01 June 2009

Just reward

I got a proper sunny Saturday a few weeks ago, after about a fortnight of solid rain. I spent most of the day outside, going for two short spins on my bike with a bout of gardening in between. As the sun began heading for the horizon, I had a thirst which needed quenching. It was possibly the only time I have ever felt than an English golden ale is what's required.

The candidate was Trade Winds, by the Cairngorm brewery. On the label it claims to be light gold, but is actually rather red, close to the reddishness of Budvar. The nose promises luscious tropical fruits: mangoes, melons and mandarins. On the palate it's smooth and full: creamy, but in a good way that has nothing to do with nitrogenation, and with just enough prickle to be refreshing. The hop character continues the fruit theme: sweet, lively and with just a tiny dry note right on the end which shades towards metallic but doesn't quite get there. Overall, Trade Winds is very well balanced and wonderfully quaffable. Summer starts here.

The second one from Cairngorm is Wildcat: a darker amber ale. The flavour here is all chocolate and raisins, which put me in mind of Irish classic Clotworthy Dobbin, though it's a fair bit thinner. There's also a very interesting spiciness to Wildcat, which I'm assuming comes from the hops. It's best described as a kind of sandalwood effect, being slightly smoky and exotic. As with Trade Winds, this scores very highly on the drinkability chart.

This Cairngorm lot seem to know what they're doing. I'll be keeping an eye out for more from them.


  1. I did enjoy the Wildcat, must try the trade winds but thought it was going to be another lager-ish blond ale it does sound interesting

  2. The Trade Winds contains dried elderflowers. My mate Yakker Pete was speaking Sean Tomlinson the head brewer in 2005 about it with a view to attempting a similar brew himself and found out the secret ingredient. I think he worked out that 100g in 5 gallons was about the correct dose.

    Oddly enough I managed to snag my first pint of the stuff in the Victoria around a year ago which is about as far away from Aviemore as you can get!

  3. I figured it wasn't going to be just another lager from all the rosettes. And I had been wondering how it won the prizes for "specialty beer": the elderflowers explain that -- thanks John.

  4. I enjoyed Tradewinds from the bottle too. This surprised me because on cask last year it was one of those thin golden ales I gripe so much about.