The Arbuturian runs a tight ship. With Jonesy on the bridge, every Jolly Jack Tar among us knows our place, our position, our role and our routine. But, one late summer afternoon, at approximately 3.12pm, ‘tight’ was the operative word; among the gamut of sample products that graced our in-tray, we came across one item that stole our attention for the rest of the afternoon: a bottle of Black Moth truffle vodka.
It had arrived innocently enough, delivered in a jiffy bag with a note from the producers simply asking us to try it and tell them what we thought. Stirls pulled the bottle from the bag and placed it in the middle of the table. Striking in its design, the bottle had a sultry, enigmatic quality reflecting the drink within, as we would soon find out.
“It says here,” Stirls began, “Black Moth truffle vodka,” and barely got through the PR blurb before another voice rent the air. “Truffle?!” barked Jonesy. “Did someone say truffle?” And with that, he charged out of his office, snatched the bottle up from the table and gave it the once over, his brow creased in concentration. “Right, everyone, listen up!” he said, cracking the seal. “Down tools and get over here. We must try this immediately!”
I’m not entirely sure how a set of shot glasses came to be in the building but fortunately they were and thus passed around. To do justice to the sampling, giving it the broadest spectrum possible, everyone in the office had a snifter. Ten were present that day: Jonesy, Stirling, yours truly, Biggles, Miss York, Senter Esq., Girl Thursday, Joycey, Sophie, and some chap called Tom we don’t really know. Some of us know our poisons well, some don’t, some are particular, others are happy to diversify. All told, an eclectic bunch representing a fair cross-section of society. At least those able to afford the £35 price tag, I’m sure.
True, it’s customary to chill vodkas before serving them, but I’d like to think we were making an effort to put it through its paces in various conditions, hence our considering it worth a go at room temperature. On reflection, however, I reckon we were keener just to give it a go off the bat.
Jonesy pulled the cork stopper. He sniffed the bottle, raised an eyebrow, and then poured a generous measure apiece before heading over to the galley kitchen to put the bottle in the freezer.
There were a few tentative sniffs to start. “You definitely get the truffle,” said Girl Thursday, “behind the vodka.”
“There’s a juxtaposition there that doesn’t feel right,” offered Stirls, “but I think that’s only because I don’t expect it.”
“I’ve got work to do,” said Miss York, and downed her glass. Her eyes widened. “Crikey, that wakes you up.”
Biggles thought it “delicious”, remarking that he’s not normally a vodka man, certainly not a straight one (vodka, that is, not man), “but this I would happily sip as one would a whisky.” He concluded it was an acquired taste, even a little unusual, but the truffle complemented it nicely, “lifting it out of the realm of the cheap crap that one necks at stag weekends.”
“Never mind the truffle,” interjected Joyce, “the vodka itself is pretty special stuff. It’s as clean as a whistle.”
The clarity is not surprising; Black Moth, the brainchild of vodka connoisseur Paul Amin, is five-times distilled and triple-filtered and it’s these processes that ensure its purity. Given the subtleties and delicacy of the truffle, any impurities in the vodka would mar one’s appreciation of that truffle flavour. To enhance the vodka and distinguish it from the flavoured staples cluttering every bar, enter stage left the truffle expert, Dr Paul Thomas. Well, not so much stage left, more camera left, for Amin, in his search to find the flavour to grace the liquor, encountered Thomas by chance, on television.
Infusing vodka with truffles would cause, one might imagine, the flavours and subtleties to be cancelled out. Either that or it would afford the producers the opportunity to bastardise the vodka with some second-rate snuffled-up fungal import from China. Not so Black Moth. If the effort is being put into the vodka, then it must be complemented by the infusion. With that in mind, it’s the classic French black Perigord truffle that touches this liquor – called, funnily enough, Black Moth. Well, what do you know?
We then tried the vodka chilled. It’s delightful over ice, but our freezer must have been switched to Arctic levels because the chilling seemed to mute it somewhat. Personally, I found it almost too subtle. It was still on the nose but, sipping it, I was losing it slightly, struggling to get even a whisper of the flavour. But, then again, truffles have a pungent flavour; they’re used sparingly to enhance cooking so why not use sparingly to delicately flavour a drink?
As the tasting wore on, heads were starting to lighten. We lost two of our crew to pressing deadlines, Tom was given short shrift when we realised we didn’t even know who he was and the ladies ducked out for social engagements, which left Stirls, Biggles, Jonesy and me with one last task in mind: to test the drink’s mixing abilities.
A short walk over to Quo Vadis and two were teed up on the bar, courtesy of the club’s barkeep; vodka and tonic and a vodka Martini. A twist of lemon zest didn’t quite cut it for the Martini but the V&T was a delightful change to the norm. I do remember something missing from the Martini but, unfortunately, that’s as much as I can say at this stage since my notes were becoming a little thin on the ground and any sound bites I was recording from the chaps were becoming loud and garbled.
That said, two things occur to me as I pen this feature: firstly, an olive would have worked in that Martini; and secondly, Black Moth doesn’t feel like a drink. It’s a food. And that marks it out. If truffle oil enhances everything from scrambled egg to asparagus, so truffle vodka opens up a whole new school of mixology to cocktail barmen – and chefs.
So what should I happen to find when I peruse Black Moth’s own website? Their Martini features balsamic vinegar and that elusive olive, and they’ve already conjured up vodka-based recipes from risotto to sea bass. It must be the only drink in the world that could cross the bridge between aperitif and entrée and it’s given me an idea for a dinner party…
For more information, visit the Black Moth website.