When whins [gorse] are out of bloom, Kissing's out of fashion. (1846 M. A. Denham Proverbs relating to Seasons)
Picture the scene. It’s the first flush of spring and I am walking the cliff path from Trevone to Padstow. After an austere winter, the feeling of the hot sun on my skin is like a mother’s caress to a fevered head. A light breeze is wafting fresh from the dark blue Atlantic ocean to my left. To my right is the beauteous rolling landscape of God’s own Cornwall. In front is the beautiful rear of my beautiful female companion. Surely a day cannot be more perfect? But wait, what is that enticing aroma? Light yet heady, intense yet subtle, earthy yet fragrant, my heart is ablaze. The aroma in question was the flowers of the banks of gorse which bordered the cliff path. I fell in love with the stuff that day.
It is impossible to accurately describe the aroma of gorse. To say it smells like coconut is to describe Beethoven’s 9th as a nice tune. Since that day I have been trying to use gorse in my beer to get at least a sense of that wonderful aroma, but like satisfaction and true happiness, my goal has evaded me. This time I am trying a new tack. I am brewing a barley wine without gorse. At the same time I am macerating gorse flowers in neutral spirit at 60% ABV, (don’t ask me where I got it from) to extract the essential oils. I will then fortify the barley wine with the gorse flower infusion.
I have picked a very good time to do this brew because the cliff tops are on fire with gorse flowers at the moment. The only downside to gorse is that it has more pricks than an Estate Agents conference, so picking the flowers is a painful task. My barley wine will be designed to be quite sweet so as to provide some body once the spirit is added. I’m keeping the hopping light, using less oily, less expressive hops so that the gorse can shine.
Will it work? Probably not, but it won’t stop me trying.
Malt: Pale ale, 140 crystal, amber and cara
Hops: Fuggles, Goldings, Saaz and Mittlefruh
PG: 1025 (before fortification)