Guide to making blackberry whisky

One of the great joys of the autumn season are blackberries, or brambles as they are known in Scotland and north England.

blackberries-whisky

Searching for and picking blackberries is a happy pastime, especially for city dwellers like me normally too ignorant and afraid to go anywhere near any other edible wild berries, flowers or mushrooms. So every autumn I am found foraging in hedgerows, neglected park corners and canal paths while carefully avoiding the al fresco drinking spots of wild drinking (always assume that the contents of a pile of empty drinking cans will have found their way into the nearby blackberry bushes in one way or another).It’s a satisfying and content moment heading home through an autumnal red and gold sunset, hands smarting with briar scratches and stained with purple-red bramble juice, with a bag full of dark fruit ready to be turned into puddings, jams and sauces.

One of the best and easiest things to do with blackberries is make blackberry whisky. This recipe came from my old friend Ed Cannon who runs the excellent and long-established Langthorns Plantery and garden centre in Essex, and is frequently producing all kinds of fruit-steeped alcohol such as strawberry vodka or damson gin.

The result is bottles of beautifully coloured deep black purple-red liquid in a variety of old bottles slowly drank through the rest of the year with often a bottle reserved for the Christmas table. Even my wife, who like many a proud Scot hates whisky and the sound of bagpipes, is mystified by the concept of munro bagging and avoids the Highlands at all costs, loves her seasonal blackberry whisky.

Blackberry whisky

800g of blackberries (wild are best for depth of flavour but supermarket will do the trick, as will any frozen blackberries)

600g of sugar

1 litre whisky (decent blended whisky like Famous Grouse is good enough. Don’t use gut rot cheap stuff or expensive malts.)

Since using the original recipe I have refined it by using less sugar as I prefer it less sweet. I now use 400g of sugar per 1 litre whisky and you could possibly use even less depending on the sweetness of the berries; wild berries tend to be more tart than supermarket.

Put all into a jar or a bottle and shake daily (or every now and then) for at least a month. Some keep it for a year but if you shake it every few days for a month or two it will still produce that deep, rich, luscious taste.

Bottle and drink neat or mixed with apple juice! That’s seriously it for the nectar of autumn.

Once you have finished with the remains of the steeped fruit you can use it to make Christmas chutney.

Steeping other fruits

Since making blackberry whisky I have also made raspberry gin (same recipe as above but use 200g as raspberries are so sweet), damson gin, fig vodka and vodka with vanilla essence and cinnamon sticks. You can also try mixing vodka with the sugar and zest of fruit like oranges and grapefruit.

Half the fun is having strange potions and bottles brewing and steeping in the cupboard. The other half is of course drinking it and using it for cocktails. Friends and I have occasionally toyed with the idea of forming a seasonal quarterly evening club to imbibe and toast the fruits of our steeping labours. One day…

Never doubt the genius of the British for inventing a social occasion for a drink or a drink for a social occasion.

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Guide to making blackberry whisky

  1. Thanks for the wonderful idea. We live in Washington State USA and there are “blackberries aplenty” at this time of year. Have a nice middling Scotch Whiskey and plan to do this soon. Happy blogging.

    Like

  2. Nice Cockers.

    I can remember night walking with you at school, when we headed into the village and met up with a few others at someone’s house. We drank some blackberry drink. I clearly drank too much and was in conversation with the porcelain god later on. I wonder if I could stomach blackberry whisky all these years on.?

    Just met someone whose son writes blogs on Gin…http://www.dudekicker.com/

    Blue Ruin: Caorunn Caorunn is a Scottish gin made in the London Dry style at a Scotch whisky distillery. It is made with eleven botanicals. Six of these are part of the standard array of gin botanicals (although not listed, these appear to include cardamom, orris root, and perhaps angelica). The remaining five are roman berry, bog myrtle, heather, dandelion, and coul blush apple. It is bottled at 83.6 proof.

    Caorunn is a light to medium bodied gin. Bright in profile, but floral and soft around the edges. Of the five novel botanicals, it is the apple that comes through the clearest to my palate, although it does not dominate the other, traditional, botanicals. Notes of cinnamon are also present along with a lingering but otherwise light earthiness on the finish.

    In a martini, the apple flavors come through a little too strongly, giving it a slightly apple-vinegary flavor (this could be a plus for some folks). Caorunn is otherwise fairly balanced for mixing purposes. It seems to cry out for a more herbal treatment as opposed to mixing with citrus. It makes a very pleasent gin and tonic an impressively tasty pink gin.

    Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2013 22:01:50 +0000 To: nick_lawrie@hotmail.com

    Like

    • Hello Nick!
      I can’t remember that particular occasion but I can certainly remember the feeling of overdoing it so much on cheap brandy on a similar escapade that I couldn’t drink it for years.

      Banish the porcelain god incident and get cracking with it when the season comes. You and Mrs Lawrie will be enjoying Connecticut winter evenings drinking it as you talk about the old ways in the old countries.

      I shall go and look at that blog about gin. Looks interesting.

      Like

  3. Update: I succumbed to temptation and, having picked a bunch of brambles from the side of our road, now have a jar of this on the go. Quite looking forward to sampling it in the dark winter evenings 😉

    Like

  4. You’ve made me want to try making some of these. I need to advance from sloe gin.
    Thanks for liking my Forgiveness Window poem. Please return soon for some more verse to have with your liqueurs.

    Like

    • Absolutely. I picked a whole load this autumn, froze them straight away and then thawed them out a couple of weeks later when I was ready to make the whisky. Best batch I have made so far although that’s because the blackberries were very good this year. You shouldn’t go wrong. Good luck and enjoy!

      Like

    • I agree! It is a lovely autumn, fun sort of word isn’t it. Probably because they are so associated with exploring the countryside and hedgerows looking for them. Try as soon as you get hold of some.

      Like

  5. I detest whisky however having been given a bottle for free decided to gamble on a bramble whisky and oh my god! It’s delicious!! It doesn’t smell like whisky and doesn’t taste like whisky, it’s well worth a go.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s