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Who are Cult Vinegar?

Our box this month celebrated beauty in the imperfection and impermanence. We added lots of exciting products to help our boxes and some of them had a Japanese element to them. Our of our favourite products this month was a Live Sake Vinegar made by independent business Cult Vinegars.

The consumption of foods and drinks that have undergone fermentation contain benefits to health that stretch beyond food preservation. The transformation of sugars and starches enhances the natural, beneficial bacteria in food. These bacteria, known as probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria are thought to help a multitude of health issues, specifically digestive health.

Cult Vinegars make small batch, unpasturised vinegars with the intention of capturing the unique essence of each liquid they are fermented from. Because Cult Vinegars are unpasturised they have the added benefit of being good for your gut and wellbeing. It was started by a fermentation enthusiast Jonathan Brown. He loves making his own sourdough, live yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, labneh and experimenting with new types of fermentation.

Cult Vinegars was sparked from an idea during a wedding wine trip to Burgundy six years ago, “ We discovered the idea of making your own live vinegar while searching for our wedding wines. We loved the old fashioned ritual of pouring your leftover wine into a fermentation crock and fell in love with the alchemy of using up leftovers. We made our own vinegar at home for a couple of years and then thought… what if we encouraged people in the UK to embrace the world of live vinegar.”

Their Vinegar vases were launched last May at the London Craft week — the vases enable you to make your own vinegars at home and soon after that they launched their own batches of live cult vinegars.

This isn’t Jonathan’s full-time gig yet, he works in an ad agency by daytime and his passion for Cult Vinegars come alive at night and at the weekend. Jonathan explained that lots of the work he does is around experimenting with different starters like Ports, Ciders and Wines. “We choose interesting and delicious wines, sakes, ciders, sherries and ports to make our vinegar from. The better the wines we use the better the vinegar tastes. So we do a lot of experimenting exploring which wines will make the best vinegars”.

Aside from making vinegar and our Cult Vinegar Tonics they are busy souring new wines, seeking new stockist and fulfilling orders. “It’s a pretty full on experience. But it’s very satisfying sharing the love about live vinegar.”

So what makes Cult Vinegars so special?

For us, it was the fact that we hadn’t seen anything like it being done before. We love fermented foods and things that have lots of good bacteria — with Sally being an experimental chef herself there are always sauerkraut, chutneys and tinctures on the go.

Jonathan explained that one of things that makes them special is that they are made in small batches with a lot of care and good quality ingredients, plus they are good for us “They are all unpasteurised and unfiltered, so they contain ‘The Mother’ which is teeming with good bacteria.”

They currently have a huge range of vinegars, spanning the likes of Champagne, Ruby Port, Sake, Spanish Moscatel, Tokaj, 1995 Mersault, Alsace Gewurz, German Riesling and Fino Sherry. This makes them a pretty unsual and interesting business to source your vinegars. Cult Vinegars are proud to have a strong range that has so much choice for foodies to play with “We love the fact that each one tastes so different; each one captures the character of the wine it is made from.”

We wanted to find out a bit more about the Sake Cult Vinegar — this month’s HyggeBox featured it. A little bottle of gorgeousness that we tried out on a few recipes including adding it to an Asparagus Gribiche with Miso Butter. The vinegar was cloudy because of all that goodness and full of body and flavour. We asked Jonathan to explain what makes the Sake Vinegar so interesting.

Japanese culture reveres vinegar. It is central to many dishes and tends to appear as Rice Wine Vinegar or Black Vinegar and sometimes as Sake Vinegar. We loved the idea of making a special live Sake Cult Vinegar and are very proud of the way it has turned out. It’s a deliciously rice-y sharp flavour that brings Japanese pickles to life. It’s also fabulous to season sushi rice. And do try it as a dressing with some white miso, ginger and mirin. We can totally vouch for the Sushi Rice tip it was delicious!

The Sake Vinegar is also one of Jonathan’s favourites, although he loves them all. “I’ve got to admit I love all my Cult Vinegar babies. Our Sake Cult Vinegar is our most expensive to make and is one of our most unusual.

Other than this one, our 1995 Mersault is very special and our Ruby Port Cult Vinegar always sells out whenever we do events.”

Cult Vinegars are still a fairly new business, only launching this time last year but they have achieved so much in that time. I wanted to find out what was instore next for James and his wife, whether they would be launching anything new. I was not let down by their response, Cult Vinegars are looking to expand their range into Samurai Tonic made from rice wine vinegar and cider vinegar with umeboshi plums. “It will be exciting to nurture this side of the business and also to expand our range of stockists of our Vinegar Vaes to encourage more of the UK to make their own vinegar at home.”

As alot of us know launching a new product and running a small business can be quite stressful, we all need time to unwind. Jonathan currently has a 5 week old baby and still somehow made us a huge batch of vinegars. I asked him how he likes to unwind; “This is one of the hardest things to do.” but he manages to take time with his family “While it is hardly slowing down, spending time with Zennor, Felix and Sarah is such a special way to unwind.”

Learn more about Cult Vinegars here and check out their vases to make your own!

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