Read on for the scoop on what we're up to at the distillery, all about vanilla, virtual events & more!
February 2021 NEWS
Well, it hasn't quite been the deep chills of the Polar Vortex of a few years ago, but here on the North Shore we've gotten quite the snowfall in the past week or so! In between digging ourselves out of the snow, we're planning for spring – it doesn't seem like it at the moment, but it'll be here before we know it. The big event we're gearing up for at the moment is our annual Malt Whiskey Release, just about a month from now - more on that below. Stay warm & read on for the scoop on late-winter & spring plans at NSD!
Events & Virtual Classes!
Join us for some tasting, mixing & conversation
Gin Geek Out Session – Virtual -Saturday Feb 20 @ 7 pm – we'll taste and discuss a variety of styles of gin, talk about the history of this delicious spirit, and some of the best-loved classic cocktails for gin.
Optional for locals: a gin tasting kit to enjoy with the class! This kit comes with four 200ml bottles of the NSD gins we will be discussing, as well as two different cocktail mixes for you to experiment with.
Malt Whiskey Release We're getting ready for the annual release of our American Malt Whiskey next month here at the tasting room - Saturday, March 20 will be the official release day, with a preview on Friday, March 19. We'll have bottles, and tasting notes, available in our shop on March 20.
Spring Cocktail Class (Virtual)- Saturday, April 10th @ 7 pm - make plans to join us on Zoom for a cocktail making seminar! We'll discuss some great ingredients for spring cocktails, and we'll make and mix some together as well. We'll have an optional cocktail kit if you're in our area, and we'll send out the ingredients ahead of time, too.
Whiskey Geek Out Session (Virtual) - Saturday April 24th @ 7 pm - we'll do a deep dive on whiskey, tasting and discussing a variety of different styles, the history of this beloved spirit, and some great whiskey cocktails! This class will come with an optional whiskey tasting kit, including 375 ml bottles of our three whiskeys and a few cocktail mixes.
We're working on plans for later this spring and summer to resume some of our activities away from the distillery, and we look forward to visiting friends across the Midwest just as soon as it seems like a good idea to do so again! In the meantime, if you have an idea for another class or virtual event you'd like to see us offer, let us know.
Tasting Room, Cocktail Kits & More
We have been continually adjusting our hours and options to comply with public health guidance, and we're delighted to share that our Tasting Room is now open on a limited basis! As always, keep an eye on our website and social media for the latest on our offerings and hours. We are still creating fun cocktail kits, cocktails-to-go and other ways for you to enjoy our spirits safely at home if you're in our area but not ready to venture out. We also have a full cocktail archive on our website with lots of great cocktail ideas!
Here are a few of this month's new Cocktail Kits at the tasting room:
Norwegian Bear Hug - a runaway winter favorite in our tasting room, wintry & warm with Aquavit – Private Reserve, honey, cinnamon, fresh lemon & Peychaud's Bitters. Also available as just the mix, to pair with Aquavit you have at home.
Liquid Sunshine - this cocktail is just what it sounds like,a bright, citrusy sipper with Twisted Citrus Vodka, tangerine, ginger & fresh lime. Also available as just the mix, to pair with Twisted Citrus you have at home.
Vanilla is one of the most beloved flavors of the world, but it is also misunderstood. We call them vanilla "beans" but they are actually the fruit of the vanilla orchid. Real vanilla has over 300 aromatic and flavor compounds with it, so it is one of the most intriguing, complex ingredients we can use in cocktails.
Because it's the fruit of an orchid and quite difficult to grow, vanilla is the second most expensive culinary ingredient in the world (behind saffron).
How is Vanilla Grown?
Vanilla orchids grow in a very small section of the world, in tropical climates within 10-20 degrees of the equator, that meet very specific conditions. About 80% of the vanilla beans grown in the world are grown in Madagascar these days, even though the plant is not native to Madagascar. Other prominent growing regions include Mexico (where vanilla was most likely first harvested), and Tahiti. Every step of the vanilla growing process is labor-intensive - each step, from the pollinating to the harvesting, is literally done by hand. Once harvested, the beans undergo a curing process that takes many months.
Vanilla beans are like wine grapes in at least one respect - they taste differently depending on where they are grown. So, vanilla from Madagascar tastes very different from vanilla from Mexico, or from Tahiti. Much of what we learned about vanilla initially came from our friends over at Nielsen-Massey Vanilla, a great family run vanilla company based nearby in Waukegan - their website contains a lot of information if you want to learn more.
Using Vanilla in Spirits
Here, we use mostly Tahitian and Mexican vanilla beans, and we work with the whole beans. The Tahitian beans provide a rich, floral, creamy flavor with accents of cherry, whereas the Mexican beans lend richer, deeper flavors with spice tones like clove and allspice.
Over the years, we've experimented with many different ways to incorporate vanilla into our spirits. Our most loved technique is simply to infuse the beans into a spirit, such as in our Tahitian Vanilla Vodka or our Doublewood Rum. By the time we're done with the beans, they are crispy - their flavors and aromas have been taken. However, they still make a delicious-smelling addition to our firepit!
Beware the Fake Vanilla
Vanilla IS a very expensive ingredient, so imitations are everywhere. Imitation vanilla is typically made with vanillin from petroleum products or from wood, or from other "natural sources" that aren't nearly as expensive as vanilla beans (and aren't nearly as rich and complex in flavor, either). And, there is a lot of deception in the vanilla business - such as "Tahitian Vanilla" that isn't actually grown in Tahiti. If you're looking for something specific, be sure to read the label carefully and ask questions! This holds true for your distilled spirits, too - it's very expensive to use real beans, but we get such a superior result that we wouldn't do it any other way.