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… Filliers Dry Gin & Tangerine Gin – from Belgium!

fillier gin title

Today, we are revisiting the SummerFruitCup World of Gin by adding another gin from a different country to the collection. We are not travelling too far, but we do need to nip over to the continent, to Belgium.

The product in question comes from Filliers Distillery, a distillery located on a farm near the River Lys in Bachte-Maria-Leerne, in the East Flanders, which was founded in 1880 by Karel Lodewijk Filliers. The distillery made and still makes a range of genevers, but, in 1928, third generation distiller, Firmin Filliers, came up with the recipe for Filliers Dry Gin 28. The 28 has a double meaning: not only does it represent the year in which it was created, but also the number of botanicals used in its production (in addition to juniper).

Filliers Dry Gin
Filliers Original
Nose: Soft, piney juniper upfront, which gives way to some sweet citrus and then moves onto almost raisin-like spice and a hint of nutty dark chocolate.
Taste: Very plump and luscious mouth-feel, with a rather juicy flavour. Like the nose, there’s sappy juniper upfront, with a hint of saltiness, which then changes into lively, floral citrus notes and coriander. The spice then kicks in, with a very long, dry finish of pine and a little spice. Clearly, this is a spirit made with care and the natural transition between the flavours as you sip is a mark of its quality.

Gin & Tonic
Delicious: a very pure Gin & Tonic, with both the gin and the tonic coming through well and providing crisp refreshment. The flavours are both defined and refined, with juniper, citrus and then some sweet spice. Very good and succulent. I personally like to serve this drink with a ruby grapefruit garnish.

Martini
Another great gin, right juniper as well as some spice, such as anise or fennel, and a citrus finish. This cocktail has a rich texture and is very satisfying to drink, with a sweet lift at the end. Certainly not to be missed.

Negroni
Near perfection as Negronis go – just right in terms of balance: the dryness of the gin, the sweet herbal flavour of the red vermouth and then the deeper, bitter, earthy notes of the Campari are in equilibrium with each other. This is certainly one for the hard-core Negroni fans, or, indeed, anyone who wants to see what all the fuss over this drink is about.

FilliersTangerine Bottle

Filliers Tangerine

This is a special, seasonal edition of the Dry Gin 28, made with tangerines from Valencia, which have been harvested exclusively between November and January.

Gin & Tonic
A clean drink with luscious, fruity tangerine flavours coming through, but not overpowering the drink. All-in-all, this is succulent and very refreshing. The
orange-like citrus notes work well with the tonic and, with a fresh citrus garnish, this would be even better. It works well with Schweppes and Fevertree,
but I’d steer away from the more citrusy tonics like Fentimans.

Martini
Superb. The flavours of many orange or other citrus gins are just too overpowering to make a good Martini, but Filliers Tangerine hits the spot, making a drink that’s smooth, crisp and zesty. Very enjoyable.

Negroni
An excellent Negroni – intensely bitter, with a great zestiness from the tangerine and some bitter citrus oils coming through that work particularly well alongside the Campari. Rather bracing, but brilliant at the same time.

Filliers Tangerine Comet
[1oz Orange Gin, 1oz Lillet Blanc, 2 Dashes Maraschino, STIR]
This is a great drink and one of my favourites to make using orange/tangerine gin. The citrus of the gin works well with the citrus of the Lillet and the wine gives the drink a lovely, lively freshness. The maraschino adds a little depth and some extra sweetness, too. Perfect for an aperitif.

In Conclusion

Both of these gins are superb, not just in terms of their fine packaging, but the great flavours and craftsmanship evident in the spirits. The dry gin makes a fantastic Negroni and is very much an example of a premium gin. The tangerine is rich and luscious and works superbly, both on its own and when mixed.

Cocktails with… Masons Yorkshire Dry Gin

MasonsGinTitle

Today is World Gin Day and so it’s fitting that today is the day that Masons Yorkshire Dry Gin is launched to the world. Masons Gin is based near Ripon in Yorkshire* and uses water from the local Harrogate Spring to cut the distillate ready for bottling, which is done at 42.0% ABV.

As Karl Mason is something of a Gin & Tonic aficionado, I decided to focus this review around this colonial drink; Karl even suggested some garnishes that he thought worked well in Gin Tonicas. But first, let’s try the gin on its own…

MasonsDryYorkshireGinBottle

Nose: Fennel and coriander, as well as a little leafy lemon.
Taste: A smooth spirit with some malty, grain notes reminiscent of gin made with a white whiskey base. This is followed by coriander mixed with some piney elements alongside some juniper. The flavour then moves onto some herbal notes such as fennel, liquorice and caraway; this combination of flavours both adds a little sweetness and gives the gin a long, lingering finish.

