I sample the range of small-batch liqueurs by mysterious Sussex-based alchemists Marvolio’s Nostrums
Marvolio’s Nostrums’ ornate, if slightly bewildering, website describes a nostrum as “A favourite, if ineffective, remedy for ailments and evils”. Sounds like a suitable alternative definition for all alcoholic drinks.
However, the identity of these nostrums’ inventor, The Great Marvolio, remains elusive. All we’re told is that he’s a “potion-making quack doctor” who makes “tinctures of no medicinal benefit”. A charismatic peddler of elixirs and snake oils, by the sound of it.
Despite his shadowy profile, Marvolio’s aim is clear: to make straight spirits more approachable to non-spirit drinkers. The lovely Victorian-style apothecary bottles containing his trio of tipples get things off to an enticing start. But this is no case of style over content: all three of Marvolio’s Nostrums won medals at the 2018 IWSC Awards. It seems he’s a magician of sorts, this Mr Marvolio…
Although they can be employed in cocktail form, Marvolio’s Nostrums are ideally sipped neat. So that’s exactly how I tested them… in my steampunk laboratory, surrounded by vials of luminous, bubbling liquid and jars of exotic creatures preserved in formaldehyde. Yeah ok, it was my living room, surrounded by wine bottles, a record player and a PlayStation 4.
Here are the conclusions of my research…
The clue’s in the name here. A blend of whisky and ginger, the Whinger puts the emphasis on the ginger’s kick, rather than the whisky’s alcohol burn or the sugary caress offered by most ginger ales. In addition to the whisky and ginger, it has a soothing botanical edge.
Marvolio’s serving suggestions include lemonade and tonic, but I’d definitely have it short and neat, over ice. Musically, it paired well with the John Coltrane track that was playing at the time of testing.
This is stronger in the throat than the other two, whisky based, offerings. The tequila’s familiar salty “agave” cactus smell is immediately apparent, but it’s backed by a sweet honey burn. Combined with flavours of herbs, chilli and citrus, it reminds me of the honey and lemon cough sweets known as Lockets.
The Tequilomile would make the perfect margarita base for anyone who finds full-strength tequila a touch too “in your face”.
The compound-noun theme continues with just about my favourite of the three: an adorably complex fusion of licorice, aniseed, toffee, Arabica coffee and silky malt Scotch. The sum of all these parts brings to mind another brand of sweets: Toffos. Remember, as a kid, finding a half-melted Toffo covered in fluff in the pocket of your duffle coat? Oh, maybe that was just me then.
Serving suggestions include enjoying it long with fresh lime and tonic, or topped with cream for a White Whiskoffy. Again, I’d go straight over ice. An ideal autumn warmer, whichever way you take it. I’d have spelled it Whiskoffee, though.
Marvolio’s Nostrums are available at Majestic Wine, Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt. £24.95 per 500ml. 20% volume.
See marvolios.com for further details