Cocktails with… Four Pillars Gin – from Australia

Today’s review is the first in a series on Australian distilled gin, which have been made possible thanks to the generosity of my friend, James, a distiller from down-under who brought me a tasting selection on a recent trip to London.

The first gin in the series will be Four Pillars from Yarra Valley near Melbourne. The gin is made using a mix of local (Tasmanian Pepperberry and Lemon Myrtle) and classic botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and lavender). Whole organic oranges (both peel and flesh) that are sourced from Australia are also used.

FOURPILLARSGIN

The gin is bottled at 41.8% ABV and is proofed using water from the Yarra Valley.

On its own
Nose: Some malty vanilla and fennel, combined with a little eucalyptus and coriander.
Taste: Chocolate upfront, as well as some leafy floral notes that complement the coriander, anise, and fennel. Quite pungent, this is full of both warm spice and sunny, floral flavours, as well as a little heat towards the end.

Gin & Tonic
A lovely Gin & Tonic – there is a great mix of classic flavours and more contemporary, spiced notes such as cardamom.

Martini
Quite piney, with a little sappy sweetness, prominent juniper throughout, and some herbal notes. As clean and cutting as a fresh, green pine needle.

Negroni
A very smooth Negroni with plenty of herbs and spices; in particular, some hints of fresh mint. A lighter herbal bitterness follows. This is quite an accessible drink – good for Negroni newbies.

In Conclusion
Four Pillars Gin is a bold and fragrant gin and represents a playful variation on the classic style of gin. My favourite drink was the accessible and tasty Negroni.

Gin1495 – Discovering the World’s Oldest Gin recipe

GIN1495 TITLE

Many gins pride themselves on the provenance and history of their recipes; such examples include: Greenalls/Bombay Dry (1761), Haymans Old Tom (1860s), and Diplôme (1945). As great as these spirits are, their antiquity pales in comparison to the gin I tried on Tuesday, which is based on a recipe first written over 500 years ago.

Gin 1495 is a grape-based gin made using a recipe that was discovered by Philip Duff after it was referenced in an out-of-print book on Jenever. Philip followed this lead, discovering that the text from a 1495 cookbook from a merchant’s house in the East Netherlands, a part of the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and that the manuscript itself was housed in British Library.

GIN1495 - PHILLIPDUFF

Philip Duff – an the first clue to tracking down the ancient recipe.

In collaboration with spirits experts and historians, Dave Broom, David Wondrich and gaz regan, and with the knowledge, experience, and facilities of Jean-Sébastien Robicquet, founder of EWG Spirits & Wine, the team set about recreating a gin from the recipe.

Botanicals used in the gin include: nutmeg (which, in 1495, was worth more than its weight in gold), ginger, galangal, seed (grains) of paradise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, sage, and juniper. The spice trade was not yet well-established, with the East India companies not being founded until 1600 and 1602. As such, the spices would have come from an individual trader travelling the silk route. The recipe states to use one part botanicals to nine parts wine distillate.

GIN1495 - BOTANICALS

The botanicals used in the gins

Distillation of spirits, which became recreational some time between 1351 and 1495, relied heavily on wine as a spirit base; this was due to the greater simplicity in making spirit from grape. Tensions, hostility, and wars across Europe meant that the availability of quality grapes declined, and so local distillers switched to making their spirit from local grain.

Whilst the exact variety of grape used originally is not known, it is likely that it would have been Ugni Blanc (other, less likely, options include Folle blanche and Colombard) and thus that is what is used in the re-creation gin.

Two varieties of Gin 1495 have been released: the Verbatim, a recreation as close to the original as possible; and the Interpretatio, which is inspired by the original recipe, but also includes botanicals that are available today, but were not then.

GIN1495 - MANUSCRIPT

A specially commissioned hand-drawn replica of the original text

The Taste

Gin 1495 #1 Verbatim (42.0% ABV)
Nose: Dry nutmeg and sage. Herbal, with a touch of pine and plenty of spice, including aromatic cardamom, ginger, clove, and some waxy, woody notes.
Taste: Very bold flavours and exceptionally dry (it was explained that the only sweetness in a European diet at the time would come from honey). There are notes of pine needles and other green, herbal notes, as well as hints of dark treacle. The spirit is sappy and has a great depth of flavour.
Adding a touch of water, the gin louches (goes cloudy) due to its high oil content, and the oily texture is more pronounced. There is a long, lingering finish with a touch of salty brine and menthol pepper notes from the grains of paradise.

