“Me & My Botanical” – A Gin Guild Presentation

MeandMyBotanicalTitle

After a busy week at the beginning of October with the London Gin Summit and Craft Distilling Expo, I decided to make it a quiet London Cocktail Week for me this year. Having said that, at least one event that I definitely didn’t want to miss was The Gin Guild’s “Me and My Botanical” event, which involved five of the UK’s top distillers.

We kicked off with Tom Nichols…

Tom Nichols - Tanqueray

Tom Nichol – Tanqueray

Tom Nichol (Tanqueray Gordons) – Chamomile

Tom discussed his fondness for this daisy flower, which he uses in Tanqueray Ten and that Joanne Moore uses in Bloom; both described by Tom as floral gins. Up until 10 years ago, it was quite unusual to find chamomile being used as a gin botanical. Looking at the flower itself, it is the centre that contains the most oils..

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Charles Maxwell (Thames DIstillers) – Juniper & Liquorice

Charles Maxwell - On Juniper

Charles Maxwell – On Juniper

Juniper (Juniperus Communis)

  • The essential ingredient for gin, which is almost exclusively grown wild (although cultivated in the Netherlands).
  • Historically, it is closely linked with traditional medicine and is still being studied today.
  • Prior to World War One, juniper grew in abundance around the downs and surrounding areas of London, which is one of the reasons that London became a hub for gin manufacturers.
  • These juniper bushes were removed so that the space could be used for agriculture to ease food shortages during the war.
  • In the early days of gin, the botanicals would have been used to cover the taste of poor-quality spirit as much as to add a distinguished and complex flavour.
Charles Maxwell - Thames

Charles Maxwell – Thames

Liquorice

  • Also known as “sweet root”, liquorice contains a compound 50 times sweeter than cane sugar.
  • It contains glycyrrhizin, which is toxic with excessive consumption and, hence, is heavily regulated, especially in the USA.
  • The jury is out as to whether or not glycyrrhizin acid actually passes over with distillation.
  • Using liquorice root in stick vs. powdered form creates a slightly different effect.
  • But both add a complex, sweet note and a earthy softness.

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Desmond Payne (Beefeater) – Citrus & Tea

Desmond Payne - Beefeater

Desmond Payne – Beefeater

  • Citrus is an important botanical that gives upfront, clean, fresh and sometimes sharp notes to gin.
  • Lemons and oranges are the most popular types used in gin production.
  • A distiller’s choice of using Italian vs. Spanish lemons and sweet vs. bitter oranges impacts upon a gin’s flavour.
  • Other citrus choices include lime, grapefruit, tangerine and pommelo.

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He then outlined his five categories of gin:

Juniper-led;
Citrus-led;
Spice-led;
Herbal-led; and
Floral-led.

On the subject of drinking gin neat, Desmond said:

“(The) Evidence of a good gin is that you can drink it on its own.”

Which is a thought that I agree with; in general, if a gin tastes good on its own, it is more likely to mix well in a Martini, Negroni or with Tonic.

Tea

  • Desmond was inspired to use tea as a gin botanical after he tried Beefeater mixed with chilled green tea.
  • This happened after the tonic that was available in Japan, where he was at the time, was not bitter enough (quinine is heavily regulated in Japan).
  • In response, Beefeater 24 incorporates two teas into its botanical mix.
  • Tea mixes so well with other ingredients because it has very large molecules, which “fit in” well with other flavours.

Peter McKay (Alcohols Limited) – Coriander & Orris Root

Peter McKay - Alcohols Ltd.

Peter McKay – Alcohols Ltd.

  • Coriander is seen as the second most important botanical and is used both as a herb (leaf) and a spice (seed).
  • Few gins exclude coriander from their recipe, but an example is Van Wees 3 Corners Gin (made using juniper & lemon).
  • Key growing areas are South and East Europe, South-west Asia, India and North Africa.
  • In 2013, the best coriander is coming from Bulgaria. The reason? Its higher oil content, which is key when this year’s crop is unusually low in its contents of essential oils.

