Introducing: Millie Milliken, Drinks Distilled Spirits Guide
If there’s anyone who knows what the latest trends are in the world of spirits, cocktails and bars, it’s Millie! We have been fans of her excellent reporting for many years and are so pleased to have her on board as a Drinks Distilled Spirits Guide, so we can share her insights with you. Millie is a multi-award-winning drinks writer who travels the globe to learn about its most traditional, storied and exciting spirits for publications around the world. In 2022 she won both the Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer and IWSC Spirits Communicator of the Year awards.
Millie has selected Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum as well as Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka and Dima’s Vodka as some of her favourite spirits to feature on Drinks Distilled – all of which are now live on the site. Scroll on to find out more about her and her top tips when it comes to picking top quality Spiced Rum and Vodka!
What are the common misconceptions people have of Spiced Rum?
That it’s not as well crafted than other rums and has been created to cover up a bad quality spirit. Some people also think it’s more for novices than enthusiasts. When it comes to something the calibre of Chairman’s Reserve Spiced, none of these are the case – indeed, much the opposite.
This rum is made from molasses and started its life as a blend of Coffey and pot still rum blends, aged separately in ex-Bourbon before being brought together to rest in oak vats. The addition of local St Lucian spices and fruits - like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, lemon, orange peels - is what makes this such an authentic 'spiced' rum, a tradition that goes back generations and is still done domestically today.Shop Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum
Where is your favourite bar to enjoy a rum cocktail?
I love how the team at Islington's Laki Kane work with spiced rum to give it a bit more time in the spotlight in some of rum's most iconic cocktails. The spiced version of their classic Daiquiri is a wonderful thing.
What’s the most common mistake people make when selecting a Spiced Rum and what is your top tip for selecting it?
Assuming all spiced rum is the same. Make sure you look at the label or find out exactly what spices are in the spiced rum you’re choosing. Without doing your research you might find yourself with something that is really dominant in a spice you don’t like. Also look at whether the ingredients are natural or not – it makes a big difference.
My top tip is to always research the distillery its from, or, if it isn't from one distillery but made up of a range of base rums, try and find out a bit about them too. If it's too hard to determine the latter, I tend to steer away. If you don't recognise the brand name, that doesn't matter - the world of spiced rum is vast!
What are the common misconceptions people have of vodka produced in the UK?
I think a lot of people aren't even aware that vodka can be made in the UK, or they believe that it is a product only made to bide time for distilleries producing whisky. In fact, the produce we grow in the UK is perfect for making vodka - and so many interesting raw ingredients (apples, wheat, etc) make it super interesting and full of character.
I really love the closed-loop system which Ramsbury Distillery runs on. It uses its own produce and feeds back into the Wiltshire-based estate and the community, really championing locality and being a responsible business. It’ll shut anyone up who thinks vodkas don’t have any character – because this one is brimming with it.Shop Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka
What are your top tips for selecting quality vodka?
Be sure to check what they’re made of before you sling anything into your basket (potatoes, grains, apples even). I try to find out how and where it was made too. If it’s just a load of bulk neutral spirit, while it might taste fine it might not have had the love and care I like my spirits to be produced with. If these elements aren’t 100% clear, try and find some tasting notes and see if they appeal to you.
Dima’s Vodka’s distillery has been around since 1896 and is a testament to Ukraine’s long-standing vodka-making ability and expertise. I really like that three different grains have gone into this vodka, highlighting how much impact that raw material has on the final product. It’s also been triple distilled and filtered through sand and charcoal to make it as pure and textured as possible.Shop Dima’s Vodka
Where is your favourite bar to enjoy a vodka cocktail?
I think it has to be Satan’s Whiskers for their House Martini. I don’t know what they do but it is a banger every, single, time. I have to limit myself to two, otherwise things get a little bit silly.
What’s your top tip for home bartending?
Be on first-name terms with a local ice supplier; always have a jar of pickled silverskins in the fridge; and never don’t have a bottle of something strong in the freezer – it always comes in handy.