago Stefano Zagni had a vision - he wanted to produce the worlds most exclusive Champagne. Given the first 24 bottles of Angel Champagne are a collection priced at £250,000.00 - I'd say he's succeeded in his goal!
It's certainly been a long time in the making but on the 15th and 16th of September Angel Champagne was introduced to some top London drinks industry movers and shakers and also The Press in La Suite at Vanquish Wine HQ.

The first thing Stefano did all those years ago was find an exceptional wine maker - he certainly succeeded when he teamed up with Patrick d'Aulan. Patrick's family owned the Champagne House Piper Heidsieck for over 200 years and as he says himself "I was born in a glass of Champagne". Both Stefano and Patrick worked for many years sourcing exceptional grapes and developing the Angel style. For Angel the cepage is Chardonnay dominant and the assemblage for the non vintage is from 3 year old wines and the 2004 has only just been released. Because Angel uses the very best grapes it is only available in tiny quantities and we suspect we may even have to put it on allocation....

The non-vintage is straw yellow in colour with green apple tinges and the nose offers good bready yeast with pronounced fruit notes. Things were looking promising, but the palate totally took me by surprise - the mouthfeel is so incredibly soft, it's like drinking liquid silk! Delicate fruit notes come through which are well balanced with the yeasty undertones and it provides good length at the end. Overall, I'd say Angel nv literally oozes style, sophistication and offers unparalleled finesse.

The 2004 is much bigger in profile than the nv with big fruit and big bready notes and consequently cannot quite match the finesse of the nv, but then it's a different wine. It's sensible to offer two different styles in a range and after talking to Patrick about these conclusions he agreed that it was indeed his strategy to produce two fantastic but not identical Champagnes. I for one think he's succeeded. Angel 2004 is my preferred style of Champagne and probably will be for those wine buffs with a developed palate - it's deliciously big and full, but I can also see why the nv is going to be a massive hit.

Stefano Zagni (Founder), Sinitta (Creative Director) and Patrick d'Aulan (Wine Maker)

Sinitta in La Suite talking to the industry about Angel Champagne.
Sinitta really is a fantastic ambassador for the brand, she's passionate, enthusiastic and has some great ideas - we'll be definitely be hearing more from her on Angel Champagne.

Other ambassadors for Angel Champagne are:
Mariah Carey,
You can watch their various videos on the Angel website:
If you are interested in listing Angel Champagne please contact us at Vanquish.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ted Breaux and Jared Gurfein of Lucid visit London

If you are not sure who Ted Breaux is then watch this History Channel show called Modern Marvels:

Things have moved along quite significantly since that film was made in 2006. Jared Gurfein of Viridian Spirits recruited Ted to produce an all natural Absinthe for the American market. Lucid was born out of this partnership and between them they successfully challenged the ban on Absinthe in the U.S.

Vanquish Wine is now the UK distributor for Lucid Absinthe and on Saturday 4th September both Ted and Jared came to London for a whistle stop tour. Our first port of call was Paramount to see the sights of London from above. Thanks to Amanda for her amazing hospitality.

On Sunday we had a Bar Tender Session at Montgomery Place. Alex Olas, the Bar Manager, is well versed in the ways of Absinthe and is also a big Ted Breaux fan so M.P. was the obvious place to meet. Thanks Alex and everyone one that turned up on Sunday. It was a real joy to share a comprehensive Absinthe training with some of London's top Bar Tenders! Montgomery Place is also the first official stockist of Lucid Absinthe!

The tube strike was a a bit of a problem (well done London!) but we persevered and made it out to Putney to Citizen Smith. If you haven't been I'd highly recommend it!

Paul Bradley, the Bar Manager, looking very pleased with his Lucid and Fountain! He also made some great versions of Ted's pre-prohibition cocktails - get in touch if you'd like a copy and some comprehensive Absinthe training!

I'd also like to thank:

Spooks for his great work at Callooh Callay,

Flavio and the team at Nobu,

Theo for making some fantastic pre-prohibition cocktails on Tuesday,

Ed from Salon D'Ete - very sorry it's now gone!

Sarah, Lee and the Team at Graphic,

Sara and David from Summer Fruit Cup,

Clayton Hartley from The New Sheridan Club,

Pauline and Peter from The Floating Rum Shack,

Alan from Foodpedia,

Ben from Blue Tomato,

Caroline and Manfred from The Londonist,

and finally a massive thank you to Ted and Jared!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

La Maison Fontaine meets The New Sheridan Club

On August 21st La Maison Fontaine met The New Sheridan Club members at their The Far Pavilions event held at Salon D'Ete in Duke Street. Live Swing Music was performed by Twin and Tonic and the New Sheridan Club members looked stunning in their finery, particularly with the back drop of Salon D'Ete. If you are unaware of either I'd recommend you check them both out!

La Maison Fontaine - Finest French Absinthe

We are very excited to announce that from 1st September 2010 La Maison Fontaine - Finest French Absinthe will come under the Vanquish Wine Brand Management umbrella.

La Maison Fontaine is an ultra premium artisinal Absinthe handcrafted amongst the beautiful Jura Mountains in Pontarlier France, a place renowmend for its Absinthe history.

Distilled in the oldest Absinthe stills in the world, La Maison Fontaine has been masterfully refined using 15 natural herbs. Some we're keeping a secret, others we're happy to shout about - notably, our world-renowned Pontarlier-grown Grande Absinthe, which, together with green ansie, and fennel, is the "holy trinity" of any real Absinthe.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

BLOOM Gin @ The Juniper Society

BLOOM had a great outing last night at The Juniper Society, Graphic Bar.
Mikey makes a few Sonic BLOOMs and I get to sample the punch - just a taste test you understand.... The punchbowl was my first ever purchase on Ebay - the things I do for a decent drink! It worked perfectly though and I'm very grateful to Sarah Mitchell for the recipe (I'll post it soon) and James Rackham for providing the Bernard Loiseau Creme De Peches Fleur D' Hibiscus liqueur made by Boudier.
Also a huge thanks to both Mikey and Adam who looked dashing and served perfect BLOOM drinks all night long!

The quiet before the storm. We had 4 different sessions in the end with about 10-12 people in each group. Joanne (BLOOM's Master Distiller) was marvelous at being heard and sharing her knowledge and passion for BLOOM with a very attentive and interested audience. I hope her voice is ok today....

Things begin to warm up and we actually managed to start bang on 7pm with the first session filling up very quickly indeed!

The response was amazing and it was really great to see so many Gin Lovers - both old and new - out on a Monday night. This above is already the second session.

Wow! What a great sight and so many Rum Lovers dipping their toes into the world of Gin. What an honour for BLOOM!

The third session with some very intent listeners!
Thanks again to everyone that turned up, thanks to Graphic Bar, Alin and Sarah, Joanne and Anjna and of course BLOOM!