Cocktails with… Bombay Amber – Gin finished in French vermouth Barrels

Bombay aMber Gin TITLE

Today, we are reviewing something exceptionally exciting: Bombay Amber, Bombay Spirits first foray into aged spirits. For my upcoming book, “Forgotten Spirits & Long-lost Liqueurs”, I’ve been writing a lot on aged or yellow gin, so I was very excited to learn that another large brand is bringing out a spirit in this long-lost sub-category.

Bombay Amber follows the release of the high-end Burrough’s Reserve from Beefeater, which retails at around £70 a bottle and, as such, the focus tends to be on sipping the spirit neat. Now, I am a fan of Beefeater’s offering, but it is a shame that the price is a little inaccessible and it hasn’t reignited the interest in yellow gin cocktails that once existed.

Bombay Amber Bottle GIN MAIN

Bombay Amber (47.0%ABV) is made using the classic 8 botanical mix of Bombay Dry (click here): juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon, orris, liquorice and almond. To this original mix, they add black cardamom, nutmeg and bitter orange. The gin is then distilled using vapour infusion.

After distillation, the gin is finished in French vermouth barrels. My educated guess would be that these were Noilly Prat barrels, as Noilly Prat is both French, aged in wood, and owned by Bacardi-Martini, the parent company of Bombay Sapphire.

The Taste

1) On its own

i) At room temperature
Colour: Straw gold
Nose: Reminds me of a Martini: there are the dry, juniper elements from the gin, but there’s also a slightly sweet spiciness and herbal note, as well as a hint of oxidised citrus, reminiscent of a white vermouth.
Taste: Smooth, but with a strong flavour: the additional herbal and spiced notes come through, along with a touch of pepper/menthol from the black cardamom, so, although this is not made using the peppers found in Bombay Sapphire (cubeb berries and Grains of Paradise), a similar character remains. There is then some jammy, zesty flavours from the orange, followed by a more plump, herbal impression with juniper, coriander, and then some woody notes. It is amazing just how much of the character of the vermouth seems to come through in the spirit, but it gives the gin a great complexity that is there all the way through to the finish.

ii) From the refrigerator
Nose: Sour cherry and zesty orange, as well as some dry, tangy notes.
Taste: In my opinion, a light chill isn’t the best way to enjoy this spirit: you miss out on the best world of the spirit at room temperature and from the freezer. Interestingly, the bitter notes seem to be more concentrated and it tastes much dryer, although there is still a hint of a marmalade-like sweetness. I think that some people would really like this serve, but, for me, I prefer the other two.

iii) From the freezer
Nose: Pine sap, orange and sauterne.
Taste: Some of the fruity and citrus flavours that you would expect from a sauterne wine come through, along with a sweetness and fragrant, zesty orange, too. This is followed by a dry portion of juniper and angelica, then some bitter, earthy notes with liquorice root, some menthol, salt and wormwood. The low temperature seems to concentrate the contrast between the sweet and bitter notes, as well as provide a silky mouthfeel. This is an usual spirit that is both engaging and takes a little time to fully appreciate. If it had been served to me in a Martini glass, I may have mistaken it for a medium-dry Martini.

2) Gin & Tonic
This makes a dry Gin & Tonic that doesn’t have the overbearing sweet spice and oak that you usually get when mixing an aged gin with tonic water. There are quite a lot of herbal notes and a dry, woody bitterness at the end, which is not just from the quinine, but reminds me of wormwood, too. This may just be the power of suggestion, given that the vermouth barrels used, but, either way, it is a pleasant surprise and a refreshing drink.

3) Martini
A great way to enjoy this gin – the spirit is dry enough that it doesn’t overtake the cocktail, but the woody, herbal notes integrate well with the flavours from the dry vermouth. If you use Noilly Prat (the vermouth that’s barrels I – unofficially – think that this has been aged in), the integration is even more perfect. This is more like a classic Martini, rather than the ultra-dry variations of the late 20th Century – sophisticated, flavoursome and superb.

5) Negroni
Lovely – the woody, herbal notes and the black cardamom work well with the Campari and red vermouth. Usually, you might expect an aged gin Negroni to have slightly sweeter, vanilla-oak elements come though, which tend to mellow out the drink, but also make it less bitter. However, with Bombay Amber, the drink is as bold as ever and, for those that like their Negroni with bite, I suggest trying this. Superb.