Classic Gin Tonic (Fevertree)
Excellent – full of flavour, with some malty notes and the juniper, it is very rounded and comforting, almost “cuddly”. Then, you get some great fennel and liquorice on the finish. This is definitely something different. My suggested serve for this would be to use plenty of ice and a nice wedge of fresh lemon.

MasonsDryYorkshireGin1938GinTonic

1938 Gin Tonic
This is a Gin Tonic as Served at Shepheard’s in Cairo in April 1938. Take a rickey glass, rub the inside with the peel of a lime. Pour in a jigger (35ml) of Masons Yorkshire Dry Gin, add ice cubes, a slice of lime or lemon, and fill with Fevertree Indian Tonic Water.

As covered by Twitter: @summerfruitcup

The drink allows the gin to come through especially the anise/fennel/liquorice giving it a slightly sweet start. This is then balanced out by the juniper and coriander as well as the lime peel and ganrish. As the ice melts and the drink get a little cold it improves even more. Very refreshing and a nice dry crisp finish. Overall @YorkshireGin makes a tasty GT but it is not your usual fair, good for those seeking something less pedestrian. Good stuff 1938 AD.

Karl’s Suggested Garnishes – All with Fevertree Tonic

MasonsDryYorkshireGinAppleAnise

Gin Tonica (garnished with star anise and apple)
Tasty stuff, with the crispness of the apple and the anise bringing out the fennel and liquorice notes of the gin. Fresh and crisp and, for extra bite, you can munch on the tangy apple. A fine Gin Tonica for a lazy Saturday afternoon; lively, but not too intense and relatively light.

MasonsDryYorkshireGinOrangeCardamom

Gin Tonica (garnished with orange peel and cardamom pods)
If you want a fragrant Gin & Tonic, then this is superb. I really like how the orange complements the flavours of the gin and the spice of the cardamom works well with the fennel/liquorice notes of the gin. This is superb, vibrant and refreshing.

Gin Tonica (garnished with red grapefruit)
A simple, but very effective garnish, with the rich, zesty citrus juiciness working well with the character of the gin. Crisp and refreshing.

MasonsDryYorkshireGinRedGrapefruit

As lovely as all of these drinks are, how can you test a gin without trying it in these two classics?

Martini
A good, solid drink with juniper, citrus and some malty, grainy notes, coriander and the some sweet fennel notes, too. There’s a long glow of flavour with a little warmth on the finish. Bold and classic with a slightly contemporary edge, but plenty to keep you interested as you drink, and wanting another.

Negroni
This is another good drink: the fennel/anise/caraway notes work well with the Campari and vermouth, almost giving the drink an impression of an absinthe rinse around the glass. It has a good bitter-sweet balance, with a full flavour, rich texture and lasting finish.

*It is currently actually made under contract in Cambridgeshire by the English Spirit Company, but that is only whilst the Yorkshire distillery is being built.

Boodles is Back – Cocktails with The British Gin

BoodlesGinIsBackTitle

For a long time, I have been a big fan of Boodles Gin and, when I first started getting into gin, I remember that Boodles was available from places like Gerry’s in Soho, and I certainly drank a fair bit of it. Unfortunately, it then became increasingly difficult to obtain and my only sources were relatives returning from the United States, but nonetheless I still had a supply.

 At this time, the brand was owned by Pernod Ricard, although it was actually made by Joanne Moore at the Greenalls Distillery. I thought it was a shame that a brand with such heritage and a close association with the likes of Churchill and Ian Fleming, who were members of Boodle’s Club (where the name of the gin comes from), had been left to languish.

BoodlesGinBottle

Things changed in 2012, when the New Jersey based company, Proximo, purchased the brand and set about planning to relaunch it. Although not properly launched until July this year, there are a few sneak previews going on, such as Ginstock tomorrow for World Gin Day.