Peter also mentioned how different levels of coriander in conjunction with other botanicals impact upon a gin’s flavours. For example:

High Coriander + Angelica = Dryer Character
Low Coriander + High Juniper + Citrus = Sweeter Character

Orris Root

  • This acts as a binder or catalyst for the other flavours of gin botanicals (angelica and jasmine will also do the job).
  • It is made from the underground stem of the florentine iris.
  • These plants grow well in fine and sandy soil and take three years to cultivate; they are usually harvested in the dry month of August.
  • Plants are harvested by hand and, once the stem and leaves are cut off, the roots are planted.
  • The stem is then peeled and then dried several times in the open air.

Nik Fordham (Bombay Sapphire) – Angelica & Spice

Nik Fordham - Bombay Sapphire

Nik Fordham – Bombay Sapphire

Angelica

  • There are 60 types, but Angelica Archangelica is the type used in gin production.
  • It thrives in damp conditions and is harvested after its second year, once it has flowered and then died back.
  • The seed provides fragrance, whereas the stem is often crystallized and turned into a sweet or mixed with reindeer milk.
  • The root has some juniper and earthy flavours and aromas.

Nik also spoke a little about cinnamon, cubeb berries and grains of paradise.

Question Time

MeAndMyBotanicals - Q&A

The panel then invited questions from the floor, chaired by Simon Difford.

They spoke a little about terroir, where botanicals are sourced from. Largely, it seems that the source of the botanicals is subject to change, based on quality. Peter mentioned they had recently switched their supply of coriander from Russia to Bulgaria.

Simon Difford

Simon Difford

When asked about the rationale for using only “Juniperus Communis” (the only type of juniper allowed in EU production of gin), given that some US gins use other varieties to great effect, the panel gave a mixed response, ranging from:

  • “rules is rules”;
  • Communis is the most common variety found in Europe;
  • One other species (Juniperus Oxideridus) has been linked to poisonings; and
  • Potential protectionism, to stop US imports of gin.

Based on these comments, amongst others, it strikes me that the most likely explanation is that when the rules were written, the use of Western Juniper, Utah Juniper, and Rocky Mt. Juniper was relatively unknown. As the document is a technical one, it was not sufficient to simply say gin should be flavoured with “Juniper” – a species need to be specified, too; hence, Juniperus Communis.

www.theginguild.com

DTS with Sam Carter and Nik Fordham of Bombay Sapphire - Many Thanks to Gin Guild Director Nicholas Cook for sending this over.

DTS with Sam Carter and Nik Fordham of Bombay Sapphire – Many Thanks to Gin Guild Director Nicholas Cook for sending this over.

Cocktails with… Goa Gin

GoaGinTitle

I keep a wishlist of gins that I am keen to try and, recently, one of those wishes was granted when I tried Victoria Oaked Gin, courtesy of the folks at the London Distillery Company, producers of Dodd’s Gin.

GoaGin FINAL

Another gin that has intrigued me for a while now and has also been on my wishlist is Goa Gin and, for a gin that I hadn’t tried, I knew a surprising amount about it. For instance, I knew that it was made by Thames Distillers, exclusively for the Spanish market; also, that it’s bottled at 47% ABV, contains 8 botanicals, and is packaged in a hexagonal, blue bottle, which is very similar, but not identical, to that of Tanqueray 10. I first saw the bottle when I visited Thames Distillers on the Gin Ramble.

GoaGinBots

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Juniper, but quite peppery, too. The cumin is strong, making this nose slightly reminiscent of Darnley’s View Spiced Gin. There’s a little vanilla, too.
Taste: Like the nose, the cumin spice is dominant on the taste; this is followed by juniper and some coriander. This gin is rather spicy, but not hot, and at the same time has a dry, savoury – almost salty – character throughout. This combination of characteristics reminds me somewhat of spiced/seasoned tortilla treats, such as Doritos. There’s also some cardamom sweetness in the middle and a little fiery ginger, too; I would imagine that this works well with the new Ginger and Cardamom Schweppes.

Gin Tonic
i) Schweppes Tonicá Originale
Very spicy, indeed – the cumin comes through very strongly and, if you don’t like curry spice, then this is probably not for you.

ii) Schweppes Cardamom and Ginger Tonicá
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Martini
Another very spicy cocktail; there are definitely some curry notes, but they’re relatively well-balanced. The tortilla chip savoury characteristics also return and, as such, I think that this would be a perfect Martini to pair with Spanish tapas dishes.

