You can’t beat marmalade and dried apricot on the nose if you wish to demonstrate your patriotism. A Rollo on the tongue is another nationalistic act.
Walthamstow is the home of the UK’s first dedicated brandy house. Using the only Charentais pot still ever to be imported into the UK, Burnt Faith super-premium, Burnt Faith Batch 001 uses four grape varieties – Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat Blanc. It is then matured and finished in four different woods – a cherry liqueur from Ukraine, which imparts the signature cherry cola notes of the brandy, a Pineau Charentes cask, a French aperitif, along with Spanish brandy and bourbon barrels.
The bottle, designed by the creative agency Contagious, boasts a “regal purple” glass stopper and embossed label. Recycled glass is used, minimising the carbon footprint.
The pioneering new urban distillery is set on the site of an old-Pentecostal church, which also helped to inspire the brand name, Burnt Faith.
Founder Mark Wright, who started his career at Anheuser-Busch, before working in marketing for Greene King, says:
“The term brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning burnt wine.”
He founded Hawkes Cider, which was acquired by BrewDog in 2018. Former Sipsmith’s man, Oliver Kitson, is master distiller and Jean Dominque Andreu is a non-executive director. He helped found brands like Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Plantation rum and Citadelle gin. Kitson also helped launch The Republic of Freemantle grape-to-bottle distillery in Western Australia.
“Our three-year journey was inspired by a trip to Cognac which triggered the seed of the idea for Burnt Faith. I left inspired, not by what Cognac brands are but more by what they could never be. Compared to most spirit categories, there has been virtually no liquid innovation in brandy, especially as the appellation rules for Cognac keep production very traditional.”
Wright and his team were inspired to create a luxury British ‘brandy without boundaries’.
“As we aren’t restricted by the same laws as a Cognac, we don’t need to follow those rules. We’re free to unleash what we believe is the true potential of this category… using more aromatic grape varieties, explorative production techniques and cask finishes.”
Kitson, who studied Pharmacology at The University of Edinburgh, and has an MSc in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University, adds:
“We want Burnt Faith to drink like an XO, have the light, fruity floral top notes of a VS at the cost of a VSOP. But because we’re not trying to be a VSOP or XO we’re free to harness all the flavour and blur the lines between all aspects of the liquid. We can balance the treble and the bass in our mix to create something entirely new – not just copy something that already exists.”
“I’m really excited to play around and have some fun with the liquids, we can produce small one offs.
“It makes a great highball and is super refreshing mixed long but can also be used in a whole range of cocktails, we wanted it to sip like a single malt but also be as mixable as a great rum.”
To prepare a Burnt Faith Brandy Highball you will need 50ml Burnt Faith, some soda and an iIce sphere or filled with ice. Then fill a tall glass with ice, pour in 50ml of Burnt Faith Brandy and then add soda water. Drop in a wedge of grapefruit to garnish and then stir gently to combine the flavours and serve.
Distributed in the UK by Proof Drinks, Burnt Faith Brandy Batch 001: 70cl; ABV: 40% retails for £36.00 and is available to purchase from: www.burntfaith.com.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Burnt Faith