 Boodles Gin dates back to 1845 and is named after Boodle’s Gentleman Club in St. James’s, which, in turn, was named after their head waiter, Edward Boodle. It is bottled in the UK at 40% ABV and is made at the Greenalls Distillery in Warrington using neutral grain spirit, a carter-head still (similar to that used to make Bombay Sapphire) and contains nine botanicals:

BoodlesGinIsBackBots

The Taste

Own
nose: juniper, coriander (adding a citrusy note) backed up by some leafy herbal tones.
taste: Sweet to start with cassia, cinnamon and caraway notes, this moves towards the rich herbal notes of the rosemary and sage and the dry piney juniper and coriander come through at the end. Smooth throughout with just a small lift of warmth at the very end. Very accessible and even better served chilled.

Gin & Tonic
Good, clean, crisp and refreshing. The gin chills down really nicely and works well with schweppes leaving a long dry slightly bitter finish. Not too intense and pretty classic but perfect for a hot day

Martini
Good solid flavour and surprisingly potent for a gin at 40%ABV (I think this is a good thing as a Martini needs a little power). Good balance of flavour with a good range of botanicals coming into play, dry juniper, citrus coriander and then some of the herbal spice notes (although these are relatively subtle). I quite like this without any garnish but I think a lemon twist would work well too.

Negroni
Good full flavour, very smooth but not over-complex. Easy to drink and enjoy. I recommended it with a twist (or slice if you’re feeling juicy) of red grapefruit.

WorldGinDayEve GinTonicFriday Boodles

Gin Tonica
Absolutely superb, the sage brings out the herbal note and the lemon thyme does something similar but also adds a little crispness and zest as the gin has not citrus botanicals. The Lemon peel adds colour and fragrance. I didn’t twist the peel because I didn’t want it to overpower the drink.

In Conclusion
I think it’s great that Boodles is back and this gin is very mixable and makes some great drinks, my favourite was the gin tonica. Although the gin has been reduced in strength to 40% ABV in the UK it is still bottle at 45.2% ABV in the USA. And although I like the 40% version the 45,2% ABV still remains of the 489 different that gins I have tried my all-time favourite.

Boodles Gin is available from Gerry’s of Soho for around £27 for 70cl.

Cocktails with… Hernö Gin Navy Strength

After my recent focus on gin from the US, it was lovely to return home from our trip (and I had an amazing time, by the way) to find a new and exciting European gin waiting for me; namely, Hernö Gin Navy Strength Gin. We reviewed their original “Swedish Excellence” Gin back in January and I had the opportunity to chat to the chaps from Hernö on February’s Gin Ramble.
The Navy Strength Gin, bottled at 57% ABV, follows a whole host of new high-strength gins coming onto the market, but, so far, these have been focused in the UK and USA. For more information, check out our tasting.
HernoNavyGinBOTTLE
On its own
Nose: Lots of coriander, as well as some beeswax, sappy pine and juniper notes, and more citrus – very intense and lasting.
Taste: Silky smooth to start, with plenty of spicy and citrus coriander. Then a little warmth grows, along with some sweetness and notes of juniper. This is followed by a return of the coriander and citrus, and a crisp and very long-lasting finish that lasts for well over 90 seconds. Flavourful and intense, it really shows how the higher ABV carries the botanical characteristics in a far bolder way. Excellent.
Gin & Tonic
A strong and punchy flavour, full of very intense floral and coriander notes. A clean and not too cloying tonic is needed for this drink; I think I would be inclined to pair this with Q, 1724 or Fevertree Mediterranean, to just balance out the more floral elements and bring up some of the herbal elements that I personally crave in a Gin & Tonic. This is pretty tasty and has lots of potential.
DTSHernoNavyGin (4)
Martini
Perfectly balanced, with flavours of fennel, coriander, dry pine, beeswax and citrus, as well as some lighter, floral notes. Simply superb and perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
Negroni
Whoosh! There’s lots of flavour here. In addition to the coriander, some anise and fennel come through to start, followed by some juicy, fruity berry notes. Then, the herbal elements of the vermouth and bitter aspects of the Campari come through, along with a long, bitter-sweet finish with some piercing pine. Intense and thrilling to drink.
In Conclusion
I have a bit of a penchant for Navy Strength Gin; it is one of my favourite spirits to mix with and Hernö Navy Strength Gin is no exception. I like the original, but I like the Navy even more. Certainly worth checking out.

Cocktails with… Herno Gin

hERNOgINtITLE

My story with Hernö gin started back in January 2012, before their distillery was built and not even the merest drop of this juniper spirit had been tasted. At the end of November 2012, two bottles arrived on my doorstep (one for me and one to be shared by the Modern Madame of Juniper and the Queen of Gin at the Juniper Society).