Negroni
Cumin on the nose, followed by a rather spicy and savoury Negroni with plenty of cumin, caraway and cardamom. This drink is rather smooth, but with quite an intense bitterness at the very end. This is also slightly salty, which is unusual for this drink, but – overall – this is pretty good.

In Conclusion
Goa Gin is pretty good, like it’s spiciness and savoury notes; although I think it’s Scottish counterpart Darnley’s View Spiced has slightly better balance.  My favourite drink was the gin tonic with the Heritage Schweppes.

Cocktails with… Cremorne Gin

Colonel Fox’s London Dry Gin’,  launched in June 2012 it is part of CASK Liquid Marketing’s Cremorne 1859 spirits range. It is a collaboration between: CASK, Charles Maxwell, of Thames Distiller’s; and the artist Charlotte Cory, who is responsible for the artwork and label design.

Colonel Fox’s is a classic-style London Dry Gin made at Thames Distillery in London. It’s produced in batches of 100 bottles at a time and contains a mix of six botanicals:

Juniper Berries
Coriander
Angelica
Cassia
Liquorice
Bitter Orange Peel

#1) On its own
Nose: Quite soft, with notes of juniper, coriander and orange.
Taste: Again, this is quite a soft and smooth spirit. It has some dry juniper and sweet liquorice towards the end and citrus in the middle.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Classic, fresh and refreshing, with juicy citrus and a dry quinine and juniper finish. An Evans-style lemon and lime garnish works well, I think.

#3) Dry Martini
Initially, this is a soft and clean Martini, but it has more of a kick at the end. It’s smooth, although the coriander and citrus come through well, followed by a dry finish that is is long-lasting. I would recommend lemon peel as a garnish.

#4) Negroni
A powerful Negroni with lots of flavour and plenty of bitterness, this is most certainly for the hard-core Negroni fan; the sort who wants the drink to grab them by the scruff of the neck. Call me a masochist, but I thought it was lovely and with a twist of orange it is sublime.

#5) Hot Toddy
This is a great gin to use in this drink, where it adds some bold gin characteristics as well as a little warmth and a tiny touch of spice without being overpowering. Very tasty, indeed. I would propose using a herbal liqueur, such as Bénédictine (or King’s Ginger), instead of sugar syrup.

#6) Sweet Martini
A warming and comforting cocktail; simple, but very smooth. The dry gin works well with the sweet herbal elements of the red vermouth and the deeper herbal notes of the gin come through well.

In Conclusion
This is a classic style of gin in a stylish (but not ostentatious) bottle and with a reasonable price tag. My favourite drink was undoubtedly the Negroni.

Colonel Fox Cremorne Gin is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Cocktails with… Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

I first heard about Gilpin’s Extra Dry Gin when it won Silver at the IWSC in 2011, but further details were more of a mystery, so imagine my delight when I found a bottle in the Gin Collection of the modern Gin Palace, Graphic Bar, Golden Square. I then discovered Gilpin’s brand new website and found out that they were going to be at the Juniper Society on Monday 16th April 2012.

Gilpin’s Extra Dry Gin is made at Thames Distillers and is designed to be a gin that is extra dry in style. As a result, it doesn’t contain any of the more naturally sweet botanicals, such as liquorice or star anise, and uses bitter orange rather than the sweet variety. The botanical mix also includes two other citrus peels, sage and – uniquely – Borage (leaves). This last botanical is of particular interest to us at SummerFruitCup, as it is our logo and also an essential ingredient in a classic Fruit Cup.
The water for the gin come from Holy Well Spring in Cartmel in the English Lake District, Gilpin’s Dry Gin is bottled at 47%ABV.

Here is a full list of botanicals:


1) OWN
Nose: Sweet, with some warmth, spicy vanilla, cucumber peel and pine.
Taste: Very soft and smooth to start, with a slight, marmalade-like sweetness and a jammy pluminess. The end was dry, with lots of juniper and the finish was quite fresh and of moderate length. Very clean and easy to drink for a 47% spirit.

2) GIN & TONIC
This was a zingy and dry Gin & Tonic with a substantial burst of citrus and some more complex, fresh, herbal notes towards the end. I think that the likes of Fevertree or Schweppes will work better with this than Fentimans or 6 O’Clock, as, otherwise, you’re in danger of having too much citrus. Clean and refreshing and very quaffable for a 47% gin.

