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Culture: There’s Something Fishy About This Smoked Trout-Flavored Brandy

Culture: There’s Something Fishy About This Smoked Trout-Flavored Brandy

Although we’re serious about spirits, not every bottle is meant to be taken super-seriously. With that in mind, here’s the latest in an occasional series of reviews of the weird, wild and whimsical spirits that sometimes cross our desk.

These casual reviews aren’t intended to replace the more rigorous tasting standards we employ across the year. But sometimes, we just want to have a little fun—and we bet you do, too.

The most curious bottle to recently come across my desk? A craft brandy infused with smoked trout.

To be fair, we knew what we were getting into. After all, New Hampshire’s Tamworth Distilling has made a name with its “House of Tamworth” line of experimental, game-y spirits, including Eau de Musc (made with beaver castoreum), the venison-infused Deerslayer Whiskey and Crab Trapper, a bourbon infused with green crab. This one, which debuts November 17, features brook trout, the New Hampshire state fish.

It has a noble purpose: $1 from each bottle sold will benefit Trout Unlimited, which protects the nation’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds from environmental threats. (Of note, the Tamworth distillery abuts the Swift River, home to a dwindling trout population.)

The petite 200-ml bottle arrives with a bristly fish lure wrapped around its neck and the closure encased in soft, salmon-hued wax. It takes a minute to realize the label is cleverly shaped like a fish.

What’s in the bottle is a distillate infused with sustainably-farmed smoked and brined Riverence Trout (via a rotary vacuum still), blended with Tamworth’s VSOP apple brandy.

It pours a bright amber hue and smells like vanilla and baked apple, notes that echo on the palate. It’s a bit fiery at 90 proof, so it makes sense to dose it with water—and that’s when the brandy begins to transform.

The liquid significantly brightens, light glinting off it, shimmering like the scales of a fish under water. Salted butterscotch, subtle smoke and an umami note (“a hint of river funk,” Tamworth says) emerge, along with… a distinctly fishy exhale. Just the power of suggestion? Another sip confirms: Oh, no. It is not.

Lifting the bottle to the light, small brown globules are visible, sunk to the bottom. Peppercorns? Allspice berries? No: “boba-style fish eggs,” aka trout roe preserved in apple brandy.

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“The roe imparts additional fresh trout flavor into the brandy,” the company says. “Although the egg husks are completely edible, they have completed their role by the time the bottle is cracked open for consumption.”

Indeed, the roe is tough, chewy and tasteless—quite unlike glossy, delicately salty-sweet caviar that’s such a delight when fresh.

Is this a bottle we’d recommend? Not necessarily, except to the bravest and most pescatarian among us. We salute the conservation mission, but this isn’t one we’ll be pouring again anytime soon.

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