Hernö Gin is made in small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in the Northern part of Sweden, making it the world’s northernmost gin distillery. The gin is made using organic spirit in “Kierstin”, a 250 litre, hand-beaten copper still from Germany. It’s bottled at 40.5%ABV and is made using a mix of 8 botanicals:

HernoGinBOTS

#1) On its own
Nose: Juniper and lemon verbena; piney and perfumed.
Taste: Juniper to start and then a full, zesty, jammy and floral combination of orange-coriander, followed by some orange and lemon blossom mixed with lemon balm and verbena. The finish is long and lingering, with plenty of citrus. The citrus and floral notes give this gin a contemporary character, but it’s backed up by plenty of pine. Very enjoyable and a fine gin to enjoy on the rocks.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Really flavourful and very tasty: fresh, crisp, sappy pine and plenty of coriander, as well as some lighter herbal and floral notes. This is crisp and refreshing and reminds me of when I tired Hendricks for the first time – simply superb.

#3) Martini
Taste: Lovely – cool and crisp with both some zesty citrus notes and a deep flavour of coriander; the other herbal botanicals stop it from becoming too zesty. There’s also lots of pine on the finish. There are a lot of classic elements to this Martini: it’s clean, cool and crisp, and gives you that Martini woosh! At the same time, it’s a little twist away from a traditional Martini.

Herno Gin FINAL

#4) Negroni
Quite sweet, but with lots going on.  There’s a hint of lemon balm and lemon verbena, along with low herbal and high floral notes and a fair bit of coriander. Not too bitter, but the familiar Negroni finish is there (although perhaps more dry than bitter). I really like this, a treat to drink.

#5) Alexander
Floral and herbal notes make this quite unusual. There’s lots of coriander and piney juniper, but, despite the mix, I think that it works surprisingly well; you might do a double-take after the first sip, though.

#6) French ‘75
A rather odd French ‘75: the heavy citrus and coriander combine with the Champagne to create both a very dry and very citrusy drink. This cocktail actually appeals to me quite a bit and, as the sugar cube dissolves, the drink does improve.

In Conclusion

Hernö Gin is a great example of how craft gin distilling is moving out across the world, after a concentration in the US and some parts of Europe. It is a gin with a distinctive character and one that reflects the individuality of the distillery and distiller.

Despite the heavier citrus and coriander notes, there is something about the deeper herbal flavours in this gin that sets it apart from the “coriander monsters” of the USA. It makes some unconventional cocktails that some people will think are superb (the Gin & Tonic and Negroni did it for me) and also has a lot of potential for bartenders to experiment with. A great gin with which to launch another year of gin reviews.

Cocktails with… No:3 Gin

nogintitle

No:3 Gin is one of those spirits that, along with Tanqueray No:10, is one of the favourite brands of both myself and externally acclaimed gin aficionados. In addition to this high status, it has a bottle that attracts many folks and, even in the short time that I have had one sitting atop my cocktail cabinet, it has been admired by almost all of my visitors.

No:3 Gin (or Number 3 St. James Street, to give it a fuller title) is named after the address of Berry Brothers & Rudd, wine merchant to the House of Windsor. The bottle is in the style of an early Genever case bottle and the key embossed on the front is a reflection of the parlour key in BBR’s establishment.

No3 Gin Bottle

The gin is actually made in the Netherlands and is made using 6 botanicals:

Juniper Berries
Angelica Root
Coriander Seed
Orange Peel
Grapefruit Peel
Cardamom Pods

1) On its own
Nose: Full, fresh and green; lots of piney juniper with a hint of cardamom – lovely.
Taste: Initially, silkiness with some building power; juniper upfront, then a clean citrus and slightly creamy middle, before a juniper finish with cardamom at the very end. The flavour of this in is long and very tasty.

2) Gin & Tonic
Plenty of sweet, spicy cardamom on the nose, which follows through on the taste. It’s really rather lovely, being full of ripe and juicy flavours: citrus, juniper and an earthy spiciness, all tied up with a cardamom cord of flavour. Very refreshing and succulent.

3) Martini
A very silky Martini that initially deceives you into thinking it’s a bit soft, but the finish redefines it as a drink of sophistication and power. Strong cardamom and juniper-pine finish, with plenty of citrus, too. Serving this gin ice-cold is the only way to go. I love it.