3) MARTINI
Dry, crisp and refreshing. Quite smooth, with a hint of oiliness, but plenty of flavour and a little alcoholic power. A very pleasant, dry cocktail with a touch of sage and a slightly bitter finish. A high-end Martini.

4) NEGRONI
A very dry and pretty bitter drink with a really depth of flavour. Sweet herbal to start and then a very intense dry dark bitterness. Memorable and one for the bitter fans.

5) FRUIT CUP
The gin really comes through, adding an extra layer of flavour to the drink in comparison to most pre-made fruit cups. There’s a good amount of sweetness, with a refreshing, yet full, flavour and a pleasant citrus chord.

6) SWEET MARTINI
Another very clean and smooth drink; the sweet vermouth contrasts well with the dryness of the gin, the result being a Sweet Martini that is dryer than many. There were some good herbal notes, citrus and a crisp, refreshing finish courtesy of the borage.

7) GIN COLLINS
Fresh and fizzy, this reminded me of a boozy lemonade. Surprisingly, the gin seems a little overwhelmed by the sugar and lemon. I found that the best way to improve this drink was to add an extra dose of gin (typically not something to complain about); this makes the drink more balanced, but still not spectacular.

Gilpin's Gin Tonica with willow Water Ice!

8) Matthew Gilpin’s Gin Tonica
I recently spoke to the driving and founding force behind Gilpin’s Gin, Matthew Gilpin, to ask him for his recommended serve for a Gin Tonica; here it is:

Fill a Balloon Glass Full of Ice
60% Gilpin’s Westmorland Gin
40% Fevertree Original Tonic
Slice of Lemon Garnish

I was lucky enough to be able to make my ice out of Willow water, which is sourced at the same place as the water used to make the gin.

This was certainly a strong drink, but the fruity, juicy elements of the gin really came through, as did some of the more earthy, herbal elements and the distinct freshness of the borage. The best way to describe it would be BURSTING; I think it is excellent and a rather pleasant way to round-off a Friday afternoon.

In Conclusion
Gilpin’s Gin is an excellent addition to the gin market and is a new favourite of mine. Its main asset is that it’s very dry, whilst retaining a fresh character with a crisp citrus element. My favourite drink was easily the Martini, although there was a host of other tasty drinks, too.

Cocktails with… Oliver Twist Gin

Being based, as we are, near Portsmouth, you can’t help but know some of the city’s famous residents, such as:Conan Doyle, Peter Sellers, Brunel, Chritsopher Hitchens, HG Wells and Charles Dickens. It is the last of these great men who is of particular relevance today, as we look at a gin named after one of his most famous creations, Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist Gin was created by the Guernsey-based SD Spirits Ltd. The gin is unusually described as a “Distilled London Gin”. Technically, it is also a London Dry Gin, but the Spirits wanted to emphasise the fact that the gin is made in London; this is a similar idea to that of “London Cut”, which is another geographical moniker.

The gin is made at Thames, is bottled at 40% ABV, and contains four botanicals.

Own
Nose: Classic gin; dry juniper and coriander, a little salty, too.
Taste: Strong juniper with some lighter floral elements. Very dry coriander and bitter herbs on the finish.

Gin & Tonic
No nonsense, good strong juniper, with some sweetness at the end. All-in-all, a good classic-style G&T.

Martini
Very smooth, but still flavourful. The gin lets the vermouth come through, so there is synergy between the two. Soft initially, crisp at the end and pretty easy to drink.

Negroni
Intense and quite sweet, but very herbally bitter on the finish, which is quick. Overall, this came across as being a rather extreme (intense) drink; it’ll knock your socks off, but, if you love Negronis, this is for you.

Pink Gin
Rounded and powerful with a juniper kick. This works quite well, but is quite strong, both in terms of flavour and of perceived proof. The herbs and spice of bitters come through and the texture is silky, almost syrupy.

Gin Old Fashioned
A smooth, but spicy number, I found this easy to drink and a great way of enjoying the characteristics of the gin.

