The Eighty Six Company introduced four new products in 2012 and poured them in Oregon for the first time Sunday night: Fords Gin, Caña Brava Rum, Aylesbury Duck Vodka, and Tequila Cabeza. The event, part of Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW), was titled “86 Co at The Common for The Calm before the Storm”. Eighty Six Company says that their products are designed by bartenders for bartenders, and one thing this means is that they are designed to be mixed in cocktails. I was able to sample all four, and to try the Gin and the Rum in cocktails.
The tasting, at The Cleaners (in the Ace Hotel), was open to PDXCW students and pass-holders. It opened with a short tasting and presentation by founder Simon Ford to a small crowd that grew rapidly as latecomers arrived. Simon told some war stories about bringing his four new products to market. Eighty Six had listed all of the ingredients and proportions on the labels, and it turns out that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) does not allow it. Product launches were delayed six months, some labels physically on bottles were altered by employees with Sharpies, and most labels had to be redesigned.
Aylesbury Duck Vodka’s label says it is “certified clean, odorless, & tasteless” and it almost lives up to its billing; it’s very smooth, having only enough of a burn to let you know it contains alcohol. The name Aylesbury Duck is actually a take-off on another avian-themed Vodka. The name was selected because the Aylesbury Duck is described as “the noblest of woodland birds.” Nobler than, say, a goose. Although the label is semi-satirical, it was the only one approved by the TTB without modification.
The products are ingredient flavor forward (except, of course, for the Vodka) so that they may be tasted when mixed in cocktails. They are very mixable, and the cocktails I sampled were delicious. They are manufactured by four different distillers, each expert in their own liquor.
Fords Gin is excellent, nice and smooth with no burn. The blend of notes from the botanicals and florals is very pleasing, and the oils give it a good feel. It makes a damn fine Negroni. Caña Brava Rum, while it is a light Rum, is not a Rum flavored Vodka. Bartenders told Simon that they wanted old style Rums (similar to Havana Club) that would make an excellent classic Daiquiri. It is fashioned after the Rums that were being made 90 years ago, and is a little reminiscent of a Rhum Agricole. It verges on the sweet without getting there, and has some nice fruit in the finish. Tequila Cabeza is a nice Blanco, earthy with a strong hit of agave accompanied by a hint of citrus, that I can’t wait to try in a Margarita.