Today is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Mooncake Festival. And since the moon is a prominent feature during this festival, I decided to have a little bit of fun with moon-related drinks and events this week.
When I was researching ‘moon’ and ‘alcohol’, one word came up constantly – moonshine.
Moonshine is the term used to describe distilled spirits that were illegally made and sold. These days, however, moonshine is now a legal spirit category in the United States, and used to describe a spirit that is technically “clear, unaged whiskey”.
The term moonshine itself is apparently derived from the term “moonrakers”, which was the name for early smugglers and illegal distillers who produced whiskey at night to avoid detection by the authorities.
Speaking of spirits distilled at night, I recently came across a new Spanish gin called Alkkemist, which is apparently distilled under the light of the full moon!
According to its official website, Alkkemist Gin is distilled through a ‘strict methodology’ when the “influence of the moon is bigger”, which happens “12 times a year”.
What this actually does to the gin or whether it actually influences its flavour is debatable, but what I know for sure is that this is actually a pretty good gin.
The gin is a Spanish Mediterranean gin with a triple-distilled grain spirit base, and infused with 21 different botanicals, including Muscat grape, alongside orange and lemon peel, rose petals, samphire, fennel, thyme and mint, among others.
The Muscat grape influence is the first thing you notice with this gin – that sweet, floral, citrus flavour wafts up to your nose beautifully, giving way to a gentle, almost silky palate of lemon peel, grapes and a hint of rose. This is a lovely gin to have with a gin and tonic, or even neat.
You can get Alkkemist Gin at Wholly Spirits Retail in Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.
From gin, we move on to beer. Or rather, beer-infused mooncakes.
The Beer Factory (TBF) recently collaborated with Guinness to create a unique limited-edition treat for this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival – a Guinness-infused black snowskin mooncake!
To be honest, black isn’t exactly the colour I usually associate with mooncakes, but it’s Guinness after all, so let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.
The charcoal snowskin crust pretty much tastes like a typical snowskin mooncake, but it’s the filling that sets this one apart.
Flavoured with Guinness stout and chocolate, the rich and smooth lotus seed paste filling is a little sweet at first but the slight hint of bitterness of the Guinness does come through.
This probably works best when you pair it with a nice sip of Guinness on the side though, as the rich bitterness of the beer will help balance out the sweetness better.
Priced at RM45 each, or RM80 for two, you can purchase the mooncakes at any TBF outlet in Peninsular Malaysia (except TBF Cyberjaya) between now until September 13, while stocks last.
Whisky and mooncake
Still on the subject of mooncakes, drinks distributors Drinks Alliance and drinks portal ThirstMag recently organised a unique event at Pullman KLCC’s Blu Bar & Cigar, which paired single malt whiskies from independent whisky bottlers A.D. Rattray with mooncakes from the hotel’s Red Chinese Cuisine restaurant.
At the tasting, we paired four types of mooncakes (Bamboo Charcoal Paste with Macadamia Nut and Raisin, Coffee and Chocolate Chip and Snow Skin with Roselle and Strawberry Paste) with four A.D. Rattray Single Malts – Cask Islay, Cask Orkney 18YO (Limited Edition), Stronachie, and a mystery dram that turned out to be a 20YO cask-strength whisky from the Inchgower Distillery.
Now, whisky and mooncake may seem like a strange combination, but surprisingly, it worked. The range of A.D. Rattray whiskies, for me, were great session whiskies that could also serve as an introduction to Scotch for the uninitiated.
The Cask Islay and Cask Orkney, for instance, were perfect examples of the regions they represent. The former’s smokier nature did well with the richer mooncakes like Coffee and Chocolate Chip, while the Cask Orkney’s hint of smoke and maritime influences worked with the Bamboo Charcoal Paste with Macadamia Nut and Raisin mooncake.
My favourite whisky and mooncake of the day, however, had to be the Stronachie Single Malt.
The Stronachie is actually a recreation of a 1904 whisky from the closed Stronachie Distillery, with delicate, light floral and fruity notes that went beautifully with the Snow Skin with Roselle and Strawberry Paste mooncake.
You can get the mooncakes from Pullman KLCC, and you can check out Drinks Alliance’ Facebook page for more information on the whiskies.
Moon Dog beer
Now, let’s go back to beer again. I recently discovered a new favourite craft beer at Taps Beer Bar – the Moon Dog Splice Of Heaven Pine-Lime Ice Cream IPA.
Yes, the beer really is as good as the title suggests, full of wonderfully tropical flavours like pineapple and lime, and a creamy, mouth-coating palate that is like drinking liquid ice-cream on a hot summer’s day.
Moon Dog is an Australian craft brewery that also produces a core range that comprises the Moon Dog Lager, the Old Mate Pale Ale, and the Mack Daddy Dark Ale.
Unfortunately, the Splice Of Heaven Pine-Lime Icecream IPA is currently unavailable, but you can probably get the other beers from craft beer bars such as Taps, Farmer’s Bar, Ales And Lagers, and The Great Beer Bar as well.