Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A cherry-picked press trip to Herefordshire

It’s not every day you get the chance to spend time with Heston Blumenthal’s team, a group of amazing distillers and the expert spirits team at Waitrose, so when the opportunity to take a journalist to visit the Chase Vodka Distillery came up, it wasn’t one we wanted to miss! On a cold crisp day at the end of November, we travelled with a journalist from the Daily Telegraph to rural Herefordshire to give them a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new Heston from Waitrose Cherry Bakewell Vodka. We were taken round the farm and distillery by head distiller Jamie Baggott, who showed us how the humble potato is transformed through a variety of processes (one including basically making the potatoes into mash!) into the delicious Cherry Bakewell vodka. Inspired by the great British classic dessert, the vodka is made with local cherries and amaretto extract and really does taste rather nostalgic, not to mention very moreish! Throughout the day, we were accompanied by the fascinating Otto Romer, from Heston’s team at the Fat Duck, who told us all about how the relationship between Waitrose, Heston and Chase work and how Heston’s ideas become an actual product on shelf.

After our tour, we then went back to The Verzon Hotel, a gorgeous boutique hotel also owned by the Chase family. The hotel’s expert head chef created a selection of delicious Heston canap├ęs for us to eat alongside cocktails made from the Cherry Bakewell Vodka. Expertly mixed by David Ashton-Hyde from The Crown at Bray, we were lucky enough to sample Cherry Espresso Martinis and Cherry Sours, alongside a Mulled Cider Fruit Cup and a Herbal Tea, made from Heston’s other drinks from Waitrose – his Earl Grey Gin and Mulled Cider – which are also made at Chase.

So now, when we have a go at some of the cocktail recipes this New Year’s Eve, we’ll be taking a moment to think about all the hard work, creativity and expertise that went into the making of the vodka and if that’s not a cause for celebration, I don’t know what is – cheers to that!