In the spirit of invention, here are some more unorthodox cocktails:

Mr Bumble’s Bongo
Gin and Umbongo; an unlikely combination, but one that was recommended by the folks at Oliver Twist Gin. It works surprisingly well and I really like it. The combination seems to bring out grapefruit from somewhere, but neither the gin nor the juice contain any. Very refreshing, easy to make and really worth a try.

What the Dickens?
This is a recipe that I came up with recently, but hadn’t found a name for. It looks like it won’t work on paper, but, once in the glass, it is pretty tasty.

[35ml Oliver Twist Gin, 15ml Lemon Juice, 5ml White Creme de Cacao, 5ml Creme de Menthe 100ml Soda Water]

The drink looks like a normal Collins and, initially, that is the flavour that you get: a fresh, dry mix of gin and lemon juice, but after the lemon, juniper and coriander, you get a subtle finish of dry mint chocolate. It works surprisingly well and makes you keep on sipping.

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The Artful Dodger (Gin & Jam)
A variation on a drink from the 1930s Savoy Cocktail book, The Marmalade Cocktail. I’ve substituted the marmalade for jam in a nod to the Jammy Dodger biscuits.

[35ml Oliver Twist Gin, Juice of Half a Lemon, 1tsp Jam - SHAKE]

This works well, although it’s important not to overdo on your measure of gin, so that you just get a jammy, strawberry finish subtly in the background. There’s a good amount of fresh tartness form the lemon juice, which works well with the angelica and coriander in the gin; to top it off, juniper comes through too. Scrumptious.

In Conclusion
Oliver Twist Gin has a small number of botanicals, but is still very flavourful. It is of a classic style of gin that works well in the traditional cocktails, such as a Gin & Tonic, but I also found that it made some delicious contemporary drinks such as the combination with Umbongo and in The Artful Dodger.

Oliver Twist Gin is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

Cocktails with… Limbrey’s London Dry Gin

On Saturday, Mrs. B and I had the luck to be invited to this year’s “Taste of Christmas Festival”. There were plenty of drinks-related stands there and we were fortunate enough to sit in on a De Luze Cognac and a Botran Rum tasting with Distillnation. Another stand of great interest was that of Limbrey’s London Dry Gin. Having chatted to him on the telephone, it was a treat to finally meet Sean Limbrey, the man behind the bottle.
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Limbrey’s London Dry Gin is a very new product. Compared to the makers of the plethora of “Boutique Gins” that have been released in the last couple of years, the man behind Limbrey’s, Sean Limbrey, has taken a rather different approach to gin. Moving away from the use of unique or exotic botanicals and luxurious packaging, he’s produced a gin that sits in the sub-£20 price range. With striaght-forward, easily recyclable bottle, which sits inside a plastic sleeve.
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Speaking to the gin’s cretaor there is a bit of counter-culture going on, there are two designs of sleeve for the bottle. My current favourite is the sleeve with a banker being squeezed of his money by the giant fist of the Gin genie.* Also currently available is the “Shouty Mouth” which is a reference of feeling against the nanny state and CCTV. When asked about the packaging Sean said:
“The designs are meant to have a point that resonates with the drinker in a humourous satirical way that also looks attractive and ties in with the Limbrey’s gin brand of being – created, distilled, and bottled in London.”
My understanding is that sleeves will change from time to time, similar in someways to the Absolut Limited Edition Packaging.
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When I spoke to Sean, he told me about his enthusiasm and pride that Dry Gin is very much a British drink and that, in creating a gin, he wanted to stoke the fires of that pride by creating a product that could be drunk in a more simple or traditional way; basically, on it’s own or in very simple gin cocktails.He advocates keeping Limbrey’s Gin in the freezer and enjoying it neat as an accompaniment to food; this is quite similar to how some eaux de vies are drunk on the continent.
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He also spoke about the fact that, for many consumers, mixing cocktails at home is not practical and that many mixers are either too sweet or too expensive. As a result, he is an advocate of simple cocktails with simple ingredients. Mrs. B and I enjoyed a Gin and Cranberry and a Gin and Pink Grapefruit (I didn’t even think I liked Grapefruit), which were both tasty and refreshing.

