Dry January is upon us, and if you’re one of the brave souls who’s forgoing alcohol this month, know that it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to drinking tap water for 31 days. NA options are increasingly impressive, including a few of the products from ISH, a Danish/German/Austrian operation with the tagline “the mindful drinking company.”
ISH doesn’t elaborate on its production processes except to say it uses “different techniques” to make them — and most do have a small amount of residual alcohol, implying that at least some of them do begin with the real deal (the wines do for sure), then have the alcohol taken out.
Here’s a look at a cross-section of ISH’s offerings.
Chateau del ISH Alcohol-Removed Sparkling Rose – Right away, this nonvintage wine certainly smells the part, with a surprising yeastiness on the nose and notes of fresh berries and flowers. The first rush on the palate is quite sweet — almost like a traditional sparkling grape juice — but to my great surprise this is well tempered with a little time in glass. In short order, the wine drinks much more authentically, with a brisk, lightly sour body, ample strawberry notes, and a slight citrus edge later in the game. A modest fizz hangs around for longer than expected, leading to a clean, gently sweet finish. All told, this is the first NA wine that I’ve had that could potentially pass for the real deal. A- / $24
ISH London Botanical Spirit – A faux gin made with juniper, coriander, bitter orange, and black pepper. There’s a certain laundry soap quality to the nose here, strongly hinting at lavender, with elements of rosemary and juniper really spicing things up. Non-alcoholic spirits have a lot of tricks to give them “bite,” but this one’s new to me. On the palate, that black pepper does that work, all but washing away any other flavor from the experience. The gritty finish sees fine-ground pepper clinging to the back of the throat — which emulates the burn of a navy proof gin only fitfully. I get what they were going for here, but it doesn’t really land. C- / $31
ISH Non-Alcoholic Spritz – A bright orange NA Spritz, made with sugar, gentian, orange, lemon, quassia, and capsicum extract. The pepper influence works a lot better here, and combined with the very bitter gentian, this comes across a lot like an Italian aperitivo, if not exactly a classic Spritz. The concoction could use more citrus flavor to it, and a garnish doesn’t hurt, either. A little melted ice improves the entire situation, though the finish feels overly peppery and a bit flat. Not a bad effort, but I couldn’t drink more than one. B / $5 per 8.4oz can
ISH Non-Alcoholic Mojito – Closer to a can of Sprite than you might think or want (or maybe you do), this comes across like a minty, citrus soft drink, well sweetened and plenty fizzy. Nothing at all not to like here, but any sense of rum is only just a vague suggestion via a slight hint of molasses in the mix and a sprinkle of baking spice notes. Unlike everything else in this lineup, the mojito feels like something that you could easily make yourself with soda, lime, and what’s available in your spice rack. Would it be worth the trouble, though? B+ / $5 per 8.4oz can