In Conclusion
Bombay Amber is a great addition to the aged gin category. I find it interesting that the term “amber gin” has been received favourably when I’ve been discussing a catch-all term for “gin that has interacted with wood” with colleagues and contemporaries. Of course, for Bombay, it not only describes the colour, but also links into the use of names of precious stones, such as Sapphire. What’s next? Perhaps Bombay Emerald or Bombay Ruby are on the cards.

Flavour-wise, the spirit is unique, complex and engaging, with plenty of scope for innovation in mixing. And, with its price point expected to be around £30-35, I think Bombay Amber can help to put yellow gin back into the bartenders toolkit.

Watch out for the second part of my Bombay Amber post, where I try it out in some classic yellow gin cocktails.

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Cocktails with… Pickering’s Gin

Gin distilleries used to be found across the British Isles, but, until recently, after decades of shrinkage, gin distilling was concentrated in London with just a few outposts in the Midlands, Scotland and Plymouth (flying the flag in the West Country). But Edinburgh, one of the gin capitals of the UK (given the number of fine gin bars there, not least Bramble Bar) was without a distillery. Until now, that is.

PickeringsGinFINAL

Located in an old animal hospital in south Edinburgh, the Summerhall Distillery is the first gin distillery in the city for 150 years and they have recently launched Pickering’s Gin. Based on a recipe found on a mysterious “fragment of paper” dated 17th July 1947, it is bottled at 42.0%ABV, has a neutral grain spirit base, and contains a mix of nine botanicals:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Lemon
Lime
Cardamom
Cloves
Fennel
Anise

The gin is distilled in a 500 litre copper still named “Gert”, which is heated via a custom bain-marie system, designed to heat the botanicals without overcooking them.

On its own
Nose: Lime and coriander jump out immediately, followed by the juniper and then some spice.
Taste: This has a lovely, smooth texture with very little burn and a light, silky start, as well as a touch of lime, a little fennel and anise. The flavour then builds, bringing in a dry, slightly floral juniper and coriander, followed by a subtle twist of spice. The finish is of dry juniper and angelica – very classic. Overall, this is a very silky and sippable gin and, despite having a fair bit of spice, including cloves and cardamom, thankfully these are not too heavy and do not detract from the flavour of this particularly balanced gin.

Gin & Tonic
This is quite a light and airy Gin & Tonic, with the lime coming through well, accompanied by some coriander and some of the gin’s spiced elements. The finish is a mixture of earthy, bitter quinine and dryness from the angelica and juniper. Delightfully refreshing and with a lightness that makes it perfect for the afternoon.

Martini
Spice and coriander come through. This is also rather citrusy, with a fresh lift from the lime, making this a clean, crisp and excellent Martini. My garnish recommendation would be a lime twist.

Negroni
A well-integrated and smooth Negroni that has a lively kick at the end, courtesy of a combination of the following flavours: citrus, dark chocolate, and an earthy, herbal bitterness. Although the Campari only comes through at the end, it provides a bitter and intense finish to the drink that lingers on and on.

Waverly Station Master
Rather delightful: the citrus notes contrast nicely with the smokiness of the Scotch, resulting in a wonderful smoky lemon-lime flavour. This is one of the more subtle Islay Scotch Martinis, but, nonetheless, I think that it works rather well.

In Conclusion
Although Pickering’s Gin has a lot of classic characteristics, a more contemporary flair is also apparent with the use of lime. The result is a fresh and light gin that still has plenty of flavour and is equally pleasant drunk neat and in mixed drinks. My favourite drink was the delicious Gin & Tonic.

Cocktails with Genius Navy Strength Gin

A few weeks back, I reviewed Genius Gin from Texas, courtesy of a sample provided by Aaron from TheGinIsIn.com (America’s Gin website). Today, I am reviewing Genius Gin Navy Strength after the folk at Genius Distillery were kind enough to send me a bottle.