4) Negroni
Deep, complex and intense, with plenty of juniper coming through. This is a textbook Negroni that is bursting with flavour and should be right up the street of the Negroni aficionado. Not for the faint-hearted, but I think it’s just peachy.

In Conclusion

No:3 Gin is one of the few gins made in the Classic style that have really added something to the gin market in the last couple of years. I really enjoyed all of the drinks that I tried and, when asked what my favourite was, was torn between the Gin & Tonic and the Negroni.

No:3 Gin is available for around £34 for 70cl from Waitrose or for around £32 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Drinks from the Vault – A look at Beefeater Crown Jewel and Beefeater Wet

I recently came into the possession of two bottles discontinued of Beefeater Gin.

Beefeater Crown Jewel

The first was Beefeater Crown Jewel, this gin was launched in 1993 for the Duty Free market, although some specialist shops in the UK occasionally sold it. It was based on Beefeater’s standard mix of 9 botanicals, plus grapefruit.  Additionally, it was bottled at 50% ABV.

With introduction of Beefeater 24 in 2009, Beefeater Crown Jewel was discontinued. It is worth noting that Beefeater 24 still contains grapefruit as an additional botanical, as well as two types of tea.

On its own
Nose: Pine, initially, then some savoury notes, a hint of orange and some other zesty citrus.
Taste: Powerful in flavour and alcoholic strength, this is pretty classic start, but, in addition to its sheer intensity, the main difference between this and original Beefeater is the long finish of grapefruit; this is a simple variation, but a great one and one that should add a new dimension to cocktails.

Frozen
Very thick and viscous; very smooth, but the flavours remain intense: juniper, citrus, angelica, coriander and then a zesty finish with some marmalade sweetness. Very, very pleasant to sip.

Gin & Tonic
This has a zesty nose and is very dry, indeed. It’s refreshing, with plenty of citrus and the grapefruit coming through at the very end. I quite like it; served ice-cold, it is rather delightful.

Martini
Very intense and exceptionally cold; simply, excellent. It has a marvellous, sweet and citrusy finish. This is one of the best Martinis out there and I’m surprised that I have only just discovered it. Brilliant.

Negroni
An exceedingly intense Negroni; for some, this will be absolute bliss. The extra citrus from the grapefruit comes through the drink like a knife and gives you a pow in the kisser. The hard-core Negroni fan will love this, as it turns the bitter-sweet balance and intensity up to 11. Superb.

In Conclusion
Beefeater Crown Jewel was made using only a small variation on the original Beefeater botanical mix, but it was a welcome feature of duty free for many years and a bartenders’ favourite. Now discontinued – and I have it on good authority that it won’t come back – it’s over; time to move on. Sad, but we’ll always have the memories.

Beefeater WET

Beefeater Wet, released in 1999 (and discontinued 2005), was designed to be a different style of gin – slightly sweeter and more fruity – than Classic Beefeater and, along with Tanqueray Mallaca (1997), they laid the groundwork for the new way of thinking about gin that eventually led to the rise of Contemporary-style gin. Interestingly, both of these gins were marketed in the US and, today, this is where this style of gin is most popular.

Beefeater Wet departed from the classic recipe with the addition of extra spice, pear essence and a little sugar. It is also bottled at 37.5%ABV, rather than the usual 40%ABV for the UK or 47%ABV for the USA.

On its own
Nose: Juniper upfront, and then some earthy notes that are followed by notes of freshly cut pear, with just a hint of oxidation. Unusual, but inviting.
Taste: Quite smooth and sweet, with the pear coming through again. This is particularly unusual and, given when it was released, I can see how it can be considered as one of the gins that paved the way to the wave of New Western or Contemporary style of gins.
With a little water, more coriander comes through and makes the drink fresher and the pear even more prominent with a final, soft, creamy citrus flavour.

Frozen
Sweet and silky, silky smooth. There are hints of marzipan and pear, as well as some vanilla creaminess and a finish of piney juniper. Pretty good and rather liqueur-like.

Gin & Tonic
Beefeater Wet was created for the US market, where Gin & Tonics take a backseat to other gin drinks, and, as such, this doesn’t work that well. I used Schweppes EU, which is typically more generous to a gin than the UK version or the even sweeter US variety, and it still pretty much overpowered the gin, even at a 2:1 ratio. The gin comes through more on the finish with notes of pear drops and marzipan. That said, after a little ice melt it does become more refreshing (as long as you like the taste of tonic).