Gin 1495 #2 Interpretatio (45.0% ABV)
This version was made using more juniper, citrus, and the addition of angelica.
Nose: Big, strong juniper with a slightly oaty note. Pine with citrus, and some sweet, spicy notes.
Taste: Plenty of anise and fennel-like notes upfront, then a fair bit of clovey citrus. There is a funky forest-floor element, too, although this is not unpleasant and mixes well with the gin’s berry and violet notes. The angelica root adds dryness to the juniper flavour.
The texture is full and oily, with spice coming through at the end: cardamom and ginger, with some more cloves. This intense spice lingers on the finish.

GIN1495 - BOTTLES

The gins are packaged in book-style presentation boxes and only 100 sets were produced. These are not for sale, but will be donated to various museums, spirits collections, archives, and gin institutions around the world, including the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Diageo Archive, and the gin archive at Laverstoke Mill.
In association with The Gin Guild, one set will be auctioned (details below), with the proceeds going to The Benevolent: a charity for members of the drinks community in times of need.

In Conclusion

The 1495 Gin project is one of the most exciting things to have happened in the World of Gin and this altruistic motivation is to be applauded. It was a privilege to be able to attend the launch and experience and taste the two gins.
As a final thought, I am intrigued by the similarity between the character of a gin made from a 500 year old recipe and some of the modern and contemporary “Alpine Gins” being released by new small distilleries in Germany, Austria, and across Europe. Sometimes history really does repeat itself.

www.gin1495.com

Gin 1495 Auction Process
Bids must be made via the dedicated e-mail 1495GINBID@gmail.com. All bids must be made in pounds sterling and sent along with a name and contact telephone number. Bidding closes on 1st December 2014.

Cocktails with… Pomme Pom – Adnams Aged Apple Spirit

This week (26th October – 1st November) is National Calvados Week, but it also marks the launch of Adnams Pomme Pom, an oak-aged apple spirit, or – to put it another way – an apple brandy. Whilst I am a big fan of Calvados (and North American Applejack, too, for that matter), I thought that for this Calvados Week I would look across from Normandy to the other side of the channel to explore this English apple brandy*.

PommePom Bottle

Pomme Pom is made at the Adnams Copperhouse Distillery in Southwold, Suffolk. The distillery takes cider from nearby Hogan’s Cider Farm and distills it in their copper pot stills. It is then aged for at least three years in oak casks.

On its own
Nose: Dried apples with rich notes of wood and warm spice, as well as a hint of caramel and vanilla.
Taste: A smooth mouthfeel upfront, with a warmth that gently builds over time. Rich, woody oak, spice and vanilla notes are followed by fruity notes of apple on the finish. The intensity of the apple notes grows as you sip and lingers for a long time on the palate.

From the fridge
A light chill brings out some of the fruity notes of the spirit, but it still keeps its war mth. The finish is of baked apple, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

From the freezer
Fragrant, juicy apple on the nose. Served from the freezer, the texture is more viscous and the fragrant apple flavour is fuller. There is a touch of tart cider apple flesh to start, then warm, spiced woody notes, followed by a delightful finish of fresh apple and apple blossom – superb!

From a hipflask
Calvados is one of my favourite spirits to enjoy from a hipflask: it is warming, yet fruity, and Pomme Pom ticks the same boxes. As it is gently warmed by being in a jacket pocket, the spirit becomes more mellow and rounded – perfect for a little nip when going on a long walk, especially now that the days are a tad cooler.

Toddy
[25ml Pomme Pom, 10ml Sugar Syrup, 15ml Lemon Juice, 100ml Boiling Water]
Superb, absolutely superb! So warming and comforting; an excellent drink to enjoy outside whilst watching fireworks or to warm up inside after a crisp, autumnal walk. To add an extra bonfire-esque element, replace the sugar with a piece of cinder toffee and allow it to dissolve as you sip.