Genius Gin Navy FINAL

On its own
Nose: Clean, with a little sweetness that comes from the can base spirit; it is almost reminiscent of a white rum. There is also a little creamy spice, followed by dry citrus.
Taste: A full flavour, with a rich mouthfeel. Initially, there’s a thick, creamy sweetness, which moves to some of the more traditional gin flavours: juniper, angelica and coriander. There is then a touch of spice, before a powerful, long and lingering, dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
A flavoursome Gin & Tonic, with coriander and some sweetness, as well as hints of nut, almond and fresh, crisp pear. A powerful and very refreshing drink – lime would be my choice of garnish. Lovely.

Martini
A smooth and silky Martini with a little sweetness but then also some dry fruit and nuttiness that provides a slight hint of bitterness. There are also some earthy herbal elements which I think means the gin could easily lend itself to an olive garnish, although both lemon peel or a Dickens serve (no olive or twist) work well, too. The botanical flavours are there, but this is certainly less intense than a Martini made with a very traditional gin like Tanqueray. Pretty good stuff.

Negroni
A powerful drink, with the extra ABV providing a bolder botanical flavour that has plenty of juniper and citrus, as well as some dark chocolate and intense, bitter, herbal elements towards the end. The finish is long, dry and lingering.

Gimlet

A clean drink with plenty of vanilla and lime – clean, crisp and a lovely example of a more contemporary twist in the Gimlet – smooth without being overly cloying.

In Conclusion
Genius Navy Gin is a great example of how the ABV can impact upon the flavour of a spirit and is a good illustration of the different characteristics that a Navy Gin can add to drinks when mixing. My favourite drink was the Negroini.

Cocktails with… Ballantine’s Brasil

As I left the house this morning, a definite chill lifted the hairs on the back of my neck. As I scrambled around in my pockets for my gloves, I pondered where the recent hint of spring had gone. Well, one product that certainly calls for warmer climes is Ballantine’s Brasil.

Ballantines Brazil BOTTLE

Inspired by George Ballantine’s love of blending whisky, the company wanted to make a spirit designed to be used in mixed drinks. After some initial experimentation, further inspiration came from Brasil, where drinkers regularly drink their whisky with lime.

Brasil starts life as a specially designed Ballantine’s whisky, which is then flavoured in the cask with Brasilian lime peels, before being combined with some vanilla extract (the real thing, none of that artificial flavouring), and just a dash of sugar syrup. The combination of strong flavours and its destined use for mixing means that Brasil is bottled at 35% ABV, making it a “spirit drink” or flavoured whisky, akin to those produced by a variety of American whiskey companies, like Jim Beam’s Black Cherry.

The rather lovely Ballantine Brazil press pack - note the sugar cane shaped glass and the pocket for the lime.

The rather lovely Ballantine Brasil press pack – note the sugar cane shaped glass and the pocket for the lime.

On its own
Somewhat intrigued by the use of natural flavourings throughout, I did sample some of the spirit on its own. The lime and vanilla come through, fresh and bold, on the nose, reminding me a little of a Whisky Ginger with a lime wedge. The same flavours came through on the palate; the citrus making for a very “bright” flavour, and the vanilla neatly balancing it out. The finish was refreshingly tart and dry.

Highland Samba
[50ml Ballantine's Brasil, 150ml lemonade (or lemon-lime soda) - pour into a long glass with ice - garnish with a lime wedge.]
A delightfully simple drink to make, but one that allows you to enjoy the spirit in a long, thirst-quenching drink. The lemon flavours of the soda work well with the lime tang of the spirit, as well as the fresh lime garnish. Whisky and lemonade may not be a usual combination, but, in this case it really works. On the finish there are some light spice notes, including cinnamon and vanilla, which sign the flavours off nicely and adds a pleasant and unexpected complexity.

Highland Samba

Highland Samba

In a similar style to the above drink, this also works well with Champagne Ginger Ale (e.g. Canada Dry or Fevertree), providing a lighter and more accessible version of the Whisky Ginger. Even without a fruit garnish, the lime sings through.

Glen Rio
[50ml Ballantine's Brasil, 150ml Apple Juice - pour into a long glass with ice - garnish with apple slices]
A smooth drink with tart apple upfront and then the warmth of the spirit, as well as some spicy woodiness, then vanilla and lime. I think this is improved with a dash of bitters (Angostura is fine). It also has some potential for a toddy-like hot drink, which would work well with a cinnamon stick garnish.

