With the Great Taste Awards coming up fast, we decided to do a round robin taste test in the office of some of last year’s worthy winners of 3 Gold Stars. The Great Taste Awards are fast becoming the definitive independent benchmark for specialty food and drink

To get to the selection stage is a minor miracle, to go all the way to the Gold status is nothing short of fantastic and all the winners should be congratulated on their dedication to duty. But how do past winners stand up to real world scrutiny?

Now not all the boys and girls in the FP office are gourmets, or even gourmands, but each has their area of expertise even if it is on the subject of Quavers versus Crisps, so we handed out the samples appropriately and here are the results.

The Orchard Pig – cider

Keith is our production person, never happier than when shouting out a recalcitrant supplier. Very fond of cider he admits that he tends to go more by ABV than by taste and that a bottle or two of Diamond White is, for him, something of a luxury. So we cracked open the The Orchard Pig bottle and stood back while he sampled it. ‘Light and sparkling,’ he confirmed reading off the notes that came with it. Pressed harder he took another mouthful and added ‘fruity, proper flavour, no chemical aftertaste, rather refreshing actually, is there any more?’

Pollen Organics -Seville Orange Marmalade

This one I took home, as the wife is a bit partial to marmalade. We were surprised at how runny it was, in fact too runny as it ran off our toast and onto the tablecloth. Nonetheless the flavour was rich and clean with just the right hint of tartness to balance the sugar content which is, of course, what Seville oranges are all about. Not sure it will replace good old Oxford in our cupboard though.

Co-Couture Irish whisky truffle

We only had a couple of these so a bit of an unseemly struggle ensued. Editor’s Droit de Seigneur was invoked but Kate on reception simply ate the truffles while I was explaining what Droit de Seigneur was to a disbelieving crowd. The box in itself is a thing of beauty and the truffles are made in small batches to ensure each has the required quality. Kate said they were divine and fantastic and took the fancy box off to store her best paper clips in.

Grumpy Mule Arabica Coffee

Now here was something we could all share. The new John Lewis coffee maker was ceremoniously plugged in and we passed the pack around for a good sniff. For me coffee never actually tastes as good as it smells, except when made in the Arabic ‘mud’ fashion. Trouble is a cup of that has me bouncing off the walls for ages. Grumpy Mule take great care of their coffee, buying from farms, estates and cooperatives where there is a drive to improve quality, but never at the expense of the local environment or communities. This Arabic coffee was unanimously preferred to our usual mass-market stuff and like all the range can be bought as beans, ground or special espresso ground.

The Real Boar Company – English Wild Boar Salami

This one got us debating what a wild boar was. Surely if really wild, it would be rather difficult to maintain a supply? What with having to don armour and hunt them down etc. Perhaps it means wild boars that are confined in some way to one area? It turned out to be the latter; they are ethically farmed in 20 acres of mixed woodland and grasses at the edge of the Cotswolds. Whatever that debate, the salami was excellent. Full of flavour and with just a hint of greasiness that made it linger on the taste buds long after it was gone. Which, as we only had about four slices, didn’t take long. Two members of staff demurred on vaguely vegetarian grounds. Vaguely because they do eat pork, but felt boars were a bit cuddly!

Hi-Ts Clotted Cream Indulgence Fudge

Two mums make these and we all wondered why our mums couldn’t do something as useful instead of just bringing up kids etc. Indulgent is the word here, I managed to grab one while Kate was answering the phone and it was a real treat. The local Cornish ingredients are clearly first class and the manufacture a labour of love. Thank god we only had a couple or we would have been seriously stuffing these down all day.

Otter Head Beer

Lee one of the Macintosh men took this bottle away on the grounds that it had already migrated through some strange instinct into his field of influence (i.e. his desk). The Otter Brewery in the South West is a real family affair and despite being a small brewery they use state of the art equipment and local ingredients. The Otter Head is pretty strong stuff at 5.8% and Lee had problems moving his mouse about after saying that he didn’t normally drink strong beer at 10 in the morning. He liked the reddish colour, but declined to name the Pantone for it, and said it had a real depth of flavour with some pleasant sweetness to it. ‘Very malty,’ he informed us sagely before heading off to get a big sandwich to soak it up.

So some tasty treats right enough the only problem was that there wasn’t enough!

You could be a Judge at this years Great Taste if you enter our competition