Cocktails with… Westwinds Cutlass and Sabre Gins

At the moment, there are not a lot of Australian distilleries whose gins are available in the UK; one is Four Pillars, and the other is West Winds.

West Winds gins are owned by The Tailor Made spirits company from Dalkeith, Western Australia and was established in June 2010. They produce two gins:
Sabre (40.0% ABV) – Described as an “Australian expression of a traditional gin”, this is made with botanicals including juniper, lime peel, lemon myrtle and wattle seed.
Cutlass (50.0% ABV) – West Winds’ second gin is described as a gin with “Australian character and a combination of juniper and uniquely Australian elements”. Its botanicals include cinnamon, myrtle, lemon myrtle, coriander, and Australian bush tomato.


West Winds Sabre (40.0% ABV)

On its own
Nose: Bright and zesty citrus, with notes of coriander and hints of vanilla spice, as well as citrus blossom.
Taste: Lots and lots of citrus: lemon, lime, and others, with coriander and a note of menthol pepper towards the end. This has a good flavour that’s contemporary, intense, and long-lasting.

Gin & Tonic
Fruity and juicy with a luscious vibrancy that makes this very refreshing. There are notes of dry juniper and angelica, especially at the end. This is a pleasant cooler that I could sip all afternoon.

Rich and fruity with floral notes, too, as well as a touch of grape, light, sweet spice, and bright, zesty citrus. There’s no need for a garnish in this Martini.

A floral, slightly juicy Negroni with plenty of citrus that makes it fresh, bright, and refreshing. There are some lovely light, sweet berry notes, too.




West Winds Cutlass (50.0% ABV)

On its own
Nose: Less citrus, but more spice. Notes of dark chocolate and lime combine into notes of chocolate limes.
Taste: Lots of citrus towards the end. This is typically more gin-like than West Winds Sabre, with more juniper and angelica, and some coriander, too. The finish is then vibrant with notes of citrus sherbet and milk chocolate.

Gin & Tonic
Bright and brilliant – full of zesty citrus, which invigorates the drink. This would make a great first G&T of the evening, with the 50.0% ABV adding a little punch.

Very smooth, and with lots of citrus, with notes of coriander, lemon, and lime. This also has a lovely texture; fresh, with hints of juniper and spice on the finish.

This makes a smooth and thick Negroni with a good level of flavour: bitter herbal notes and bright citrus, making for an intense and delicious cocktail.

In Conclusion
It is fair to say that both of the West Winds gins are fine examples from the growing community of international gin distilleries and the increasing number of Australian craft distillers. I like the straightforward nature and flavour intensity of the Sabre, which is a great gin for everyday drinking, and the Cutlass has additional complexity and a bright, more contemporary flavour.

I was impressed with both gins from West Winds and the approach to have two different gins in a portfolio. I especially enjoyed the Cutlass Gin & Tonic and the Sabre Martini.

Cocktails with… Dead Governor’s Gin

Today’s gin is made by Great Northern Distillery in Middle Swan, Western Australia, which is primarily a rum distillery. Their website suggests that their gin recipe comes from a scribbled note on the back of an old family birth certificate. Released on 29th May 2014, the gin is bottled at 37.1% ABV and, as such, it cannot legally be sold as a “gin” in the European Union or United States (where there are minimum strengths of 37.5% ABV and 40.0% ABV, respectively).


The Taste

On its own
Nose: Pine and spice. Light, but with a depth that is initially hidden.
Taste: This has a notably full mouthfeel: plump and interesting. The flavour profile is light, but the flavours build: there is coriander upfront, as well as some creamy vanilla and a touch of spice, followed by a dry finish.

Gin & Tonic
Quite light, but, with plenty of lemon and ice, this makes a refreshing drink. Nonetheless, I would have liked a little more of the gin’s character to come through.