Limbrey’s Dry Gin is the first gin to be approved by the Vegetarian Society, it is bottled at 37.5% ABV, it’s made at Thames Distillers, in London, and contains four botanicals:

Juniper

Coriander

Angelica

Winter Savory

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1) Own
Mr Limbrey had told me that his gin was very smooth, but as I hear this a lot, I was genuinely surprised at how smooth the gin was. I’m sure that the 37.5%ABV helps with this, but, in fairness, some of the roughest gins that I have tasted have also been bottled at this strength.
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nose: very classic-style iof nose with juniper and coriander a little earthiness something like angelica and a touch of pepper.
taste:The first thing you notice is how smooth he gin is, even holding it in your mouth for 30 second produces only a slight warmth. Initial flavours of fresh juniper, more green than piney, there is some sweetness toward the end which is accompanied by lemon and coriander.
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2) Frozen
This has a good, strong, classic gin character, with juniper, coriander, and citrus. It has a nice texture: silky, with a bit of sweetness; it’s very smooth and easy to drink. As smooth as a good quality flavour, but with more flavour..

3) Over Ice
Very pleasant, not how I usually drink gin but I can see how this could work. In addition to the juniper some of the more floral notes of the gin come through a little more.

4) Gin & Juice
i) Orange
Fresh and crisp a slight citrus and juniper dry twang comes through as does a little sweet spice. A pleasant quencher.
ii) Cranberry
A really nice combination dryness of the gin is a great match for the dryness of the cranberry and the gin can still be appreciated. It’s surprising that more people don’t drink gin andd cranberry juice.
iii) Pear
A bit of an odd conversation this one, I think the pear is a bit too sweet for the gin and actually it’s difficult to taste that the gin is there. This may be great for some but I like to taste my juniper.

iv) Apple
Other than Bison-grass Vodka I’ve always struggled to find a good cocktail using apple juice. This is actually quite good, initially you get the sweet succulent apple juice and this si then followed up by the more intense dry juniper of the gin.

v) Pomegranate
Not bad and quite refreshing although some might find it a tad sickly, with a dash of lemon juice the drink becomes much more balanced.

vi) Pink Grapefruit
Pink Grapefruit and gin and usually quite good partners and this is no exception. the bitterness of the grapefruit works very well with the dryness of the gin. This giving you a refreshing and bracing drink.

5) Peter Cushing
Why Peter Cushing? Well, first off, I’m a great fan of his films and secondly, he was a patron of the Vegetarian Society and Limbrey’s is the first gin that has been approved by the Vegetarian Society. My aim was to create a drink that was simple and accessible, with a touch of sophistication.

2 Parts Gin, 1 Part Ginger Wine

This is quite nice and works well being made using a number of different methods: with the gin being poured straight from the freezer, served on the rocks, or shaken with ice and then strained. The latter version makes a smoother drink that’s a little more dilute.

6) Gin & Tonic

OK so I’ve broken rule about tossing out the tonic but I still think a good way to measure a gin is by how it mixes with Quinine water. The makes a very smooth and easy to drink gin and tonic, refreshing and pretty quaffable. The only character that really comes through from the gin is the juniper and so whilst it is a good drink it’s perhaps not the best way to appreciate the gin.
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7) Martini
Lovely, clean and crisp; the flavour was predominantly of juniper, with a tiny touch of cream. This is a great gin to use to make a Diamond or Naked Martini.

8) Negroni
Smooth, with a growing crescendo of flavour that peaks at the end with a crisp and intense bitterness. It was more bitter than many Negronis, with a more pronounced juniper note at the end. That said, despite it being more bitter, it was one of the few Negronis that Mrs. B has ever said she quite liked.

9) Pink Gin/Gin & Bitters
I’ve been a bit economical with the original Pink Gin recipe and so I’ve extended this note to cover a range of Gin & Bitters. All drinks used 25ml of Gin from the freezer and 3 drops of the respective bitters.

i) Angostura
This made a simple drink that was very clean and smooth, with the bitters adding some character and a sweet, spicy finish.

ii) Orange
The orange is quite prominent in this drink, but works well to bring out the citrus characteristics of the gin, especially the coriander seed. Some characteristics, such as texture of orange liqueur, but without any excessive sweetness.

iii) Peychauds
This made a very pink Gin & Bitters, with predominate flavours of anise and angelica. It was more herbal and complex then the others that I have tried and had a little more warmth at the end.

