An independent Welsh distillery has picked up a total of six stars at the 2021 Great Taste Awards, including the coveted 3-star rating which was awarded to less than 1.5% of the thousands of entries this year.
Silver Circle Distillery creates handmade craft spirits in the Monmouthshire village of Catbrook, deep in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Founded by Nina and Joe Howden in June 2019, they use local ingredients to create unique products which are often synonymous with their surroundings.
Their Damson Negroni is a small batch, pre-mixed cocktail made with a special blend of Vermouths, Wye Valley Gin and Campari, infused with ripe damsons from within a mile of the distillery.
It picked up the most coveted Great Taste Award, a three-star rating, which according to the awards themselves, signals ‘only extraordinarily tasty foods’. This year, there were only 118 food and drink products across every category in the whole of the UK which reached the top rating.
Of the Damson Negroni, one of the independent judges commented, “The complexity is remarkable; the balance of sweetness and bitterness continues to delight long after the final sip. We cannot think how this might conceivably be improved: we wondered about a more overt damson flavour but felt that nothing should disturb the perfect balance of tastes and aromatics here.”
Silver Circle’s Damson Negroni was originally developed as part of its ‘Small Batch Series’ – a way to try out new distillations and flavour combinations in smaller product runs. If a certain product from the Small Batch Series is particularly well received, it can go on to become one of Silver Circle’s permanent lines.
Another such product is the Black Garlic Vodka, which is made with black garlic, smoky lapsang souchong, and toast. The black garlic is slow roasted for weeks which removes the heat and leaves the vodka with a sweet yet umami flavour with hints of balsamic vinegar. It has become so popular for use in a Bloody Mary, that Silver Circle developed their own Ultimate Bloody Mary Kit.
The judges called the Black Garlic Vodka “a smooth drink with a sweetness that balances the umami, garlic note. Rounded, unusual and pleasantly surprising, we enjoyed the inclusion of tea which seemed to tie the flavours together.”
Finally, Silver Circle was also awarded one star for its best-selling product, Wye Valley Gin, which is distilled to showcase the unfamiliar yet delicious flavours of foraged botanicals which grow wild across the valley.
The Great Taste judges said that the gin “stood out for having a bit of personality – great to see in such an over-saturated category. The finish is slippery and textured and it leaves you wanting more. Well-made and intriguing.”
Silver Circle will now be able to display the unmistakable black and gold Great Taste logo on all three products, putting Nina and Joe’s flair for unique and interesting distillations firmly on the craft spirits map.
Of the new accolades, Joe said “Our ethos has always been to follow our instincts and put flavour first. We are producing spirits which are exciting to us, and we’re not scared to do something unusual as long as it tastes good, so we’re over the moon that Great Taste has recognised these products and given them such amazing ratings!”