PommePomToddy

With apple juice
[25ml Pomme Pom, 75ml Apple Juice]
Rich and creamy, with a slight note of custard coming through alongside the spice and creamy vanilla. There is then a warm, woody element, before a crisp, refreshing finish. This is a really simple, but nonetheless delicious drink with lots of depth and character. Best enjoyed with an apple juice that does not come from concentrate.

With soda
[25ml Pomme Pom, 100ml Soda Water]
This is a light and refreshing drink with subtle flavours of apple and wood coming through from the Pomme Pom, as well as touch of creamy spice and vanilla. A pleasant drink for an autumnal afternoon or as an early evening refresher on a hot summer’s day. Best garnished with a spritz of lemon peel oil.

Father & Son
[50ml Pomme Pom, 100ml Still Cider – Shake with Ice]
A simple, but exceptionally cooling and refreshing cocktail. The cider adds a little extra tartness and the Pomme Pom adds a fortifying element, as well as more complex notes of wood and spice. Delicious and very satisfying.

In Conclusion
As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of cider and so apple brandy is a favourite, too. I think that it’s great that, as more distilleries open up in the UK, more are looking at making apple spirit. After all, we make great cider in the UK, so why don’t we make great apple/cider brandy, too?

Pomme Pom is a versatile spirit that works well in both warming and cooling cocktails and, whilst apples undoubtedly have more of an autumnal/winter vibe, I’d happily enjoy it all year round. My favourite drinks were spirit served straight from the freezer, straight from a hipflask, and the Father & Son.
* This used to also be known as cider brandy, but as “Somerset Cider Brandy” (including “Cider Brandy”) now has a European Geographical Indication Protection, the term cannot be used so broadly.

Field-trip to the Irish Whiskey Academy

Irish Whiskey Academy Sign

I’ve been a fan of Irish Whiskey for a while now and I have a number of family and friends who, when it comes to aged spirit, will only drink that from the Emerald Isle. But, despite a reasonable amount of experience drinking it, my knowledge of its production has, until recently, been rather limited. As such, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I was invited to attend the Irish Whiskey Academy in Midleton, Ireland.

The Irish Whiskey Academy offers trade professionals and passionate consumers alike the opportunity to learn about Irish Whiskey in greater depth. A selection of programs are available and an impressive amount of time and capital resources have been invested in the Academy.

Irish Whiskey Academy Maturation

For our trip, we were on the Discoverer Package – a two-day course where topics covered included the production and distillation of Irish Whiskey – including the differences between pot and column distillation – as well as maturation and blending techniques. The visit also gave us the opportunity to tour the large production site, still house, and maturation warehouse of Ireland’s largest distillery.

Irish Whiskey Academy Barrels

For me, the highlights were seeing the sheer scale of the rack houses (barrel storage), which included tasting a rather amazing 16 year old pot-still Irish Whiskey that had been aged exclusively in an ex-sherry butt, as well as a chance to try blending my own whiskey.

What was really great about the experience, and what I valued the most, was that by being immersed in Irish Whiskey (not literally, of course) for two days, a lot of thoughts and theories simply fell into place. For example, why I personally like some whiskies more than others, and that you really can have too much sherry-cask whiskey in a blend – something that I had heard of, but didn’t believe until I had tried it myself.

Irish Whiskey Academy Tasting

All-in-all, over the two days, I had an informative and thoroughly enjoyable time. You truly can’t get the same experience anywhere else, which makes it a great choice for any Irish Whiskey fan who wants to understand this fine spirit in more depth. Programs are available at a range of timeframes and budgets, including a two hour course, an afternoon course, an all-day course, and a two day course.

www.irishwhiskeyacademy.com

Make Mine a Martini – Barroom Book Reviews

There has been an increasing interest in pairing food with wine for many years now and whisk(e)y is starting to get a look-in, too, but what about other spirits such as gin and vodka? What about moving beyond pairing spirits on their own to pairing them in mixed drinks?