*Interestingly this is apparently quite popular with merchant/investment bankers.

Cocktails with… Perivale Dry Gin – from Fabulous

Mrs. B and I always enjoy a field trip and we equally enjoy talking to the creator of a brand and hearing about their passion for their products. So, as you can imagine, we were delighted when we were invited up to The Fabulous Vodka Company HQ to meet the founder, Chris Spiller.
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Chris makes Perivale Gin, in addition to a variety of other products: Caralicious Caramel Vodka, Krol Kazimiersz (a rather excellent potato vodka), and some aged vodkas. The concept behind the latter is that the Krol Kazimiersz Vodka is aged in barrels in one-off batches; when it’s gone, it’s gone. Here are my notes on the two that I tried:

Cask One (Oak)
This has a light straw colour and light vanilla cream on the nose. The vodka itself is very smooth, with gently rounded edges and a little extra vanilla/cream/caramel flavour. Complex and curious.

Cask Two (Rum)
This is a work-in-progress and so we were privileged to try it. It has been in a dark rum cask for about three months, with perhaps another three to go. If I had tried this blind-folded and been told that it was a dark rum, I would have believed it; the flavour profile was so similar; the dark sugar and slightly burnt/toasted elements were there. I thought that this was great, even though it was only halfway through the aging process, and am looking forward to trying the finished product.

Perivale Dry Gin
Perivale Dry Gin is a one-shot distillation, which is produced when the pure grain spirit and the botanicals are placed, in exact proportions, in a still and distilled, producing a single batch of gin. Although this method is more expensive than others, it is seen as enabling a better aroma to be produced, as well as bringing out fuller and fresher flavours from the botanicals. Chris makes the gin himself (he is an experience distiller) using the facilities at Thames Distillers in London.
Perivale contains five botanicals:

Why Perivale?
The name Perivale comes from a time when Chris lived on a house boat (see the label) in the area of the same name. According to him, there is a distinct lack of pubs in the area, hence the play on the term “dry”.
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The Current Perivale Gin Bottle by The Fabulous Vodka Company

Own
The nose was clean, with notes of juniper, angelica and coriander.
The gin was soft & silky with quite a strong flavour of juniper; it had a distinct freshness in the middle of the profile that made it rather excellent. It’s a very clean spirit and when I gave some, neat, to my cousin (who isn’t normally a gin-drinker), he enjoyed it.
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Gin & Tonic
Very refreshing, with fresh flavours of juniper and citrus. Well-balanced, easy to drink and quickly finished. Simply superb.
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Martini
Exceptionally clean and crisp, like a shard of ice. Perfect with a twist of lemon peel. This is another good quality drink and is a decent benchmark for other Martinis.

Gimlet
Quite crisp, with the gin coming through strongly and standing up well against the Rose’s Lime Cordial, but the flavours seem a little out of kilter and, for me, it doesn’t really work.

Negroni
There’s a good, strong bitterness, with juniper and angelica coming through to start, followed by a touch of sweetness. Big and bold and a very typical Negroni; full of flavour and smooth.

Gin Old Fashioned
Packed with flavour and very smooth. The simple flavours of the gin came through and mixed well with both the sugar and bitters. Very sippable.

Pink Gin
Crisp, dry and bitter. The character of the gin was particularly pronounced on the finish. This is a simple and pleasant way to enjoy the gin.

Gin Sour
Tasty, crisp and refreshing. Juniper, lime and a hint of vanilla. I thought this was a great short drink to use the gin in and should invigorate you at the end of a long, hot day.

Fruit Cup
Tasty and refreshing, the gin came through more than in most fruit cups, giving the drink an extra juniper punch; for a gin fan, this is great.

Frozen with Lime
If I get to speak to the creators of a gin, I like to ask them how they drink their gin. This little recipe was given to me by Chris. Take your gin from where it’s being stored in the freezer, pour into a glass and add a little wedge of lime. Sip.
Delicious and wonderfully smooth, like a good vodka. Flavours of juniper, coriander and angelica as well as some citrus; the lime adds a touch of freshness and a little zip. Excellent.

Perivale Dry Gin is available from The Fabulous Vodka Company and Gerry’s of Soho at £21.50 for 70cl.