Very clean and vodka-like, this cocktail is a little lacking in complexity and flavour, making it a tad disappointing. It is a pleasant drink, but not a great Gin Martini.

Fresh, leafy, and crisp, with plenty of sweetness from the vermouth and bitterness from the Campari. This is a lighter-than-usual Negroni, which would make it a perfect example for beginners to the drink.

In Conclusion
Dead Governors Gin is a lighter option, both in terms of flavour intensity and ABV. I liked the Negroni and the spirit itself had a good mouthfeel, although it lacks the complexity to be sipped alone.

Cocktails with… Melbourne Gin Co. Gin

Today, I’m looking at another sample kindly provided by James. I haven’t been able to find out very much about this gin from the Melbourne Gin Co.; even in Australia, it is illusive. What I do know is that it is bottled at 42.0% ABV and each of its botanicals are distilled separately. These include: juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, cassia, macadamia, sandalwood, honey lemon myrtle, organic navel orange.

After distillation, the gin is proofed with Gembrook rainwater.


On its own
Nose: Light, with citrus notes and a touch of piney juniper.
Taste: Smooth and light with lots of citrus. Easy to sip, the juniper in this is relatively dialled back. Accessible and easy to drink neat, I would say that this is a good, entry-level gin.

Gin & Tonic
This makes quite a light Gin & Tonic that is simple, but tasty, and relatively refreshing, with lots of woody, earthy angelica. I would recommend using a light-touch tonic water.

A clean, but very straight-forward Martini: smooth, with clear notes of vanilla and citrus. This is pleasant and drinkable, but nothing special.

A solid Negroni with notes of citrus, pine, and angelica, followed by a little more juicy citrus and a bitter finish. Middle-of-the-road, but good.

In Conclusion
The Melbourne Gin Co. Gin is a well-made gin in the style of the lighter, contemporary gins. It made a solid and enjoyable Negroni, which was my clear favourite of the drinks that I tried.

Cocktails with… Kangeroo Island Spirits’ Wild Gin

KIS Wild Gin is made by Kangaroo Island Spirits in South Australia and is one of four gins produced by the distillery. The Wild Gin uses a different juniper berry to the usual Juniperus Communis; namely, the native “Myoporum Insulars” aka Common Bobbialla or Blueberry Tree. These berries are slightly larger than those of Communis.

Kangeroo Island Spirits Wild Gin FINAL

On its own
Nose: Lemon shortbread, coriander, vanilla, and cream, as well as bright, zesty lime.
Taste: This is a smooth spirit with plenty of flavour: there is a pleasant smokiness upfront with some savoury, salty spice, as well as a touch of resin. Fresh and bright with a good level of flavour and balance.

Gin & Tonic
Good notes of cardamom and a cavalcade of spice: vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander, followed by juniper and citrus. The finish is dry and zesty with a touch of wood smoke.

Lime bursts forward to start, alongside a smoked spice – think paprika, but a tad sweeter. There are also notes of cinnamon, anise, and cardamom. All-in-all, this is a complex drink with a really great silky texture – delightful.

KIS Wild Gin makes a tremendous Negroni that is packed full of lime zest and creamy vanilla, plus a chord of spice – ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom – that works well alongside the Campari and vermouth. Finally, there is a long, mid-bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Kangaroo Island Spirits’ Wild Gin is a great example of the exciting gins coming out of Australia and how a distillery can put locally-sourced botanicals to good use in their gin. My favourite drink was the Negroni.

Cocktails with… Shetland Reel Gin

FINAL Shetland Martini

I first met Stuart of Shetland Reel Gin at the 2014 Distilling Expo in London. I have to admit, I was excited when he told me about his plans to make gin in the Shetlands, so it was great to recently get a chance to try the product and it was certainly worth the wait.

Shetland Reel Gin is made at the Saxa Vord Distillery on the island of Unst. It is bottled at 43.0% ABV and its botanicals include: juniper berries, coriander seeds, orris root, cassia bark, and citrus peel.

