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Barrydale Cellars does it again

We discovered this little gem a few days ago, an answer to our prayers if you will, because just last week I made a mental note that we need to get grappa urgently as my last drop of Dalla Cia Grappa was finally had. Enter the team at Barrydale Cellars

Building on the Klein Karoo’s legendary distilling prowess, Barrydale Cellars launches Joseph Barry Husk Spirit, a welcome addition to the region’s rich bounty. “Husk spirit – or grappa as it’s known in Italy – is gaining ground world-wide as a trendy lifestyle drink,” says Riaan Marais, CEO of Southern Cape Vineyards. “That’s why we are delighted to bring a husk spirit of the highest quality, made in the grappa-style, to the South African drinks market.” (Protected by European Union regulations only grappa made wholly in Italy can be referred to as grappa).

The tall, elegant bottle with its frosted finish and splash of red of the cap is a fitting interlude to the crystal-clear spirit within. From the first fiery smoothness to the long finish it shows why the Klein Karoo is heralded as the heartland of distilling. The single cultivar Joseph Barry Husk Spirit is made from the softly pressed skins and husks of Shiraz grapes; the juices slow-distilled to capture the essence of the grape. The region is known for both its long-standing traditions and new ideas. “Not only has the distiller’s craft been perfected here over the centuries, the master distillers from Barrydale Cellars have created Joseph Barry Cape Pot Still Brandy Ten, crowned at the International Wine and Spirits Competition as the Worldwide Best Brandy”, according to Marais. “We bring the same passion and respect for the distiller’s art to Joseph Barry Husk Spirit.”

Master distiller Ferdie Smit describes Joseph Barry Husk Spirit as intriguingly nutty, pointing to the Shiraz grapes from vineyards around Barrydale. “Also showing on the nose is a hint of raisin. To the palate it brings almonds, walnuts and a peppery spiciness; and unmistakeably also grape seed oils, one of the hallmarks of a high-quality grappa-style spirit.” Harmoniously rounded, the taste is followed by a long, intense finish, he continues. “Add a drop of water and the rich viscous nature of the spirit is released.”

The highbrow husk spirits/grappas of today are worlds apart from its rustic roots in Italy’s northern territories way back in the Middle Ages, with some sources claiming that monks have been making it since the 11th century. Grappa, named after Bassano del Grappa, a town in Northern Italy now seen is its spiritual home, started its spirited life as a crude drink, inventively made by peasants from the leftover grape pomace. Vastly improved over time, the turning point came in the 1960s and ‘70s when grappa entered its modern era refined and sophisticated – inspiring a new generation to come to love what was once quite a ruffian.

The upmarket packaging of the Joseph Barry Husk Spirit reflects the excellence within. Eduard Haumann of Haumann Smal Design Studio in Stellenbosch took design inspiration for the packaging and label design from the 19th century Overberg business entrepreneur Joseph Barry, after whom Barrydale has been named. “We wanted to capture the dynamic, strong identity of this legendary figure in a fresh modern manner. The tall shape of the bottle portrays confidence and elegance, while the ethereal frosted look hints at chilling the spirit. Enjoying Joseph Barry Husk Spirit: Part of Joseph Barry Husk Spirit’s charm lies in its versatility. It can be enjoyed neat, well-chilled straight from the freezer, but not frozen. “Keep in mind that with an alcohol level of 43% and the concentrated flavours, a small sip goes a long way,” heeds Smit. He recommends that the best way to drink it is in a small tulip-shaped stemmed grappa glass, which helps focus the flavours towards the nose. Drop in a few coffee beans, or – as is the Klein Karoo custom – serve with zesty lemon peel. Serve before dinner as an aperitivo or after dinner as a digestivo (after-dinner drink).

Not limited to dinner-time, caffè corretto (literally ‘corrected coffee’ made by adding a splash to an espresso) is a great pick-me-up. Also worth pursuing is the Venetian tradition of ‘rasentin’, which entails ‘rinsing’ a near-empty cup of espresso with a splash of husk spirit, swirling and downing it in one sip. Husk spirit has also become a fashionable spirit for cocktails, muddled with apple and fresh ginger or with strawberries; or shaken up with triple sec and lemon juice. Sgroppino – a cocktail-dessert of lemon sorbet and mint whisked together with sparkling wine and husk spirit makes for a stylish summer refresher.

It also combines well with chocolates, creamy desserts and fresh berries. For a cheese course with a difference try husk spirit with a strong, well-matured cheese and mostarda di frutta, a condiment made of candied fruit in a mustard syrup. Joseph Barry Husk Spirit can also be used to cure salmon or to give ice cream a quick lift. A tot can be added to meat sauces, cutting through the richness of roasts.