Martini
Good, but, even with my standard amount of vermouth, it is a rather wet Martini with a fair bit of sweetness and the flavour of fruity, spiced pear. This is very different, and not at all classic in style, but it will appeal to some.

Negroni
Beefeater Wet makes quite a sweet Negroni, but one that is particularly smooth. The fruity pear comes through on the finish, especially. Whilst this isn’t as intense or powerful flavour-wise as many Negroni fans would like, it is, by no means, a bad drink.

In Conclusion
I had tried Beefeater Wet before (in 2007) and, to the best of my recollection, it was “not that great”.  Five years on, my palette has developed and I thought I’d give it another go.

I was surprised at how much of the pear came through and that the flavour seemed pretty genuine. The gin is smooth, but you would expect that, given the lower %ABV and slight sweetening. Its freshness makes it great for long mixed drinks such as the Gin Collins.

I think that if this gin was released today, then it would enjoy a lot more success than it did, as palates have changed or, more precisely, a whole new generation of gin drinkers with different tastes have “joined the party” and with them comes a demand for the more contemporary products.

My favourite way of drinking the Beefeater Wet was either straight from the freezer or in a Gin & Tonic.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Cocktails with… Bulldog Gin

I remember when Bulldog was first launched in the UK; Gerry’s in Old Compton Street had a display full of these unusual, smokey, purple-grey glass bottles. This was back in October 2006* and, since then, Bulldog has gone from strength to strength, even having a listing in Waitrose, where I gather it is rather popular. When Bulldog was first released, it was stated that it had been designed with making the ultimate Gin & Tonic and Dirty Gin Martini in mind.

Bulldog Gin is made at the Langley Distillery, is bottled at 40%ABV and contains a mix of 12 botanicals.

On its own
Nose: Juniper, coriander, and floral hints, including lavender.
Taste: Soft and sweet, initially, followed by some dry juniper and some sweeter floral notes, as well as the perfumed hint of dry petals. Both the flavour and alcohol build to a pleasant warmth at the end, making this rather accessible.

Gin & Tonic (with Fentimans Tonic Water)
I’ve tried a few tonics with Bulldog and I think that it works best with the zestiness of Fentimans. The result is a lively and refreshing drink, with the powerful flavours of the gin coming through afterwards. Most cooling.

Martini
Not bad. This has some classic elements – juniper and coriander – but also takes on a rather odd, bitter twang at the end. Overall, it’s not bad, but not that great, either.

Frozen
There’s definitely some juniper, but it’s also quite sweet, too, with additional notes of coriander. Whilst this isn’t a classic style of drink, it still has some traditional elements and a peppery finish.

Negroni
Quite smooth and soft, with a range of fruity notes. This is quite good, with the gin working well alongside the Campari and vermouth, curbing the drink’s bitterness. A surprise, but a good one.

Sweet Martini
Smooth and clean, with some of the finer gin flavours, such as juniper and coriander, on the finish. Very easy to drink and rather rousing to the appetite.

Gin Buck
This is rather a pleasant drink and a rival for the Gin & Tonic in terms of refreshment. The spicy and sweet floral elements of the gin come out especially well alongside the ginger ale, making this a thirst-quenching and flavoursome drink.

In Conclusion
Bulldog Gin is a rather accessible spirit; I certainly know of folks who don’t usually like juniper, but  enjoy this gin. My favourite drink with Bulldog was the Negroni, although I also found sipping it straight from the freezer rather pleasant.

Bulldog Gin is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange
For a special treat why not try their Extra Bold?

* 2006 being the Chinese Year of the Dog.

Navy Gin Tasting for Trafalgar Day

As part of my recent trip to New York, I arranged a Navy Strength Gin tasting, which was kindly hosted by New York Distilling. Upon our return to the UK, we decided to hold a second tasting in London, which also coincided with the UK launch of FEW Spirits by Ginuine Spirits.

The Navy Gin Tasting in New York (note Master of Malt had not yet released theirs at this time)

Navy Strength Gin dates back to the days of Empire and British naval superiority. At this time, gin for ships (the drink of naval officers) was bottled at 100 Proof (on a scale developed using the Bartholomew Sikes hydrometer), which is the modern equivalent of 57%ABV.* At this strength, if the gin was spilt on gunpowder (they were often stored together), the powder would still ignite.