FINAL Book - Make Mine A Martini

Kay Plunkett Hogge’s new book, “Make Mine A Martini”, is a cocktail book that starts to look at this. It features “130 cocktails and canapes for fabulous parties”. I’ve picked out a selection of drinks to try and have paired them with some snacks using the suggestions from the book, a recent chat I had with Kay herself (at a Burrough’s Reserve event), and a little of my own inspiration.

Vodka Cocktails

Sea Breeze
[30ml Vodka – 80ml Cranberry Juice]
The creaminess of the vodka comes through well, making the drink reminiscent of tart strawberries and cream. A wedge of lime add zestiness, but with a half-decent vodka you really don’t need it and, with a characterful vodka like Spirit Works, the extra citrus would likely spoil the balance. This is a nice drink to enjoy with cheese and fruit.

Vodka Drinks - Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Vodka Drinks – Seabreeze, Greyhound, Screwdriver

Screwdriver
[30ml Vodka – 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
A simple, but delicious drink. The trick with this one is to use freshly squeezed orange juice, either using a conventional juicer or a mexican elbow citrus press. It makes a lovely accompaniment to a starter or a salad.

Greyhound
[30ml Vodka – 80ml White Grapefruit Juice]
If you like grapefruit, then this would be a great drink to try; a more zesty and lively version of a Screwdriver. However, this is probably not for those that find grapefruit too bitter. A great accompaniment to nuts or other salty snacks.

Whisk(e)y Cocktails

Whisk(e)y cocktails - The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whisk(e)y cocktails – The Green Gimlet & Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour
[50ml Paddy Irish Whiskey, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice, 20ml Sugar Syrup.
Combine ingredients in a glass with ice and gently stir.]
A delightfully smooth Whisky Sour; probably the silkiest and most easy-to-drink I have ever had. If you know any people that decry, “I don’t like whisk(e)y”, I suggest giving them this to try; they’ll be surprised. It’s a simple and sippable drink where the delightful character of the whiskey comes through.

The Green Gimlet
[60ml Chivas Regal Scotch, 30ml Fresh Lime Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup – 3-4 Basil Leaves.
Add all ingredients to a shaker and gently muddle, shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.]
The flavour of the Scotch comes through but has a gentle subtlety to it, the lemon adds some tart zesty liveliness and some extra depth is add by the crisp leafy notes of the basil. Shaking adds a velvety texture to the drink. A great pre-dinner drink to have with appetizers or canapes.

Gin Cocktails

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy Cocktail

Fine & Dandy
[40ml Beefeater Gin, 20ml Cointreau, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice – Dash of Angostura Bitters. Shake ingredients, before straining into a glass.]
I’ve chosen this drink because, when I met Kay, she said that it was one of her current favourites. I have to admit, it wasn’t a drink that I had ever mixed myself. Now, Kay really likes Beefeater Gin and I think that it’s a great choice for this drink. Whilst the gin still has the classic, bold botanical mix, it also leans slightly towards citrus flavours with its use of seville orange and lemon. These notes work particularly well with the lemon juice and luscious orange notes of the Cointreau.

Negroni
[Equal parts – Beefeater Gin, Red Vermouth and Campari]
At the Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve event where I met Kay, I asked what food would be a good accompaniment to a Negroni. Beefeater’s Master Distiller, Desmond Payne, suggested macaroni cheese with salty bacon in it, which I considered a superb idea, and one that I was eager to try once I got home.

FINAL Make Mine a Martini - Beefeater Negroni Mac Cheese

The result was excellent: the bold bitter and herbal flavours complemented the creamy and intense macaroni cheese, and the salty, smoked bacon added a burst of flavour so that the food stood up to the intensity of the cocktail.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

Basil Lemonade
[A mix of fresh lemon juice, water, muddled basil leaves and sugar to taste.]
This is a delightful, light, and refreshing drink, with fine hints of herbal, leafy basil. It makes a lovely accompaniment to most foods, but especially rich pasta sauces.

Lime & Lemongrass Spritzer
[Muddle half a lemongrass stalk into a tall glass, fill glass with ice, and add lime juice and sugar. Top up with soda water.]
A very light drink, well-suited to sipping during hot afternoons whilst enjoying some tiffin or tapas. The light, but complex citrus notes from the lime and lemongrass are both invigorating and thirst-quenching.

