New Hampshire’s Tamworth Distilling, the company behind graveyard tree-sap infused rye, crab whiskey, and a famed venison-flavored whiskey, is back with yet another novelty, this time a brandy, infused with the flavor of smoked trout. Or, more accurately, a trout distillate flavored with apple brandy. No typo.
The 2023 Food & Wine Drinks Innovator of the Year didn’t go far for the inspiration behind his newest innovation. Grasse’s rural New Hampshire distillery, located at the foothills of the White Mountains, butts right up to the picturesque Swift River, which is home to a dwindling population of wild Brook Trout, the New Hampshire state fish.
“I was enjoying a glass of Tamworth Garden VSOP Apple Brandy and watching the anglers fly fish in the backyard of the distillery and I started thinking about how we could follow the viral sensation that was Crab Trapper,” said Grasse. “And that’s where the idea was born to use trout as a flavor agent — in order to combine our unique approach to wilderness-inspired flavors with our team’s unwavering commitment to honoring and preserving the wilds of New England.”
House of Tamworth Saison De Frai – Smoked Trout Flavored Brandy joins The House of Tamworth lineup of rare and evocative limited-release spirits and debuts November 17th. $1 from each bottle sold will benefit Trout Unlimited and their mission of keeping our country’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds safe from environmental threats for this and future generations of anglers to enjoy. It also supports the distillery’s quest to care for, and recover, the Swift River and restore its thriving population of wild and native trout.
House of Tamworth Saison De Frai starts out as a distillate made from responsibly farmed smoked and brined Riverence Trout. The smoked trout is infused with brandy and is then distilled on Tamworth’s large rotary vacuum still until the ideal smoked trout essence is achieved. That trouty tipple is then blended with the distillery’s acclaimed Tamworth Garden VSOP Apple Brandy (aged at least 4 years) which is made from heirloom New Hampshire apples grown at one of the oldest active orchards in the United States. This unique combination creates an aroma profile of apple with bits of maple, smoke, oak, and a hint of river funk that presents a flavor of sweet maple and apple on the front, with just a hint of trout at the end. This culminates in what Grasse describes as the “perfect embodiment of New Hampshire terroir.”
Each bottle of Saison De Frai is topped with a small scoop of trout roe that has been carefully preserved in apple brandy, adding an exciting visual element to the liquid — similar to tapioca pearls in bubble tea. The roe imparts additional fresh trout flavor into the brandy and although the egg husks are completely edible, they have completed their role by the time the bottle is cracked open for consumption. The bottles are adorned with a trout shaped label and a hand-tied Royal Coachman Hookless Practice Fly, making it the perfect gift for any avid angler.
OK, you got the picture? Let’s get into it.
Expectations for a product like this are always tough to manage, and I expected a big, fishy quality to jump out at me on the nose. That didn’t happen (mercifully): Saison De Frai is actually quite fruity, the apple brandy making a substantial and immediate impact, punctuated with secondary notes that are closer to caramel and baking spice than anything from the sea. There’s something of a ruddy, slightly sandy quality to the nose, but again I would not peg it as fishy, at least at first.
On the palate the trout comes into focus, but again, it’s smoked trout, so not classically fishy but rather smoky and savory, with a “this would taste great on a bagel” quality to it. Notes of apple are in the mix but are soon drowned out by this flavor, which grows and grows in strength, eventually dominating the glass. Notes of caraway and dill feel like natural companions, the finish getting a little oniony and, finally, more fishy than I’d probably like.
Products like this are, of course, novelties first and foremost — but there’s something strangely enjoyable about Saison De Frai. I drank more than I expected I would, returning to the minuscule bottle a couple of times during the evening, and thinking about A River Runs Through It.
I keep wondering, though: Is it wrong to ask for a side of cream cheese?
B+ / $65 (200ml) / tamworthdistilling.com