Flower O’Brasil
[50ml Ballantine's Brasil, 25ml Elderflower Cordial, Squeeze of one lime wedge - STIR]
Lime and vanilla are, again, centre-stage in this cocktail, but it’s initially a little sweeter than some of the other drinks. About halfway through, the floral notes from the cordial really make themselves known; the sweetness also tones down a tad, before a lovely, dry finish of elderflower. This could easily have been dominated by any of its flavours, but it’s perfectly balanced – a brilliantly engineered cocktail.

Ballantines Brazil FRUITCUP

Ballantine’s Brasil Fruit Cup

Ballantine Brasil Fruit Cup
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 30ml Red Vermouth, 10ml Orange Liqueur]
A tasty and refreshing drink. The vermouth adds a pleasant, herbal complexity, whilst still allowing the underlying flavours of the Ballantine’s to come through. The fresh lime adds a nice, tart finish, creating a very refreshing drink.

Girl from Ipanema
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 25ml Red Vermouth, Orange Bitters - SHAKE ]
Another simple drink inspired by the classic Brasilian cocktail Rabo de Galo (although this uses cachaca and red vermouth), but despite the simple recipe, the result is a drink that is full of a whole array of flavours: some woody spice, the tart lime that goes well with the bitter herbs of the vermouth and then some sweetness, too. The orange bitters add depth and stop it from being too confectionery.

Girl from Ipanema

Girl from Ipanema

In Conclusion
Brasil isn’t a whisky and isn’t designed to be drunk like one; it’s a refreshing cocktail ingredient, made using natural ingredients and just the right amount of sugar. It makes a whole array of tasty concoctions, which all seem to taste like more than the sum of their parts. It should maybe be avoided if you don’t like lime or vanilla, but otherwise, I’d recommend giving it a try – it feels more like sunshine’s just around the corner with one of these cocktails in your hand! My personal favourite was the Flower O’Brasil.

- Mrs. B.

Ebb + Flow Gin

A few years back, during my second (and Mrs B’s first) trip to New York, I got to try Sound Spirits’ Old Tom Gin with Aaron Knoll of TheGinIsIn. This was part of our on-going United States of Gin project, sharing the best of gin distilled in the 50 states of America. We were both impressed with the Old Tom and, in fact, Aaron states that it is one of the best that he has had; a sentiment that I can appreciate.

Until recently, however, I had never tried their unaged flagship gin, so I was excited when an opportunity to do so presented itself. Ebb + Flow Gin is made by Sound Spirits in Seattle (the city’s first Craft Distillery since Prohibition), who, in addition, make: Ebb + Flow Vodka, Sound Spirits Aquavit, Depth Cacao, Depth Menthe and Depth – Vow of Silence Herbal Liqueur.

Ebb & Flow Gin FINAL

Bottled at 47.0% ABV, Ebb + Flow Gin is made using a base spirit of malted barley and neutral grain spirit.

Ebb + Flow Gin – On its own
Nose: Pine, sweet spice and lime, reminding me a little of homemade key lime pie.
Taste: Earthy upfront, with coriander. The flavour then move onto some sweet spice, cassia and vanilla, then a dryer note, before a burst of lime and hint of lemon on the finish.

Ebb + Flow Gin & Tonic
Lots of spiced lemon, with flavours of vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom; there is then a lively lime note towards the end. Rather delicious and just the sort of gin you want in a Gin & Tonic. I also think that this gin has great potential for the Spanish Gin Tonica serve. Superb.

Ebb + Flow Martini
Very good: intense and clean in flavour, with notes of juniper, citrus, and then an array of spices, including cardamom, that complement rather than overwhelm the gin. Served diamond-style (where the gin is poured straight from the freezer, so no ice is needed), this is exceptional – exactly my sort of thing.

Ebb + Flow Negroni
Plenty of juniper and then some more spicy and herbal elements (like cardamom), a little sweetness from the red vermouth and the earthy bitterness of the Campari. This gin, however, appears to have a trump card up its sleeve: the final flavour is that of bitter citrus oil – I mostly get lime. This really sets this Negroni out from the crowd. Superb!