The Taste

On its own
Nose: A delightful flutter of leafy green notes, followed by crisp juniper, then coriander, citrus and spice. Wonderfully inviting; holding great promise for the flavour.
Taste: A little sweetness to start, which parts ways for an array of fresh leafy and piney notes, as well as some dryness from angelica. Then you get a little aromatic spice from the coriander, which hangs around right until the finish. This is a very smooth and refreshing spirit – it’s really very nice to sip.

Gin & Tonic
A lovely fresh and slightly soft Gin & Tonic: very easy to drink, with some delightful, fresh leafy and floral notes, before a dry finish. This is a Gin & Tonic that will appeal to both traditionalists and gin converts alike. Simply delicious.

Excellent – truly first class. It has all of the crisp and dry elements that you would expect from a Gin Martini, but with a delicate, fresh flourish that adds a refreshing flair. There are also notes of spice, with angelica, juniper, and a leafy succulence add depth and complexity.

This makes a fresh Negroni with light, fresh leafy notes, as well as some spice, pepper, and anise. The gin’s flavours are upfront, followed by sweet vermouth notes and then the bitterness of the Campari. All of the flavours of the ingredients come through well, creating a lovely drink.

In Conclusion
Shetland Reel Gin not only comes from the UK’s northern-most distillery, but it is also delicious and – at the end of the day – that is what is really important. It mixed well in all of the above drinks, but my favourite had to be the Martini.

Cocktails with… Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today and we thought we’d resist temptation (however strong it may be) to write an article full of green concoctions to focus instead on making excellent drinks with an excellent whiskey. Namely, Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel. The Black Barrel is, like Classic Jamesons, a mix of pot and grain whisky and is triple distilled. However, the grain whisky that is used is made to a particular specification and is only distilled once a year. The ex-bourbon barrels used for aging are charred before leaving Kentucky and ex-sherry barrels are used, too.


On its own
Nose: Light oats and syrup, but not too sweet, and a little banoffee, but – again – this isn’t at all overpowering. On top, more savoury oatcake notes and just a hint of cornflakes.
Taste: Smooth, but with a good profile. Salted caramel and fresh grain, with hints of spice and smoke here and there. Pleasant, clean, warm wood notes follow.
Finish: Flapjack and a return of the light banoffee from the nose, plus notes of unripe banana and a little green “stalkiness”.

Whiskey Ginger
This has a wonderful rich flavour – an excellent example of how a Whiskey Ginger doesn’t have to be lightweight. The whiskey works with the ginger to produce a drink with notes of rich, bold, polished wood and a combination of fresh ginger and cola (it reminds me a bit of Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, of which I’m a fan). There’s also some spice and a hint of orange, before vanilla and a dry, woody smokiness.

Rob Roy
Delicious fruit cake notes on the nose: rich currant and raisin, and the tartness of tbe vermouth comes through nicely. To taste, this is also rich and fruity. The whiskey lets the other ingredients show through, before appearing strongly on the finish, which is of genuine, dry wood.

Old Fashioned
I got light hints of bubblegum on the nose of this drink, which were actually quite nice. The cocktail itself is sweet and warming, with richer wood notes than in the Rob Roy. There’s an interesting combination of sweet berry and pepper spice, plus vanilla, and – again – a touch of cola. The finish is cleaner and dry, with greener wood notes.

Michael Collins
This is a Tom Collins made using Irish whiskey and this particular example is refreshing with some lovely, creamy vanilla notes and some smoky wood, too. The lemon really comes through on the finish, reminiscent of lemon meringue pie with a touch of key lime; add a touch of spiced bitters and you’d be there. Accessible and fresh.

Whisky Soda
Unlike when tasted neat, with soda, far more of the mellow, creamy wood and vanilla notes come through, with less of that smoky woodiness. This is a very accessible drink, with sweet, creamy notes followed by a refreshing, dry, woody finish.