FINAL - nonalcoholic - Make Mine A Martini

Levan-thai-ne Iced Coffee
[Muddle 3 cardamom pods, 1/4 star anise, and a shot of ground coffee in a pestle and mortar. Use these spiced coffee grounds in your cafetiere along with boiling water and then leave to cool.]
Thanks to the spice, the flavour of this is very reminiscent of chai coffee. I like this served frappe with a little cream or milk layered over the top. With or without milk, it’s a lovely choice for the end of the meal.

Make Mine A Martini by Kay Plunkett-Hogge, Published by Octopus Books, ISBN: 978-1-84533-881-7 – £14.99

Cocktails with… Beckett’s London Dry Gin

Juniper is the key ingredient of gin and during the early boom of London distilling, juniper came from the countryside surrounding the capital. After the outbreak of the Second World War, these berries were cleared to make way for agriculture and food production. Until recently, therefore, most, if not all, juniper came from Italy and the countries around the Adriatic Sea.

Becketts Gin uses hand-picked juniper berries from Box Hill in Surrey. These are still Juniperus Communis, but vary in size and oil content to Tuscan juniper because of the colder, wetter climate in which they are grown. The gin also uses fresh riverside mint from Kingston-upon-Thames. Another four botanicals complete the recipe: coriander, sweet orange peel, orris root, and lime.

Becketts Gin FINAL

On its own
Nose: Bright juniper, piney and green, with a dry, resinous quality. There are also some leafy herbal notes and a touch of peppery citrus.
Taste: A good, well-integrated spirit with a smooth texture and plenty of juniper notes upfront, followed by luscious, fresh mint and then some dry citrus and vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
The juniper shines through in this drink and even stands up to the sweeter tonic waters. It produces a smooth and refreshing drink with citrus and mellow herbal notes, and just a hint of chocolate, before a dry, bitter finish.

Martini
Another textbook drink. Lovely juniper notes alongside dry angelica and crisp, slightly creamy vanilla and a notable leafiness. The finish is smooth, clean, and long.

Negroni
A textbook Negroni: totally classic, with a bold, punchy juniper flavour, deeper herbal notes, citrus, and – again – a hint of chocolate before a dry, bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Beckett’s Gin is a great example of a classic gin and still shows that there is room for innovation in the gin category whilst staying faithful to traditional flavour profiles. The works that Beckett’s do to support British Juniper is commendable and my favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic.

Cocktails with… Dà Mhìle’s Seaweed Farmhouse Botanical Gin

Today is Trafalgar Day and, as such, I thought it was fitting to feature a somewhat nautical gin; namely, Dà Mhìle’s Organic Seaweed Farmhouse Botanical Gin. This gin uses a cut down variation of the botanicals in their Original Gin and, after distillation, it is infused with seaweed from the Newquay coast, before being triple filtered.

Da Mhile Seaweed Gin Final Shell

Da Mhile Gin with the serving suggestion of sipping it from an oyster shell

On its own
Nose: Complex and intriguing, with floral hints of rose, as well as citrus, coriander, some dry juniper and pine notes, and salty leafy notes.
Taste: A very strong flavour, with the same note that are found on the nose. This is a mostly smooth spirit, with just a touch of warmth at the end. The bold flavours of the gin should make it a great candidate for mixed drinks. There is some pleasant spice elements on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
A very powerful drink. Notes of resinous pine and juniper, citrusy coriander, and some herbal notes towards the end, plus a hint of chocolate. Plenty of flavour and rather cooling.

Martini
Bright and powerful, with a great juniper hit, as well as some complex, leafy, slightly salty, green notes.

Negroni
A smooth and complex Negroni; again, the floral and salty green notes of the gin come through well and add character. This would be a good choice for those who like a Negroni with plenty of flavour.

Da Mhile Seaweed Gin Final Fish

A glass of chilled Seaweed Gin as a fine accompaniment to seafood.

Gimlet
Excellent and a great choice for Trafalgar Day. The tart lime works well with the green leafy notes of the gin and its fresh, slightly salty element.

In Conclusion
Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin is a bold and flavoursome spirit that, as it was designed to do, goes well with seafood. My favourite drink was the Gimlet.