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taste.blas food and drink review 2020

Welsh Homestead Smokery

Life is too short to waste on mediocre bacon, so when you want the best look no further than this smokehouse in the Cambrian Mountains. They have got a mouth-watering selection to choose from, all thick, full of flavour and froth free in the pan. The more unusual flavours come from the Smoked Rum and Molasses Bacon, a stunning take on a sweet cure smoked bacon that's both rich and sweet without being overpowering. Surprisingly the velvety notes of the Smoked Chocolate Espresso Bacon are very subtle, leaving a darkly bitter and sweet taste. However, their definitive winner has to be the Smoked Honey Lamb Bacon. Proper Welsh lamb, which you can taste thanks to the care taken not to overpower the meat. A gentle sweetness comes with a wonderful flavour from proper honey too. Why hasn’t anyone done this before?

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Price: £6 for 100g

Aber Falls

After trying their excellent liqueurs last issue, we were delighted to have more Aber Falls gin creations arrive through our door. Orange Marmalade Gin is a stunning drink, very pleasant to sip neat as the gentle orangey tang and sweetness takes the edge off the natural dryness of the gin. The juniper and botanical comes later, for a very smooth and easy to wolf down drink. Mixing with a quality tonic like Llanllyr turns down the volume to create a rounded, complex G&T with plenty of subtle nuances. The Rhubarb and Ginger Gin meanwhile has a bit more fire to it when sipped neat thanks to the ginger. It mixes extremely well with the mellow tartness of the rhubarb. Once its complexity slowly reveals itself with notes of lemon, pine and juniper you'll find it's comfort food in a bottle!

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Price: £24.59 per 70cl

Parva Spices chilli sauces

While the ancient ruins of Tintern Abbey sit in the background, this Monmouthshire company's spices and sauces take more of a modern and international spin. With Great Taste awards to back them up the Parva Spices quartet of sauces all pack a subtle punch, but have a combination of 20 years' of knowledge and passion to make sure their flavour is what's most noteworthy. The Sweet Chilli Sauce comes in hot and medium varieties, with both packing fruity Asian flavour with smoky afters, while the slow-burning Shadow Tribe sauce peps up all manner of dishes with its pokes of garlic and red pepper. The most recent addition is the Ting, a real zesty take on Caribbean hot sauce, with plenty of pineapple and lime bite to mix with the heat of habanero pepper. Definitely something the Tintern monks would enjoy.

Price: £4.99

Trefaldwyn Cheese

We can't get enough of soft blue cheese, and that perfect meeting point between veiny, rich flavour and smooth continental texture. And this latest new offering from Montgomery not only comes with the kind of passionate story that ticks our interests, but also an excellent product. Former school teacher Clare Jones hung up her chalk for a curd knife, becoming her town's sole cheese maker, yet producing one of the best blue cheeses we've ever tasted on her first attempt. Using cow's milk from the mid-Wales area, the small batch Trefaldwyn has a real nutty bite and a sharp, lingering creaminess that melts away, while its soft disposition is just begging for it to accompany some delicious bread and grapes. Continually in development, the latest batch promises even more flavour and we can't wait to see if Clare is telling the truth.

Buy it from: A number of delis including Castle Kitchen, Montgomery, High Street Deli, Newtown and Broad Bean Deli, Ludlow

Price: £2 per 100g

Hallets Real Cider

Another Welsh product that's won acclaim far beyond our borders, these Crumlin cider aficionados attribute their success to keeping things simple. The beauty of the traditional methods, using local apples, means that each year's batch brings a different flavour. Yet year in year out Hallets Real Cider ends up being a quality product that's sought after across the country. A delicious, mellow flavour that's ideal for a warm summer's day, and the more discernible among you will be able to pick out peppery and cherry flavours among the glorious sweet apple. For those looking to tantalise their taste buds more, there's also a limited edition Oak Aged variety available. Matured in whisky barrels, it delivers a more intense flavour with an understandable waft of whisky that still has all the refreshing charm of the Hallet’s formula.