Cocktails with… Langley No:8 Gin

Langley#8 Gin

The Langley Distillery near Birmingham is a well-respected and established gin producer, making gins for brands such as Broker’s and Martin Miller’s, but, until last year, had no gin whose name reflected its own heritage. That was until Langley No:8, a gin made using a mix of 8 botanicals that is distilled in the copper pot still, Constance. The base spirit is English grain and the gin is bottled at 41.7% ABV.

Langley Gin Bottle

On its own
Nose: A rich, fruity nose with bright citrus and rich herbal notes intermingled with hint of rose.
Taste: Some juniper to start, then coriander and some sweet spice notes – cassia, for instance. This then moves onto a brighter citrus note and a dry, lightly floral finish.

Gin & Tonic
Lots of lemon and even a hint of sherbert make this a refreshing drink, great served with lots of ice and a lemon garnish. Simple, but easy to drink and accessible to all.

Martini
Unusually, I garnished this with pomelo peel, but I think it actually works really well. This is a very classic, very clean Martini that has a good amount of botanical intensity; its flavours work particularly well with the citrus oils from the garnish.

Gentleman’s Martini
[50ml Langley No8, 15ml Dry Vermouth, 5ml Olive Water - STIR]
A rather savoury Martini with the olive flavours really coming through, using olive water rather than brine prevents the drink from being too salty. A clean drink with some good crispness and herbal notes.

Langley Gents Martini

Negroni
A good bitterness upfront, then some sweeter, herbal notes: wormwood and citrus peel, as well as sweeter herbs. There is a long, clean and bitter finish from the Campari, although it is a bright, crisp bitterness, rather than a dark, earthy one. Refreshing. This does work well when garnished with ruby grapefruit.

Langley Station Master
This variation on the Martini is superb, the drinks i made by pouring stirred-down gin into a glass that has been rinsed with Lagavulin 16 (or other smoky whisky). For extra pow! (should you need any) I can recommend pouring the gin straight from the freezer with no dilution at all.

Gimlet
A crisp and vibrant drink: the citrus flavours of the gin work well with the cordial, providing a good balance between sweet and tart. A good alternative to a pre-dinner Martini.

Cocktails with… Black Death Gin

Black death Gin TITLE

Black Death Gin is owned by the Spanish Company, Central Hisumer, although it is actually produced in the UK. In edition to this gin (bottled at 40% ABV), the brand also has a vodka, a dark rum, a silver tequila, gold tequila, and a beer.

Digging into the history a bit, it seems like the brand has an uncertain and rather colourful past; the suggestion is that the brand “Black Death” originated in Iceland in 1906 as “Svarti Daudi” (the Icelandic translation). It then seemed to experience a boom in popularity in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Although my bottle says that it was made in Essex, on-line sources suggest that the gin is now made by Greenalls in Warrington. The label dates from 1992 and its botanicals are rumoured to have included: juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, and ginger.

Black Death Gin Bottle Skeleton Skull with Bowler Hat

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Very subtle: a little grain alcohol with some oily juniper.
Taste: This is a standard, simple gin; there are notes of juniper, coriander and dry angelica, accompanied by a little citrus and a dry finish. Nothing outstanding, but perfectly acceptable.

Gin & Tonic
Given that all of the drinks that I tried were of a reasonable standard, this Gin & Tonic seems to let the gin down. The spirit is easily dominated by the tonic, resulting in a drink that is too sweet and sickly. The drink can be rescued, however, by using a large citrus garnish or Fentimans Tonic.

Martini
Clean, with juniper and citrus flavours. This is average in the true sense of the word: some gins will make better Martinis, whilst others make poorer ones, but for that classic flavour, this does nicely. Either an olive or lemon garnish would work well.

Negroni
A straightforward, intense Negroni with the classic, dry, herbal bitterness that you’d expect from the cocktail. It doesn’t jump out at you, but it won’t disappoint a fan in a pinch.

In Conclusion
Black Death is an average gin, but, given its low price point, represents adequate value for money and the bottle is sure to raise questions and interest by visitors to your home or commercial bar. My favourite drink was the Negroni, but, then, it takes a lot to make a bad Negroni.