The marriage between coffee and booze is rock solid. The craft-beer industry has tested it with wintry, coffee-infused stouts and ales. And the Espresso Martini has become so popular it’s tantamount to a national drink at this point.
The result? Blasphemy.
“When I first tried it I thought, ‘this is pretty fucking good’,” says founder of Archie Rose, Will Edwards, laughing. “That might sound like a strange thing to say. But when you’re trying something unusual like this, that’s what you’re shooting for. Because sometimes you can end up in a place that’s great but a bit odd at the same time.”
Blasphemy is an Archie Rose single-malt whisky infused with two St Ali coffee blends, Orthodox and Wide Awake. And while the mashup was named with tongues firmly planted in-cheek, Edward says the odd pairing of whisky and coffee was a serious, albeit rewarding challenge.
“We tested every possible combination, and what I mean by that is, we’ve obviously got the whisky and St Ali has the coffee. But they also have all the various iterations of the coffee,” explain Edwards.
Head distiller Dave Withers and his team trialled infusing whole beans, as well as different extraction methods (espresso, cold drip and cold brew) before landing on the winner.
“When [whisky] comes out of the cask, it will be somewhere in the 60 percent alcohol range. We’ll break that down, usually with reverse osmosis-filtered water to whatever the bottling strength is. And what we did was substitute coffee into the breakdown process,” says Edwards.
Orthodox, St Ali’s house espresso blend, was “hot-steeped” in water before being added; sort of like a batch brew. Wide Awake – the bolder of the two roasts – was cold-dripped to bring out its nuanced flavours of dark spice and molasses.
Coffee flavours were enhanced by Archie Rose’s “six malt mash bill”. That means six different malted barley varieties, processed and matured separately in order to fully-express each one’s unique flavour profile (the “single” in single malt refers to “one distillery” – not the number of malts being used).
So what does this unholy union taste like? When imbibed neat, expect notes of stewed apple, plum jam and fresh berries. There’s a good kick of amaretto and chocolate thanks to the addition of heavily-roasted chocolate malt. But Edwards says it's as much about what’s not in the glass.
“We’re so programmed to think that products like this are going to be sweet. So when you taste it and say ‘that’s a spirit’, it’s really refreshing,” he says.
“It doesn’t taste like you’ve got some whisky off your bar cart and made some cold drip and poured them together in a glass. It genuinely tastes like it was created as one coherent liquid.”
“I don’t think anyone’s made a coffee-whisky before. I don’t think anyone has made a good coffee-spirit blend before either – no disrespect to those who have,” says Edwards.
“I’m not talking about legit coffee liqueurs like Mr Black, which is great. I’m mean coffee tequilas and whiskeys with a tonne of sugar. They sit in this weird liqueur-spirit land, which isn’t really true to either liquid.”
And now to drink it? Over a big old rock of ice or in a Boulevardier cocktail, like a coffee-spiked Negroni.