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Price: £30 for 12 x 500ml bottles

Ice Cube Tea

Just in time for summer, Lampeter's Ice Cube Tea boast that they are the #smartalternative. And if you're not acquainted with the refreshing taste of iced tea, there's enough within these four flavours. The traditional taste is given a jolt with the Iced Black Tea with Sicilian Lemon, a boost of botanic flavour that's complemented perfectly by the citrus blast. The more exotic Iced Thai Tea with Oriental Coconut Water blends animated flavour with the hydrating power of coconut water. Our favourite, the Iced Green Tea with Moroccan Mint, delivers an equally brisk effect that's the nearest to a Mojito you can get in soft drink form. Finally for a real alternative, the Iced Patagonian Tea with Yerba Mate brings Wales and South America together for a unique, flavourful thirst-quencher.

Buy it from: discover.delicious

Price: £7.60 for 4 x 275ml bottles

Inner City Pickle

From her kitchen in the Adamsdown area of Cardiff, Eira Ellis-Evans makes a huge selection of preserves using local ingredients with highlights like Roath Pear & Walnut Chutney and Heath Rhubarb Chutney. Among the more traditional offerings we were particularly fond of the extra buttery Lemon Curd that was unashamedly demolished in hours, and the Caramelised Red Onion Chutney that ticks both the sweet and savoury boxes with full marks. Jars aside, those of you who enjoy a decadent piece of pecan pie can have some with a cracking cup of the hot stuff at Cardiff Market's Hard Lines Coffee.

Buy it from: Roath Farmers' Market and Chapter Arts Centre's Pop Up Market

Price: From £3 per 200ml jar

Bragdy Twt

From the zany cartoons that adorn their bottles to the fact that one of their beers, the Horny Goat Ale, gets its name from the inclusion of a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction are proof these Trefforest brewers like to have fun. But when it comes to taste these renegades take it seriously, with the aforementioned ale the best marriage of Welsh and New Zealand since rugby player Gareth Anscombe, with the two countries' hops combining for a wistful golden number with a wash of citrus. Pretty Fly For A Magpie is their contender in the incredibly busy craft IPA market; Tŵti Ffrŵti raises eyebrows as the nearest you'll come to a fruit cocktail in a light ale; while the American IPA Crazy Peacock packs plenty of punch with its flavour and 4.8% ABV.

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Price: £3.25 per 330ml bottles

Bluestone Brewing Company

More than just a hard-working independent brewery, Newport Pembrokeshire's Bluestone are also fond of throwing a few summer parties where you can enjoy live music as well as their accomplished ales. And from the sampling of their dozen or so beers they certainly have a lot to make noise about. The rock solid Stone Cold IPA is brimming with plenty of fruity notes emitting from its frothy head, while the chocolatey goodness and slow, satisfying release from the Moonstone porter is a warming pick me up. Being coffee-addicts we were delighted with the coffee milk stout, Fossil Fuel, that's like an evening latte with its creaminess and espresso hit. Then there's the Red Of Heaven American red ale that packs as much as clout as the rugby shirt-adorned brute on the bottle.

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Price: £2.95 per 500ml bottle

The Pembrokeshire Beach Company herbs

A unique offering that encompasses rum, seasonings and a cafe on wheels that rocks up on Freshwater West Beach every spring and summer, the Pembrokeshire Beach Company is in a league of its own. As well as some delicious biscuits and seaweed-infused butter, the new Sea Herbs range gives you the chance to cook your own delicious seafood at home. The Sea Salt & Seaweed Mix is a basic combo of two salty treats from the Pembrokeshire waters that'll bring an extra element to any fish or meat on the grill, and the punchy Grassy Kelp is an ideal way to finish off a healthy salad or vegetable dish. Meanwhile open up the Dulse Seaweed and pouch for fragrant mixes that are a really flexible way for spicing up all manner of your favourite dishes.