In the 19th Century, Plymouth was home to Britain’s naval fleet and the distillery on the quayside (Blackfriars Distillery, the modern home of Plymouth Gin) was the supplier for much of the fleet. Subsequently, for many years, Plymouth Gin 100 Proof was made on and off, as required.

When Plymouth 100 Proof became a permanent feature of the distillery’s portfolio in 1993, the term “Navy Strength” was used over “100 Proof” as it was easier to understand and more clearly illustrated that the gin was stronger. It also seems a particularly fitting title, given the distillery’s historic naval connections.

The (Blind) Tasting at Graphic Bar in London

Fast forward to 2010 and the start of the current gin boom. The global availability of Plymouth Navy Strength was limited and US demand for stronger gin led to some distillers coming up with their own varieties of Navy Strength Gin.

So what’s the current definition of Navy Strength Gin?

Navy Strength Gin = Gin at 100 Proof (57-58%ABV)

Anything below this strength is “under-proof”, whilst anything above is “over-proof”. Thus, gins such as Old Raj Blue (55%ABV) and Finsbury 60 and Blackwoods 60 (both of which are bottled at 60%ABV) are not Navy Strength Gins.**

All of the gins that we tasted were 57%ABV and were tasted blind (even I didn’t know which was which). Here are our notes in the order in which the gins were tasted.

#1 – FEW Standard Issue (57%ABV)

Made by FEW Spirits at their distillery in Illinois, USA and recently arriving on British shores this gin has a different base and a different botanical mix to their American Gin.

Nose: Quite fragrant, with some vegetal notes, perhaps luscious tomato. There’s also some piney juniper, a fair bit of coriander, and some flowery notes, too.

Taste: With some maltiness and creaminess, everyone in the panel agreed that this had plenty of flavour. The grain elements came across as notes of toasted cornflakes. There was also plenty of coriander and other floral notes, such as honeysuckle, followed by a leafy herbalness and sweet pepper toward the end. The finish was pleasant and dry.

FEW Standard Issue is available for around £38 for 75cl from Master of Malt.

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#2 – Plymouth Navy Strength (57%ABV)

This is the original Navy Strength Gin and a long-time favourite of mine. It dates from the days of the Distillery’s origins in the naval town, although, for many years, it was not made on a regular basis. In 1993 (Plymouth Gin’s bicentenary), the Navy Strength became a regular in their product assortment. For Plymouth Gin, the term “Navy Strength” is simply an alternative to using 100 degrees proof; no more, no less. Plymouth Navy Strength is a higher strength version of their standard gin or, simply put, “The 42.4, but with less water”.

Nose: Juniper up-front, followed by citrus, coriander, earthy notes and a touch of cardamom.

Taste: This had a strong and intense flavour; almost a little peppery. It was very classic in style, with piney juniper, fresh and zingy citrus, and a slight sweetness towards the end, which was slightly reminiscent of caramelized orange peel.

Gin & Tonic: A very classic style of Gin & Tonic, this was very crisp, with juniper, some sweetness and a bitter finish. Quite a lot of citrus, too.

Martini: Flavourful and powerful, with juniper, some sweet citrus and spicy coriander. This cocktail had a long finish with plenty of cardamom, which I love. It had a real “wow” factor; simply superb. A textbook drink, worthy of the name “Silver Bullet”.

Negroni: Superb; perfect bitter/sweet balance, sweet jammy citrus, and hints of dark chocolate. Bold, intense, and delicious. My favourite.

Plymouth Navy Strength Gin is available for around £28 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

#3 – Perry’s Tot by New York Distilling (57%ABV)
Made by NY Distilling based in Brooklyn, New York, this is a mix of 10 botanicals, including cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. It named after Matthew Calbraith Perry who served as Commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1841-43.

Nose: Complex, with overriding characteristics of pine and coriander and some other, deeper herbal notes.

Taste: This was a departure from the classic style of gin, with an immediate POW! of flavour that’s invigorating and exciting. Notes of citrus and coriander were quite powerful, with some sweet liquorice root, too.

Gin & Tonic: Refreshing, complex and herbal, with a big dose of coriander. Whilst this drink sets itself apart, it’s not one for traditionalists.

Martini: Sappy and piney juniper, this cocktail was quite spicy with coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Negroni: Slightly sweeter and spicier than a typical Negroni, with notes of juniper and milk and dark chocolate. Very tasty.