Cocktails with… Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin


Not content with the success of their Irish Poteen and Heather Gin the folks at Knockeen Hills decided to release another product, an elderflower gin that uses elderflower as one of the botanicals, this is not a very common botanical to use and is a tricky ingredient to get right.
Bottled at 47.3%ABV Knockeen Hills uses a base Irish Spirit that is distilled five times and the botanicals it uses are steeped for 24 hours. It is described as “London Cut” which means in addition to being a London Dry Gin it is, distilled and cut in London.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is distilled at Thames Distillers and uses only four botanicals (a stark difference to the last Gin I reviewed) these are:

  • Organic Juniper Berries
  • Organic Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Elderflower
  • Liquorice powder

#1) Neat
Good nose, medium amount of juniper with some floral notes. Great warmth (not burn) on the tongue with juniper and elderflower. Not overpowering and subtle. The warmth of the texture intrigues me.

#2) Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a strong Gin & Tonic (the gin is 47.3%). The very heart of the gin seems to come through with a floral taste at the back of the mouth; the straight-forward juniper flavour is followed by the dryness from the elderflower. It’s interesting, because elderflower is often associated with something sweet (cordial, liqueurs, etc.), but this is definitely dry. Mrs. B was very fond of this drink, as it reminded her of cut green apples.

#3) Martini
I used some home-made vermouth for this martini, which complemented the Gin quite well and seemed to give the drink more flavour than usual. Knockeen Elderflower Gin does not make a classic Martini: it’s not so clean and crisp as others, but it is not overpowering and has a lot of character. I like this drink and it makes a nice change.

#4) Gimlet
An unusual Gimlet; less sweet than usual and, in the middle of the taste profile, the drink has a remarkably clean edge, almost Martini-like. There were subtle notes from the floral elements and the gin stands up well to the lime cordial.

#5) Aviation
There’s some great interaction of the elderflower and other floral elements with the violette and maraschino in this drink; it’s complex, but the flavours are all in equilibrium. Very tasty.

#6) Tom Collins
This Collins is, like many, a wonderful cooler. It is very refreshing, but sadly the gin is a little overpowered.

#7) Bramble
Very tasty; there’s equal intensity from each of the various ingredients, all combining to produce a fresh drink that reminds me of Spring. Crisp & delicious.

#8) White Lady:
Fresh and crisp, perfect for Spring or early Summer. There’s a good amount of juniper and distinct floral elements on the finish.

#9) Alexander
I increased the proportions of Gin for this one, so that some of the dry muskiness of gin comes through. The Knockeen Elderflower contributes more to the cocktail that most other gins that I’ve tried.

#10) Gin Bump (Buck)
The Gin Bump was a disappointment as the sweetness of the ginger ale clashed with the floral notes of the gin. Not recommended.

#11) Gin Sour
Pretty strong; you seem to feel the full whack of the 47.3% in this drink. It seemed to warm me up, rather than cool me down (which a gin sour typically would do), and, flavour-wise, it doesn’t do the Gin justice.

#12) Sweet Gin
This was an idea for a cocktail (if you can call it that) that just occurred to me: I simply added half a teaspoon of simple syrup to a measure of Gin. I was surprised at how well it worked and how it brought out a new dimension of flavours: it was almost like an elderflower liqueur, but tasted more complex.

#13) Clover Club
In a similar way to the White Lady, this was balanced, simple, tasty and enjoyable to drink.

#14) Gin Old-fashioned
Fast becoming a new favourite of mine, the Gin Old-Fashioned with Knockeen Hills Elderflower is delicious. Sugar sweetens up the floral elements (just like the Sweet Gin) which stops the Angostura from dominating the drink. This is a superb way to enjoy the gin.

In Conclusion
Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is crisp and flavourful. The floral elements lend themselves well to a variety of cooling drinks, making it perfect for Spring or Summer (although I am still enjoying it during Winter!). Sometimes I think that when gins highlight one, single, botanical it can be a bit gimmicky and the rest of the gin profile seems to suffer, but I don’t think that that is the case with this gin.

Cocktail highlights included: Gin & Tonic (especially James Bond style),  the Gimlet,  the Aviation & the Gin Old Fashioned.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin is available from The Drink Shop here: for £26.44 for 70cl.