“Earthy, woody, mystical, intriguing and endless.” No it’s not a line from the start of a chapter in Lord of the Rings but how Dutch spirits company, De Kuyper Royal Distillers, describes its award winning Muyu Vetiver Gris liqueur that was named the best designed and packaged product to be entered into the 2021 London Spirits Competition. Here’s the back story to a brand that has not just caught the attention of the competition’s judges but bartenders across the world.
The Difford’s Guide describes Muyu Vetiver Gris liqueur as “game changing in its category” that will both “challenge and please bartenders”. And it looks very good too…
If you want to create a brand in as demanding and difficult a category as liqueurs that’s going to grab the attention of the world’s leading bartenders, then why don’t you go and get some award winning bartenders to create it for you.
That’s what De Kuyper Royal Distillers, the leading Dutch spirits and liqueurs company, did when they turned to three highly respected bartenders and bar owners – Alex Kratena, Monica Berg and Simone Caporale – to come up with a new liqueur brand. Their brief was to create a modern liqueur using natural ingredients that also captured their reputation for avant garde cocktail making.
The inspiration for what has become the Muyu liqueur range comes from a tip the trio took to the Amazon. As Berg explains: “We first visited the Amazon in 2016 to explore the potential of Amazonian produce in cocktails, and we were so inspired by what we saw, but also realised we would contribute to the rainforest’s destruction if we sourced directly from there.”
She adds: “Therefore we collaborate with leading experts to help us source, concentrate and capture aromatic substances of plants, flowers and fruits. The individual components either come from Grasse, a French town nicknamed the perfume capital of the world, or Schiedam, a Dutch city known for its historic distilleries such as our partners De Kuyper.
“This process allows us to create a liqueur brand that enables bartenders to work with some of the most extraordinary ingredients available in the world, without taking anything away from the rainforest.”
Muyu also hopes to help promote biodiversity through what De Kuyper sees as “responsible sourcing”, with a share of profits from each bottle going towards NGOs doing meaningful work in the Amazon region.
Kratena, Berg and Caporale have each designed and crafted their own style of liqueur in the Mayu range that is based on creating a new way of composing flavour. The reason the bottles in the range look like a brand you might find on a health and beauty counter is that perfume is very much the inspiration behind how the liqueurs are made.
Each of the three liqueurs has been to have their own distinctive ‘nose’ that comes from composing carefully selected individual ingredients to create their own distinctive blends based on jasmine, chinotto and vetiver.
De Kuyper Royal Distillers explains how the process works: “Each liquid begins with the extraction of a single note – the eponymous ingredient of each liqueur. Then the secondary sequence of ingredients are wrapped around each note to create a completely developed and complex liquid. A number of different techniques, including enfleurage, steam distillation, C02 extraction, and resinoïds, are used to extract the chosen flavours. These are then blended with alcohol, sugar, acids and water to create the final liquid.”
This level of detail sounds like something you would find in a scientist’s lab, but is very much in keeping with how Kratena, Berg and Caporale have made their name in the bar community.
Kratena was in charge of the Artesian bar, at Langham Hotel in London, when it was named best bar in the world. Berg has won the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award, voted for by her peers who head up the venues in The World’s 50 Best Bars list. Caporale was named International Bartender of the Year in 2014 and has also made his name at the Artesian, working alongside Kratena.
Kratena and Berg have brought their skills together with their own London bar, Tayēr + Elementary, that has allowed them to take their bar skills and talents to another level by including space for research, development and training within the bar itself. “At Tayēr, we want to celebrate ingredients that may be common but underappreciated, like a really good apple at the peak of its season,” is how Berg described the bar to 50 Best. “We want to show people that cocktails, and even food, are not necessarily about the expensive or exclusive ingredients. Tayēr comes from Spanish and means workshop,” explains Berg. “It represents the fact that nothing here is ever finished. Just because a cocktail is on the menu, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.”
The opportunity to create what has become the Muyu range of liqueurs is very much in keeping with their collective desire to keep on pushing what is possible within spirits and how you combine and use ingredients to create new styles.
The award winning bottle designs are also inspired by Muyu’s connection to the Amazon. If you look closely at the details on the bottle it includes “digital re-imaginings” of the traditional patterns used in body painting by indigenous communities in the region. It also includes references to global flora and fauna, and the colours of the rainforest itself. “The overall aim is to capture the contrast of strength and fragility in the natural world,” says De Kupers copy writing team.
Muyu has been designed to be shared in highballs, mixed in cocktails and drunk on the rocks. It includes:
Muyu Vetiver Gris: Alex Kratena (Best Designed Brand in the London Spirits Competition). Earthy, woody, mystical, intriguing and endless Vetiver with accents of timur, patchouli, petit grains and cedarwood ABV 22%, 50cl.
Muyu Jasmine Verte: Monica Berg. Floral, blooming, fresh, sensual and luminous Jasmine with accents of neroli, patchouli, yuzu and iris ABV 24%, 50cl.
Muyu Chinotto Nero: Simone Caporale. Citrusy, opulent, zesty, lush and mystical Chinotto with accents of cinchona, oak moss, curacao orange and cacao ABV 24%, 50cl.
- You can find out all the winners in the 2021 London Spirits Competition by clicking here.