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Price: £3.50 per 20g pouch

Siocled hot chocolates

This Aberystwyth warm-treat-enthusiast credits the key to her much-loved creations to simple recipes, letting the excellent Belgian chocolate itself do the heavy lifting. For the less adventurous, the dark Double Chocolate and regular Milk Chocolate are some of the most satisfying hot chocolates we’ve ever had. However, the fun comes when you think outside the box, with the Spiced Chocolate ideal to get in for next winter, the luxurious White Chocolate Caramel a real decadent treat, and the Dark and White Chocolate Mint flavours just the right side of the sickly scale. Connoisseurs should also check out the Dark Bitter packs which certainly live up to their billing with an intense, satisfying aftertaste. If you can’t decide which you want to try, Siocled do gift boxes with a selection to try.

Price: £2 per 40g sachet

Coedcanlas maple syrups

A delicious accompaniment to some pancakes and that Welsh homestead Smokery bacon, this Pembrokeshire company has brought a North American staple to Wales with excellent results. Named after their home parish, Coedcanlas also deal in delicious local honey, preserves and cakes, however it's their maple syrup that had us intrigued. Coming in Very Dark, Dark and Amber varieties, the syrups increase in depth for those who really want that authentic, maple taste. Using sap from nearby trees between the end of winter and spring will make the next batch prime seasonal pickings. Our personal choice is the all round sweetness of the medium, Dark variety, but don't give into pressure by neglecting the more delicate flavours of the breezy Very Dark bottle, with a vanillary smoothness that's ideal for both breakfast and evening sweet treats.

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Price: £10.45 for a 330g bottle

Welsh Lady preserves

For over half a century the Jones family of Pwllheli have been improving upon traditional recipes as well as experimenting with some exciting additions to their pantry. In particular we were fond of the range of curds, with the Lemon Curd living up to its billing as a two-time Great Taste Award Winner (again it barely touched the sides) and Orange Curd offering a more than suitable alternative to marmalade lovers. However, if you do like a bit of bite on your morning toast, their take on Gin & Tonic Marmalade is up there with the international award winners we reviewed last year. The voluptuous Mint Sauce proved a popular choice in our house over Christmas, while some of the more interesting additions that we were delighted to experience were the indulgent Blueberry Preserve and the left right combo of heat and alcoholic kick from the Whisky Mustard.

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Price: Around £2.95 per 300g jar

Purple Moose

More from our favourite Porthmadog brewers with a daft sense of humour, this time from their branch of craft beers. We loved the bravery of just how fruity the Antlered IPA is, going down so easily with a beautifully biscuity aftertaste. There's even a cheeky whiff of pine that comes out of the fluffy head that gets you salivating straight from the off. Then there's Mwsh, a Kölsch-style beer that will tempt in lager fans with its light, crisp taste and inviting pale colour, with enough cream and maltiness for the more discernible to enjoy. Again it goes down a treat, but not before you pick up a bit more fruity goodness and some tasty chocolatey notes to boot. As we've seen there's plenty of solid competition in the Welsh beer market.

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Price: £25.99 for 12x500ml bottles

White Castle Vineyard 1581

Named after the year the listed Monmouthshire barn where it's made was built, this is Wales' first fortified wine and can proudly give far more established ports a run for their money. Using an especially high-standard regent grapes from their 2014 harvests onwards, the White Castle Vineyard has aged a single barrel of the wine each year for four years before being unveiled. Naturally the 19%ABV does make itself known straight from the off, but there's a delicacy there to be appreciated, much like the other wines in the award-winning vineyard's selection. Blissfully sweet, there are boisterous amounts of blackcurrant on the pallet, making it an exquisite desert wine for any special occasion. Proof once again that our little country can produce spectacular products.

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Price: £25.50 per bottle

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