In Conclusion
Jameson’s Select Reserve is a great Irish whiskey that’s full of flavour and works equally well on its own and in cocktails. My favourite of the serves that we tried, however, surprised me: the warm and complex Whiskey Ginger really stood out.

Cocktails with… Strane Uncut Gin – 75.3%ABV – World’s Strongest Gin

As a writer on gin, I am often asked one of two questions: “What is your favourite gin?” and “Have you considered making your own gin?”.

The answer to the second one is no and the reason is that I like being independent and able to chat to distillers without them worrying about disclosing commercial sensitivities to a competitor. But, if I were to make a gin, I think it would be one that was really strong – beyond the Navy Strength of 57.1% ABV. As a spirit that is often mixed, I believe that a strong gin has unique mixing potential.

Strane Uncut Gin 75.3 FINAL

Fortunately, Swedish distillers Smögen Whisky AB have done the hard work for me, having released their Uncut Gin in the UK: a gin that is bottled at 75.3% ABV. This exceeds the ABV of any other commercial gin, with the closest unaged comparisons being Blackwoods 60 and Finsbury 60 (both 60.0% ABV) and the aged Alembics Caribbean Cask (65.6% ABV).

The Smögen Whisky AB distillery is located in Hunnebostrand. In addition to the Uncut Gin, they make Strane Merchant and Strane Navy Strength. The idea for the Uncut comes from the fact that their gins are made from a blend of three separate botanical distillations, which are blended together before proofing (i.e. undiluted). The resulting liquid was described by distiller Pär Caldenby as, “ too good to hold back” and so limited quantities are bottled at the uncut, off-the-still strength.

On its own
Nose: Lemony citrus upfront, with some juniper pine notes that are well-integrated with hints of spice and herbal notes, with just a touch of menthol and plump juniper berries.
Taste: Despite its high ABV, the spirit is surprisingly shippable: there is citrus up-front, followed by some woody spice, orange peel, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. The finish is a little perfumed with orange blossom and freshly-cracked coriander seed, mixed in with a little resinous spruce, light menthol pepper, and pine blossom.

If you did want to drink this neat, then I’d suggest a single serving of a half oz measure served in a mini Glencairn glass – lovely.

This serve adds viscosity and intensity; it has very strong flavours. It’s excellent served this way, but one downside is that it probably makes the spirit very smooth and easy to drink and so, in some ways, makes it harder to savour than when you sip it at room temperature (when it’s easier to take your time over it).

Gin & Tonic
A strong Gin & Tonic in terms of alcohol, but especially in terms of flavour: it is strong and piney, with citrus and coriander notes, too. A bold, but straightforward Gin & Tonic that makes an excellent choice for the first drink of the evening. Textbook.

Probably the most powerful Martini that I have ever had. It really packs a punch, but isn’t hot and does not burn. It’s so packed full of flavour: juniper, angelica, coriander, citrus, spice, herbal and floral notes – all the key flavours associated with gin are here and integrated very well together. Superb.

As you would expect, Uncut produces a bold and flavoursome Negroni; a cocktail that delivers some powerful flavours and is not for the faint hearted. As a lover of the Negroni, I think this is super: it is piney and juicy, plump with fruity notes and some deeper, herbal flavours, before the anticipated bitter finish. Watch out, though, this is very easy to drink, so I would suggest having one delicious (but small) serving.

Gin Soda
Very, very crisp and leafy with hint of cucumber peel, coriander, and fresh citrus, followed by some pine and floral notes. This is a lovely way to enjoy the gin, because you can lengthen it significantly without losing any of the gin’s character. It works well at a 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, or even up to a 10:1 ratio of gin to soda water.

In Conclusion
Strane Uncut is certainly a unique gin and one I would recommend trying; not only is it an experience, but it tastes very good, too.

Strane Uncut Gin is available for around £59 for 50cl from Master of Malt.