Perry’s Tot is available for around $33 for 75cl from Park Avenue Liquor of New York City (US only)

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#4 – Master of Malt’s Bathtub Gin Navy strength (57%ABV)

A stronger version of their revolutionary Bathtub Gin, which show that, mere “GIN” (by the EU definition) could be mighty tasty. The use of crushed botanicals (a difference to the Original Bathtub) means that the gin is not only BIG in terms of alcoholic strength but flavour intensity too.

Nose: Juniper, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Taste: Soft to start, followed by a huge burst of flavour: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and cloves. All in all, this was very christmassy and had quite a lot of warmth from the alcohol (but not burn). I think it will work wonders in autumnal and wintery cocktails; it’ll really warm the cockles.

Gin & Tonic: A cloudy mix, with nutmeg and cinnamon and some ginger, too. Quite refreshing, with quite a distinct, savoury side to it, too. Another lovely drink that would be good for Autumn and Winter.

Martini: Flavourful and intense, with lots of coriander, as well as sweet Winter spice. Very powerful, in terms of both alcohol and flavour.

Negroni: This could very well be called a Christmas Negroni; there’s a sweetness upfront, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, as well some juniper and more sweetness towards the end.

Master of Malt Bathtub Navy Strength Gin is available for around £42 for 70cl from Master of Malt

#5 – Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin (57%ABV)

Rebranded and repackaged in 2012, initially for the American market, Royal Dock is now available to us in the UK and beyond. The recipe for the gin itself has been made since 1863 and has been supplied to the Admiralty as well as the wider trade. Made by the Hayman family, it is named after the Royal Dock at Deptford, a one time contemporary of the likes of Plymouth and Gosport. It uses Neutral Grain Spirit and a blend of 9 classic botanicals.

Nose: Classic and fresh, with juniper, citrus and liquorice.

Taste: Again, very classic in flavour, being smooth, clean and crisp. It was well-liked by most of the panel. There was a good amount of juniper, but it wasn’t overly sappy, being freshened up with citrus peel, coriander and spicy herbal notes. Quite excellent. Strong, yet smooth; just what you want from a Navy Gin.

Gin & Tonic: This ticks all the boxes: zesty, refreshing and clean; very classic and solid, with no outlandish characteristics. A real pleasure to drink. My favourite.

Martini: More flavourful than Plymouth, with greater flavours of spice, black pepper and coriander. Delicious and rather dry, in the classic Martini style. A really good, crisp and intense Martini.

Negroni: A clean, crisp and classic cocktail; no Negroni fan would be disappointed with this.

Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

#6 – Leopold’s Navy Strength (57%ABV)
Launched in the Autumn/Fall of 2011, this is made using a different botanical mix to their excellent Original Gin and was designed to be more botanically intense, using Bergamot rather than hand-zested pomelos. Like the Original, each botanical is distilled separately and then they are all blended together.

Nose: Plenty of juniper, which dominates the nose.

Taste: Sweet and very, very piney, this had plenty of herbal notes. It was very warming, with a  warmth that gradually builds over time.

Gin & Tonic: A very herbal drink, with plenty of pine and some juicy citrus, which also made this particularly refreshing. It had intense flavours, with the greater concentrations of botanicals being evident.

Martini: Thick and viscous, with intense green and piney juniper, spicy coriander and crisp citrus notes. This was easily the most intense Martini, flavour-wise, of all that we tried and was certainly memorable. Very tasty and great for a change.

Negroni: Wow! A very flavourful, lively, herbal and piney Negroni. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, many will love it.

* It is worth noting that the strength of the rum of Naval Tots was calculated differently.
**Sun Liquor of Seattle make a Gun Club “Navy Strength” Gin, but, as this is bottled at a mere 50%ABV, for the purposes of this tasting it is not classed as a Navy Strength Gin.

Special thanks to all our panel of tasters: Michael of Ginuine Spirits, Paul of FEW, Zack and the folks at Graphic Bar, Mr Justin of North Virginia, Aaron of TheGinIsIn (America’s Gin Reviewer), Sean of Plymouth, Emma Stokes of London Cocktail Society, Chris of GinJourney, Dave Hollander of The New Sheridan Club, Clayton Hartley of The Candlelight Club, Dickie the GinSage, Mrs. B., Clint of Imbibe, Kirsty Chant of Chant Communications, Paul of G-Vine, Wilkes of @wilkes888 (The London based food and drink-o-phile), Olivier of TheGinBlog, NY Distilling, MasterofMalt (including photography), Hayman’s, Leopold’s, FEW and TheWhiskyExchange.